Monthly Archives: January 2020

Defending Donald Trump

As Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial began on January 16th, many of us wondered how Trump’s legal team would respond to the serious accusations contained in the two articles of impeachment. It didn’t take long to realize that these lawyers serve as an extension of Trump; they are responding in the manner we have come to expect from Trump whenever he is confronted with his misdeeds.

Trump is accused of (1) abuse of power and (2) obstruction of Congress.  The abuse of power charge concerns Trump’s conduct with regards to Ukraine:  “President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States presidential election. He did so through a scheme or course of conduct that included soliciting the government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit his re-election, harm the election prospects of a political opponent, and influence the 2020 United States presidential election to his advantage. President Trump also sought to pressure the government of Ukraine to take these steps by conditioning official United States government acts of significant value to Ukraine on its public announcement of the investigations.

The obstruction of Congress charge concern’s Trump’s unprecedented “stonewalling” of the House of Representatives inquiry:  “Donald J Trump has directed the unprecedented, categorical and indiscriminate defiance of subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives pursuant to its sole power of impeachment.

These are serious charges — much more serious than those charges levied against Bill Clinton, twenty years ago — and deserve serious consideration.  Therefore, it’s reasonable to expect Trump’s legal team to behave professionally.  That’s not happening.

Rather than defend Donald Trump in the conventional manner, Trump’s attorneys have chosen to act as an extension of Trump — to engage in the abrasive and devious behavior that has characterized Trump’s political career.   This behavior has four components.

1. AVOIDANCE: Trump’s attorneys are not directly responding to the accusations.  That is, rather than respond to the accusation that Trump sought to manipulate Ukraine for his own political advantage, Trump’s attorneys respond that Trump’s (notorious) phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky was “perfect” and then change the subject.

Trump’s lawyers responded to the the articles of impeachment with a 109 page brief ( that is much more emotional than factual.  In a blistering analysis ( legal scholar Michael Gerhardt stated: “It would take more than 109 pages to correct all of the document’s fallacies and incorrect statements of law and fact… [it is] more of a political screed than a legal document deserving of respect and serious consideration by senators, the public, historians, and constitutional scholars.”

Gerhardt observed that the Trump brief, rather than rely upon reasoned analysis, resorts to “bluster:” “[Thereby] proving the old adage that, ‘If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table.'”

2. ATTACK: Rather than respond directly to the accusations, Trump — and his attorneys — attack those who formulated them.  As Democrats presented evidence on the abuse-of-power charge, Trump — and his Republican allies — hurled abuse at them ( ).  “The Republican barrage was led by Trump himself, who in Davos, Switzerland, called the top House managers ‘sleazebags’ while denouncing his impeachment as a ‘hoax’ and ‘disgrace’ to his presidency.”

The Trump legal brief began: “The Articles of Impeachment now before the Senate are an affront to the Constitution and to our democratic institutions. The Articles themselves—and the rigged process that brought them here—are a brazenly political act by House Democrats that must be rejected. They debase the grave power of impeachment and disdain the solemn responsibility that power entails… The process that brought the articles here violated every precedent and every principle of fairness followed in impeachment inquiries for more than 150 years.”

3. LIE: Unfortunately, Trump and his lawyers have chosen to lie about many aspects of the impeachment accusations.  Michael Gerhardt noted, “The [Trump legal team] Memorandum is replete with misrepresentations and false statements of fact. For example, it reiterates the canard that the whistleblower’s report is a ‘false account.’ There was nothing false about it. It was corroborated by virtually every witness who testified before the House Intelligence Committee, and so much the worse for the President that the people testifying against him were not Democrats but people he had appointed himself. It does not just strain credulity but decimates it to maintain that everyone who has testified under oath in these hearings is somehow lying while only the President is telling the truth.”

4. MISREPRESENT THE CONSTITUTION:  Finally, Trump and his legal team have not responded to the articles of impeachment with reasoned legal arguments but, instead, with variations on the theme: Trump is above the law.

