Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Trump Mismanaged My Golf Club Like He's Mismanaging The Country

This week, the Senior PGA Golf Championship will be played at Trump National Golf Club, Washington, D.C.  I was a member of Trump DC (which is actually 20 miles from Washington, in Sterling, VA) for seven years before moving to Raleigh, NC last summer.  (I was a long-time member of the Lowes Island Club, which Trump purchased for a song in 2009 following the real-estate crash of 2007.  Many members left when he bought the club; I opted to stay.)

Trump's management of the Club revealed in microcosm the problems he is having governing as President, from his constant boasting, self-promotion, thin skin, and child-like tantrums, to his penchant for impetuous decision-making, staff turnover, and even fake news.

After purchasing the Club, Trump held a meeting with members.  There was no effort to seek input from the membership on what the club should be.  There never has been.  There are no advisory committees.  The joke has always been that at Trump National there was "one member and seven hundred guests."

At that first meeting, Trump boasted about what a good deal he got.  He also proclaimed that under him, the new club would be "better than Congressional"--meaning that it would be a better golf club than historic nearby Congressional Country Club, across the Potomac River in Bethesda, Maryland.  Well, it's not, and it never will be, at least as long as Trump is part of the picture.  Congressional has hosted five major golf championships, including including three US Opens, along with a score of other professional tournaments.  Its founders included five former or future US presidents, who set it up as a member managed institution.  It is still run by its members, not by one thin-skinned dictator, and it has four times the number of members as Trump DC.

Every time Trump visited the Club, he would boast, boast, boast about all the great things he had done, or was going to do, there, as well as about himself, about his family, etc.  We're now all familiar with that aspect of his personality.

Trump also filled the Club up with photos of himself.  Near my locker was a framed photo of his Playboy magazine cover from March 1990, and most other photos in the club featured him.  His books were on sale in the golf shop.  We all got newsletters promoting his other properties (yet, as members of his Club, we got almost no discount for using any of his other properties; and just about any non-member could get in to play at our course, without being accompanied by another member, by paying a large fee.)

Trump also sent us an annual letter raising our dues, in which he would talk about all the great things he had done during the past year at the Club, emphasizing that despite the cost of such, there would be no "assessment" of members.  Yet, our membership contracts prohibited assessments, so big deal.  According to the managers at the Club, it was one of his most profitable golf clubs.  While I was there, dues doubled.  When Trump filed his campaign financial disclosures, he valued the Club at more than $50 million, having bought it for $11 million.  (Yet, if Loudoun County, VA, where the Club is located, assessed it at $50 million for property tax purposes, I'm sure he'd hire an army of lawyers to dispute the assessment.)

After Trump took over, the Club experienced years of constant staff turnover.  We had seven head golf professionals over six years.  We had at least five or six Club managers during the same time frame.  Each new change in upper management brought a cascade of changes in lower level managers--chefs, assistant pros, food and beverage directors--it was a constant revolving door.  Many were fired because of slights to Trump.  Members joked that it was useless to learn the names of employees.

Just as at today's White House, management at the Club was always looking over their shoulders.  You could tell when Trump was going to be on the property just by the tension level of the employees.  And you could tell when he wasn't going to be there by the lack of service and attention to detail that makes for a truly great private golf club for members.  Trump National was a nice golf club, but it never reached a standard of excellence (except with respect to one member).

Part of the problem with getting and retaining quality staff there was that Trump insists on micro-managing.  Virtually any significant decision--and many trivial ones--had be run past the powers that be in Trump Tower in NY.  That often meant delays on simple, but time-sensitive, decisions, such as about member tournaments.  Trump also delegated within the family.  In the case of Trump National DC, his son Eric was designated at the point person.  Eric barely plays golf.  (I will say that Eric has a reputation as a pretty decent person, but even he could not make many decisions without going through the Boss.)  Because of the micro-managing, it is difficult for Trump to attract really good managers to the Club.  Similarly, his employees can never contradict him or be seen as disloyal in any way.  We are seeing the same thing in his Cabinet and White House staff.

As for the Club itself, Trump did make some good decisions early on.  He invested a significant sum improving one of the two golf courses; upgrading infrastructure; expanding the pool complex; building a very nice indoor tennis center; and expanding the grill and outdoor patio.  But it all had to be done his way.

For instance, he spent a large sum adding an enormous waterfall to the 18th hole.  Waterfalls are one of the signatures of his golf courses--if he built one on Mars, he'd insist it have a waterfall of some sort.  This particular waterfall, however, didn't have much volume--when it was turned on, it was more like a trickle, with water burbling over the edge.  Members were then instructed that it was not a "waterfall," but a "water sculpture."

Trump also introduced us, early on, to fake news.  When the course renovation was completed, members found a curious addition on the Potomac River at the far east end of the property, between the green for what is now the par-3 thirteenth hole of the Championship course, and the tee box to the fourteenth hole.  There, Trump had erected a huge flagpole for one of his signature ginormous American flags (for the false patriotism of a family that has never had anyone serve in our military).  At the base of the flagpole we found a plaque, titled "River of Blood", which commemorates a Civil War battle so intense that the water in the Potomac River "would turn red" from the casualties.  Trump proclaimed it his "great honor" to have "preserved" this historic section of the Potomac.  (Preserved? By purchasing an existing private golf course with no public access?)

Members were mildly amused.  Unlike most Civil War plaques in history-centric Virginia, this one had no date for the battle and listed no commanding officers of the opposing forces.  Most members knew that no such battle was fought there.  I certainly knew.  One member circulated an email showing that the only Civil War activity anywhere near there was a nighttime cavalry crossing by famed Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart on his way to Gettysburg (for which there is a legitimate plaque in a nearby public park.)

When a member asked Trump about the plaque a couple years later during a tour of the course, he admitted that he had "made it up."  But when the New York Times did a story about the fake monument during his presidential campaign, Trump insisted that "some historian" had told him it was true.  This plaque simply encapsulates the entire ridiculousness of Donald Trump.  Even after the NYT story, the plaque remains.

Trump also added a couple of Rolex clocks, installed an ugly fountain at the club entrance, changed the color scheme to his signature gold and black, and installed granite curbstones along the cart paths.  He installed a stone bridge across a creek, which has a large "T" in the middle its arch.  But he also insisted on putting in a couple other little bridges and waterfalls in the creek;  we rarely had a problem with that creek before, but now, when it rains, these restrictions cause the creek to back up, overflow, flood portions of the course and then severely erode when it finally drains out.  This is another trait typical of Donald Trump--he knows more than the experts ("I know more about ISIS than the generals.")  Any engineer would have told him not to dam up the creek.

He also insisted that a light colored concrete cart path should be replaced with a black asphalt cart path because "it looks better."  But in the summer sun of Washington, that hot black asphalt kills the adjoining grass.  Trust me, a light colored path with green grass looks a lot better than a black path with dead grass.

Trump is also no nature lover.  The Club has approximately a mile of frontage on the Potomac River. When he purchased the Club, the river, while visible, was partially obscured by hundreds of trees on the riverbank.  Well, Trump took care of that.  He had crews come in and take down every tree--well, all but one.  Literally, hundreds of trees were cut down over the course of one winter--I remember seeing the trees disappear as we played occasional winter rounds.  When the Washington Post ran an article about it, he had the then (soon to be fired) Club manager take the fall, saying it was his decision, and that the trees had been removed because they were diseased and hurting the riverbank.  (When the next big Potomac flood comes along, I hope it takes the entire riverbank--minus all those diseased trees--with it, along with about six golf holes.)  He also removed hundreds of other trees around the golf course to open up sightlines.

Nonetheless, for awhile the members had access to two very good golf courses that were well-maintained.  But that wasn't enough for Trump, because he had a vanity project in mind.  His goal, all along, was to get the Club to host a significant professional golf tournament.  After the initial renovation of the one golf course (the "Championship Course") he invited PGA officials to evaluate it for tournament use.  Their conclusion:  the greens were too flat and easy, and the layout was not conducive to the logistics of a big tournament.

So, Trump decided to undertake another renovation.  This one created a superb golf course on the river, and a decidedly mediocre mishmash of a leftover golf course on the interior (affectionately called "Trump Municipal" by members).  As part of the renovation, Trump used portions of both golf courses to create a new 18 hole Championship course along the full riverfront.  He added some new holes, and re-did all the greens to give them more undulation as requested by the PGA.  (They still don't have that much undulation--it will be interesting to see how the pros play it this weekend.)