Michael Gerhardt observed, “The Memorandum is replete with misrepresentations and false claims about the law and about impeachment practices and procedures as well. For example, the Memorandum repeatedly complains that the House did not afford the president ‘due process.’ Throughout the House’s impeachment proceedings, Republicans proclaimed ‘due process’ was a problem. Yet, the very same Republicans who made this complaint were invited to or participated in the closed door depositions the President is now complaining about… The President had these safeguards, and more, throughout the House proceedings. He was given a surplus of fair process (including being invited to attend the testimony of constitutional law scholars and even have his counsel question them), but he turned the opportunities down. Importantly, the President was also given the explicit opportunity… to have his counsel present for hearings and object to the admission of testimony and evidence when that information was submitted to the House Judiciary Committee by the House Intelligence Committee witnesses.”

Summary:  In Congressman Adam Schiff’s brilliant closing remarks at the January 23rd Senate Impeachment trial (, he adopted the solemn theme “right matters.”  “If the truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost. [The] Framers couldn’t protect us from ourselves, if right and truth don’t matter. And you know that what [Donald Trump] did was not right.. And you know you can’t trust this President to do what’s right for this country. You can trust he will do what’s right for Donald Trump.”

Sadly, for Donald Trump’s defenders, right doesn’t matter.

2000-2019: What Hath The Internet Wrought?

While I usually write about politics, I’m also interested in technology.  And, of course, technology is political. So here are a few observations about the social and political impact of the Internet in the first twenty years of the twenty-first century.

THE INTERNET turned fifty in October.  The modern era of the Internet began in 1989 with the invention of the “world-wide web” and the first web browser.  The past twenty years has seen rapid deployment of the Internet throughout the world — although in some locations, such as central Africa, it’s difficult to read your email without a satellite phone.

The vast expansion of the Internet has impacted all aspects of our lives, from our daily personal rituals to the conduct of our businesses.  It’s been facilitated by the develpment of high-speed telecommunication networks, LTE (long-term evolution) — mostly 4G in the U.S.  And by the advent of the PDA (personal data assistant) and e-commerce (electronic commerce).

DOMESTIC INNOVATION:  It’s hard to believe, but twenty years ago, none of us sat in bed in the morning, checking our cellphones for email or text messages or Facebook posts.  The fact we can do this is due to several developments.

Ipod, Iphone, Ipad: The Ipod launched in 2001, followed by the iPhone in 2007, and the iPad in 2010.  Of course, cellphones have been used for forty years.  But the modern era, the “smart” phone, began with the delivery of the iPhone in 2007.  This was the first phone that allowed you to make voice calls, send text messages, read your email, and surf the web.

Multiple factors contributed to the ubiquity of the PDA.  Communications companies built national LTE networks.  And, beginning in 1992, there was a rapid deployment of wireless network technology — WiFi.

Of course, it’s very convenient to be able to have a full range of communications on your phone.  But there are social consequences.  Email has been around since the advent of the Internet and came into widespread use in the 70s.  That was when social observers first noted that people will say things in an email that they would not say in a text.

There’s no doubt that over the past 20 years there’s been a “coarsening” of social dialogue.  The Internet has promoted worldwide rapid communication, but it’s also made it more likely that citizens will fire off thoughtless hostile comments.

Social Networks:  In 2004 Facebook was launched at Harvard; in 2006 it became generally available.  (That same year, Twitter came out.)  Social networks are now part of the American social landscape.  (Millions of Americans wait for the next Trump tweet.)

We can debate about whether this is good or bad.  There’s no doubt that the social networks have both contributed to the coarsening of social dialogue and increased the amount of “fake news.”  (Millions of people now get their news via Facebook.)

Hacking:  With the rapid expanse in the use of the Internet there’s been a corresponding increase in computer crime of all sorts.  Most of us have had experiences with various sorts of hackers: stolen (digital) credits cards, viruses or worms…. There’s a lot of wealth on the Internet and its ubiquity has spurred a new breed of thieves.  It’s estimated that there is one hacker attack “every 39 seconds.”(

BUSINESS INNOVATION:  At the same time that the rapid deployment of the Internet has facilitated personal communication,  new Internet tools have been a boon to business.