Along the way, he made an impetuous decision, before finishing the final routing of the new course, to add an island green par-3 hole in place of a short par-4 that he had never liked.  Construction on the new hole started immediately after he made the decision, but guess what?  The new hole did not fit into the final routing of the new course.  Nor did it fit into the leftover course.  Somewhere, he would have to get rid of a hole, because there were now 37, instead of 36.  Ultimately, he combined the new par-3 with an old par-4 to make a new par-5 hole that makes absolutely no sense and is uniformly hated by all members.

(Shortly after the new hole opened, Trump was at the Club and spotted one of the best lady members of the Club on that hole.  He asked her what she thought.  She very diplomatically said something along the lines of well, Mr. Trump, it is a very interesting hole; I just wish there was a larger landing area to the right, along the water, for players who need to lay-up.  Trump turned red and said "if you don't like it, you can join another club, then stormed off.  This was pretty typical of his response to any member who did not lavish praise on his decisions.)

In any event, the new Championship course is indeed, tournament worthy.  It is nearly 8000 yards long, with great views of the Potomac River and some very challenging holes.  It is also about an 8 mile walk, which is quite long, especially in the summer heat with virtually no trees for shade.

But the other course--the Riverview--is, as Trump would say about something for which he wasn't responsible, "a disaster."  The Riverview has three different types of greens.  It has seven holes on one side of the property, with the remaining 11 holes about a quarter mile cart ride away, on the other side of the property.  It is the product of three golf course designers--Tom Fazio for the first seven, Arthur Hills for the 10 of the other 11, and Donald Trump for the infamous par 5.  The starting hole is not near the clubhouse, nor is it close to the practice range.  It is, in a word, the forgotten course.   Trump doesn't play it; it won't host tournaments; he just doesn't care.  Kind of like people who rely on Obamacare to keep themselves alive.

Trump is quite a character.  Members and caddies have plenty of stories about his cheating on the golf course.  He is a good golfer, but not as good as he would have you believe, as he "takes" any decent length putt and has a vanity handicap.  No one wants to cross him, so he is not called out on his conduct.  Once, in the middle of a two-day tournament, he tried to get the format for the second day changed because he did not think it favored him.

If he were just the colorful, quirky, dictatorial owner of a private golf club, Trump's idiosyncrasies would not be a big deal.  But he's not. Now, he is President of the United States, and he is dangerously delusional.

I maintain that there is a reason we generally elect people to public office up a chain, from local to state to national office.  It is because we then get a measure of them as they take on more responsibility.  If Trump were running for local office in a small town, he would never get elected because voters would see his flaws; or, if elected, he would not retain office for long.

Indeed, most of the membership at the Club are Republicans.  But very few supported Trump's candidacy during the primary campaign, and many could not even bear to vote for him in the general election despite their contempt for Hillary Clinton.  That is because they know him, they'd seen him in action, and they knew better.

I'm glad to be out of the Club.  I had many great friendships there, which I miss.  And on the occasion of the Sr. PGA Tournament at the Club, I wish all the best to my friends who are still there, many of whom are selflessly volunteering countless hours to make the tournament a success.  I also hope, that one day very soon, Donald Trump will return to his role as a colorful, quirky private citizen.

Friday, May 19, 2017

How The Russia Scandal Will Go Down For Trump

Now that an independent prosecutor has been appointed to investigate the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, we can hope to get to the bottom of this in due course.  It won't happen overnight--most likely, the probe will take at least a year.

Republicans should welcome the probe.  If an independent prosecutor clears the Trump campaign, they're all good.  If Mueller instead finds wrongdoing, they can get rid of Trump and have Pence as President, which would be much better for them all around.

Trump would also welcome the appointment of an independent prosecutor IF he and his campaign did nothing wrong.  Indeed, one of his big problems so far has been the refusal to say he would "welcome" an investigation that would clear his campaign of wrongdoing.

In any event, where there's smoke there's fire, and in the case of Trump's campaign there is plenty of smoke.  I believe the investigation will show that Trump's campaign did, indeed, coordinate with Russia, and that the coordination began early on, during the Republican primaries.  (If true that it started during the primaries, Republicans will be much more willing to Dump Trump.)

The key player is Michael Flynn.  Most likely, Flynn offered to use his contacts with Russians to help leverage the Trump campaign.  Paul Manafort was also undoubtedly  involved, and it wouldn't be surprising if some of the other clowns in Trump's camp--Roger Stone, Rudy Guiliani--played a role.

But Flynn is the main man.  We already know that he had many contacts with the Russians.  The question becomes who those Russians were and what they offered to do.  And also, what Trump knew.

Trump, of course, will deny that he knew anything.  In any scheme like this, it is important to protect the boss--plausible deniability.  That was the key in Watergate--it wasn't bugging DNC HQ per se that was the problem, but rather whether Pres. Nixon knew about it.  (Trump has already hedged his bets--stating yesterday that his campaign--or at least HE HIMSELF--did not coordinate with the Russians.

Note however, that Trump made Flynn his national security adviser despite NUMEROUS warnings not to.  It seems a promise was made, or maybe Flynn knew too much.

So, in the end, it will come down to Flynn.  Eventually, he will be given immunity in exchange for his testimony about what Trump knew.  I expect that he will then testify that yes, of course, the boss knew, but he didn't want to be informed of any of the details.

Then maybe we can get a serious President.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Early Election: Signs Point To Hillary

Many people tend to overlook that these days, voting begins several weeks before "election day."  According to data compiled by political scientist Michael McDonald at electproject.org, nearly 40% of votes in the 2012 Presidential election were cast before election day.  That total could be eclipsed this year, although some states have curtailed early voting for political reasons.

As of this morning, according to McDonald's data, more than 4 million people have already voted in this election.  With early "in-person" voting starting in more and more states, that figure will go up rapidly over the next few days.

States vary widely in the data they report from the early ballots.  No state, of course, reports on who the early voters cast their ballots for, but some do provide useful demographic information.

Some interesting tidbits from the data so far:

Iowa is a state where Donald Trump has consistently polled favorably.  He holds a 3.7% lead over Hillary in the polling average for that state.  But Iowans have been voting now for quite a few days, and the tilt is heavily Democratic.  So far, 235,000 votes have been cast in Iowa (there were 1.5 million total in the state in 2012).  Of those, 49% are from registered Democrats, and 32% from Republicans.  In contrast, in 2012, 42% of absentee ballots were from Dems, and 32% from Republicans.

Of course, that doesn't mean Hillary is winning or Trump is losing.  The data could (and likely will) change as additional ballots come in.  Also, it may be that traditional blue collar white Democrats in Iowa are voting for Trump.  So, we won't get too excited about the data so far.  But, if I was Trump, I'd be worried--if he loses Iowa, he is likely to go down to a landslide defeat nationally.

North Carolina and Georgia provide a demographic breakdown of their early voting data.  What's interesting here is the gender divide.  In Georgia, 433,000 votes have been cast (3.9 million total votes in 2012).  Of those, 56% are from women and 42% from men.  (Nationally, women make up about 53% of all voters.)

In NC, 221,000 ballots have been cast, of which 55% are from women and 43% men.

Of course, this could just be that women are voting early, and men will catch up at some point.  And it doesn't tell you who they are voting for.

Finally, in Virginia it is noteworthy that early balloting in Democratically strong Northern Virginia is up 56% over 2012.  Virginia is probably a lost cause for Trump anyway--polling has consistently shown a race their that is not close at all.

Trump Lost The Election The Day He Announced His Candidacy

The election is almost here, and barring something very unexpected, Hillary Clinton will be our next President.

That is pretty surprising, given that at the outset of the nomination process a year and a half ago, a generic Republican easily beat Hillary in a hypothetical match-up.

But then Donald Trump threw his hat in the ring.  The very day that Trump made his campaign announcement, he both won the GOP nomination and lost the general election.  As soon as Trump made his now infamous statement about Mexican rapists and criminals, he vaulted to the top of the GOP nomination heap.  Unfortunately, there is a sizable portion of the Republican base that delights in overt immigrant bashing and racism, and by saying it bluntly, Trump made himself the darling of these voters.

At the same time (and I said it to a friend at the time, while sitting in Trump's golf club in Sterling, Va.), he lost the general election, even to a candidate as unpopular as Hillary.  Bigotry is not a popular position in the US, and, thankfully, the larger electorate will generally shy away from a candidate who expresses himself or herself in a bigoted way.

It's too bad, because our country could use a vigorous debate on POLICY issues, rather than personality.  We benefit from such debate, as it often helps us to get to a moderate, middle ground position that is usually better for the large majority of citizens.  (This is the what our founders envisaged, with their system of checks and balances.)

As one example, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (a fairly conservative Republican), recently had the courage and intellectual honesty to defend free trade--which neither Trump nor Clinton will do, although Clinton probably favors free trade.  Free trade provides our country with numerous benefits, including lower cost (not quality) goods, and vigorous markets for our exports.  The idea that we are somehow going to go back to being an industrial manufacturing economy is pretty ludicrous.  Moreover, we wouldn't want to.  Manufacturing jobs are increasingly becoming automated; we are better off that our economy has already moved on.

In any event, let's hope the Republican Party can right its ship.  I fear otherwise--Trump has basically written a playbook for future campaigns. If you want to distinguish yourself in a large field of Republicans, be a bigot (and try to mask it by saying you're just not being "politically correct").

Perhaps a new, centrist conservative party will emerge--one that embraces fiscal and economic conservatism, libertarianism, AND ethnic, religious and sexual diversity.

Monday, December 07, 2015

The University of Virginia Football Rip-Off

The University of Virginia announced a few days ago that it had hired a new football coach, who it will reportedly pay $3.25 annually.

What a huge waste of money.  On top of this, UVA students are required to pay a sports fee of $657 annually, one of the highest in the nation among large public universities.

UVA students should go on strike against paying this exorbitant and useless fee to support a bloated athletic department budget.

Here's an undeniable FACT about college football:  100% of games result in someone lossing.  In the aggregate, 50% of games played will result in a loss.

What that means, for schools like UVA, is that unless they can out-recruit the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State, etc. they are going to be on the losing end.  And, in the long run, there is NO WAY that UVA can out-recruit the major FBS football powers.  About the best UVA can hope for is to occasionally have a decent season in the ACC and go to a minor bowl (heck, anyone can go to a minor bowl these days, but that very fact has completely devalued the entire bowl experience.)

Anyway, there is a much better way for UVA and similarly situated schools to go.  Instead of participating in an ever escalating arms race that it cannot possibly win, it should drop out.  UVA ought to join other more academically oriented and/or smaller schools, such as Duke, UNC, Wake Forest, Temple, Villanova, Rutgers and form an Ivy League type of college football conference.  One that promotes the true idea of student athlete.  The Ivy League school play a ten game season, with no playoffs, no bowl games, limited scholarships, etc.  The season is still competitive--within the league--but not over the top.  (The two teams that play for the national championship this season will likely have played 15 games apiece, a ridiculous sacrifice for unpaid college kids to be asked to make for the glory of their rich alumnae.)

UVA could then slash its football budget, eliminate the hated student fee and pursue its primary mission:  educating students. It could also set an example that would encourage other schools to stop the madness and bring rationality (some) back to college football.

New Iowa Poll Provides Further Evidence That Trump Has Nowhere To Go

In our last post, we stated the theory that Donald Trump has corraled the "Wallace vote"--the lower income, less educated white voters who are overtly bigoted and willing to vote that way in general elections.

We now have some additional evidence in support of that theory--a recent poll from Monmouth of Iowa voters.  In the new Monmouth poll (http://www.monmouth.edu/assets/0/32212254770/32212254991/32212254992/32212254994/32212254995/30064771087/de240398-df23-47b6-8470-91977d38b749.pdf ), there is a tremendous amount of movement from the last poll, about a month ago.  In particular, Carson has almost collapsed, with the majority of his support moving to Ted Cruz.  Likewise, Rubio has picked up some of the Carson support, as well as improving his position among more moderate GOP voters at the expense of Bush, Kasich, Fiorina and Christie.

But Trump has gone nowhere--his support declined by a statistically insignificant 2%.  Furthermore, the poll shows that Trump's strongest support (relative to others) is among Republicans who have never previously participated in a caucus in Iowa, but say they will this year.  That cohort is notoriously fickle when it comes to actually turning out, as opposed to drinking a beer and cursing as they watch Fox News.

This poll reinforces our belief that Trump has wrapped up support of overtly bigoted voters, but in the process turned off everyone else, leaving him with no room for further growth.  Voters in Iowa are changing their minds, but not for Trump.

The result is that, with less than two months to go to the actual voting/caucusing, a new dynamic is emerging, in which Trump faces the danger of finishing second, and maybe even third, in Iowa.  Finishing third would be particularly damaging--it would destroy his claim as the GOP front-runner.  Further, it would hasten the consolidation of Republican voters in future contests, such that he could also come in third in New Hampshire.

Trump will likely do better in the so-called "SEC" primary of mostly southeastern states.  Those states have higher percentages of Wallace type voters, especially in the Republican party.  Thus, he could garner as much as 40% in some  of those states, especially in the Deep South, but his support even in that cohort may erode if Cruz and Rubio emerge as the two front-runners by then.

Trump is a stubborn fellow, who hates to lose.  We would not rule out having him take his campaign the independent route in the general election, despite his "pledge" not to.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Explaining The Trump "Phenomenon" With George Wallace

Many political pundits have tried to explain the Trump "phenomenon", i.e., his staying power atop the GOP polls despite statements that would sink many another candidate.

The explanation is really not that difficult.  Donald Trump has cornered the George Wallace vote.  In most years that would not seem like much, but in this unusual election year the Wallace vote has taken on a disproportionate impact in the GOP primaries.

Few will recall that in 1968 George Wallace ran for president on an avowedly racist, segregationist platform.  It was also a populist platform economically.  His appeal was largely limited to lower class whites of more limited education, but he nonetheless received nearly 14% of the vote nationwide, and carried five southern states.

Back in the 1960's and 1970's, many Wallace type voters identified themselves as Democrats, for historical reasons.  They tended to either stay out of national elections, or vote Republican, particularly if someone like a Goldwater was running.  Many more were independents.  These days, the parties have re-aligned, and Wallace type of voters are more firmly in the GOP camp (although some are still independents) to both the benefit and detriment of the Republican Party.

Notwithstanding that realignment, Wallace voters have had a fairly limited impact on Republican presidential nominating contests.  In a typical election year, with maybe three serious GOP candidates pursuing the presidential nomination, the Wallace type vote would not be so evident.  A leading "centrist" candidate, such as a Romney or McCain, would have roughly 60% of the vote in polls in such a contest, and a couple other more right wing candidates might carve up the Wallace vote, maybe one getting 16% and the other getting 10%.  In such a contest, the Wallace voters are out there, but they in no way dominate, or even significantly affect, the course of the race.

This year is unusual.  There are more than a dozen candidates, with no heir apparent.  Trump went right out of the gate for the Wallace type voters, proclaiming in his first speech that Mexico was sending rapists and murderers across the border.  He has continued to make a series of bigoted and racist comments since then, and he has stayed at a pretty steady 20-25% in national polls of Republicans.  (In head to head polls against Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, however, Trump typically polls the worst of the leading Republicans.)

But remember, Republicans make up roughly one third of the electorate.  So 25% of that one third is less than ten percent of the overall electorate--basically, the Wallace vote.  These voters have always been around.  They probably always will be (European democracies also have their hard core right wing nativist political groups, who usually get around 10% of the vote, barring something unusual.)

Trump is the first serious candidate for President since Wallace to overtly court bigoted voters.  Unlike Wallace, whose credentials as a racist were quite well established before he ran for President, Trump showed few signs of outright bigotry before running for office (he certainly looked like a run of the mill sexist, but not a bigot).  Trump is no dummy--we suspect that he made a very calculated move to corral the nativist right, and has been fighting to hold on to it ever since.  Of course, that makes him practically unelectable in a general election, but maybe he figured that would be a bridge to cross later.

In any event, Trump's "enduring" appeal is not that difficult to explain.  Anyone can put together the hard core Wallace vote if they are willing to be overtly racist and bigoted.  Few have tried, because it is not typically a winning strategy in the long run.  But don't expect Trump's support to erode or fade--as long as he keeps up what others view as outrageous statements, he will maintain the Wallace vote--they have nowhere else to go.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Is Football A Barbaric Sport?

Let me preface this post by saying that I enjoy football as much as any red-blooded American, and always have.

But these days, I have a feeling that within 100-200 years, humanity will view American football with the same disdain we have today for the gladiatorial contests of Rome.

We are increasingly seeing the sheer brutality of football, in the form of serious brain damage done to a large majority of players.  Not just professional players, either.  A recent study [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/new-87-deceased-nfl-players-test-positive-for-brain-disease/] found that 79 percent of ALL football players (and 96 percent of pros) had evidence of CTE--chronic traumatic encephalopathy--which is a brain disease.

Before the recent revelations about the problems with concussions and CTE in football players, all we, the fans, could really see is the more typical daily carnage of a football field--torn ligaments and muscles and the occasional more serious injury requiring a player to be carted off the field.  We could live with this.

But can we--should we--live with a sport that practically guarantees its participants will suffer debilitating brain injuries?  It certainly makes me uncomfortable, and I think if we could visualize it happening during the games, we wouldn't let it continue to happen.

We can't continue to ignore the issue.  I doubt that a technological solution--better helmets, etc. is going to emerge.  Nor is it likely that rule changes can be effected that will maintain the integrity of the game while providing effective protection to its participants.

(This same issue may be lurking for another sport--futbol, or soccer--but the evidence so far is inconclusive),

There is big, big, big money on football, especially professional and college ball, so it will take awhile to work through to the conclusion that football is too dangerous to be viable.  I, for one, however, am becoming increasingly queasy every time I tune in to watch my favorite teams, literally, butt heads.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Why Donald Trump Won't Be President

This is part one of an examination of why Donald Trump will not be elected President.

When it comes to voters, PT Barnum's adage rings true:  you can fool some of the voters all of the time; you can fool all of the voters some of the time; but you can't fool all of the voters all of the time.

For now, Trump has some of the voters fooled.  Pretty much, he has the voters who (a) tend not to vote; (b) are angry white male bigots and misogynysts; and (c) fall for anyone who is "not a politician".  That is not an insignificant portion of the population, but it is far from an electoral majority.  It is more or less the George Wallace faction of American politics.

As we will see in a later part, however, Trump illustrates why we SHOULD have politicians who are "politicians."  Non-politicians make terrible political leaders and public servants.  Trump has never served in any elective office, and he won't serve as President.

Let's start with Part 1 of why Trump won't be elected:  he is a spoiled brat bully.  Most voters don't know Trump's personal history--YET.  At some point, at least one of his Republican opponents, or a super-PAC aligned with one, or the press, will start to get this out.

Trump is no friend of the "working man."  He was born into a very wealthy family and given everything as a result.  He never had to work his way up from nothing.  And he hasn't required HIS kids to do real work either--instead, he has continued with a family dynasty typical of the Old European feudal days, where his children--Ivanka, Donald Jr., Eric and Baron--are given key positions in his various enterprises regardless of their qualifications.

Trump is also a thin-skinned bully.  If anyone crosses him, he either fires them or sues them.  He uses a phalanx of lawyers to intimidate his foes, and if the lawyers get out of line, he sues them too!  Except for his family members, no one who works for Trump is safe--they can be and regularly are fired for the most trivial reasons.

Someone who is thin-skinned is not going to make a good President.  The President has to get along with Congress if he or she wants to get anything done.  Trump is used to working without any checks or balances--the most he has to deal with are Boards of Directors, which in his case are mostly his own children or very loyal subordinates.

He also has to get along with other world leaders.  They don't owe him anything, and they don't need to defer to him.  Pissing off the rest of the world really isn't going to do anything to "make America great again."  It's a new world, Donald--America can't just go around invading everyone.  Indeed, our failed invasion of Iraq, while also pursuing a legitimate war in Afghanistan (both with ALLIES) showed the limits of our military power.  We have no real economic or military leverage over China, and we aren't going to go to war against Mexico, which happens to be a very important trade partner.

Trump would also need to appoint a cabinet--serious people to lead important executive agencies of the federal government.  What, is he going to appoint Ivanka to State, Donald Jr. to Defense, Eric to Treasury, Tiffany (who is in college) to Labor, and Barron (who is 9) to Education?  Is he going to continuously hire and fire cabinet members who disagree with him or cross him in any way?  He has to get along with these people too.

Bottom line:  being a thin-skinned bully does not a good President make.

Next:  why being a billionaire and not "beholden" to people making donations is a bad thing.