E-Commerce: 1995 saw the formation of both Amazon and eBay.  (Shortly thereafter Paypal was formed.)  These companies made it possible to purchase a wide variety of new and used goods without having to travel to a “bricks-and-mortar” store.  Soon the public’s buying habits had dramatically shifted.

Streaming: Although there were earlier music streaming services, the first significant service was iTunes in 2001.  A comparable service for videos was provided by YouTube in 2005.  Although Amazon had been selling books over the Internet since 1995, it was not until 2007 that it introduced the Kindle and the notion of the eBook — streaming books, magazines, and other documents.

In 1997 Netflix was formed to facilitate renting DVDs over the internet.  In 2010 it refocussed and began delivering DVD content as streaming media. (In 2012 it also began delivering original content.)

New forms of Service Delivery: Entrepreneurs noted that where you could deliver goods via the Internet you should also be able to deliver services.  This led to the 2008 launch of Airbnb followed by ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, and freelance labor exchanges such as Taskrabbit.

Cloud Computing:  Although the notion of “cloud computing” — the on-demand use of shared computers and data storage — had been discussed since 1996, it first became widely available via a 2006 Amazon offering.  What this means is that businesses, of various sizes, do not have to have their own dedicated computer facilities; they can purchase these resources from Amazon, or the like, as they need them.  (Nor do these business have to have other specialized facilities such as accounting, human resources, and marketing; they can also be purchased from companies such as Salesforce.)

Personalization:  As e-commerce developed, massive amounts of consumer data were collected.  This has permitted vendors, such as Amazon, to personalize offers to their customers; that led to messages such as, “based on your recent purchases, we recommend the following products…” Personalization expanded beyond e-commerce to news services that began delivering tailored messages and articles.

Microtargeting: Since 2004, U.S. political parties have used a form of personalization, “micro targeting,” to tailor political messages to specific audiences.  (In 2016, this practice included information obtained via Facebook.)

SUMMARY:  By any measure, the Internet is a gigantic resource (

“According to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index initiative, the Internet is now in the “zettabyte era.” A zettabyte equals 1 sextillion bytes, or 1,000 exabytes. By the end of 2016, global Internet traffic will reach 1.1 zettabytes per year, according to Cisco, and by 2019, global traffic is expected to hit 2 zettabytes per year…. According to Cisco’s research, 8,000 petabytes per month of IP traffic was dedicated to video in 2015, compared with about 3,000 petabytes per month for Web, email and data transfer. (A petabyte is a million gigabytes or 2^50 bytes.)”

There are more than 100,000 e-commerce sites with significant revenue.

But big is not synonymous with good.  The Internet is a gigantic resource that is available — at least in rudimentary form — all over the world.  But it is not necessarily a trustworthy resource.

in 2020, Internet users do not have to be “techies;” they do not have to a deep technical understanding of how the Internet works and where Internet data comes from.  But these users do have to be skeptics because they are being bombarded with misleading information; and they do have to be wary because their privacy is under daily attack.   Sadly many Internet users are not skeptical or wary and, therefore, they are subject to manipulation on a scale not seen before.

It’s not surprising that Trump’s base — with a disproportionate number of uneducated white men — has proven easy to manipulate.  Daily, they are bombarded with Trump tweets and false news from related Internet sources.  The formation of the Trump cult is one of the unsavory side affects of the massive deployment of the internet.

Who’s Afraid of Michael Moore?

At otherwise jolly holiday parties, my political friends couldn’t stop talking about Michael Moore’s prediction that Donald Trump would win in 2020. (Remember, Michael predicted Trump would prevail in 2016.)  How worried should we be?

Michael Moore made his prediction in a December 26th conversation with Amy Goodman ( ):

“I believe whoever the Democrat is next year is going to win by 4 to 5 million popular votes. There’s no question in my mind that people who stayed home, who sat on the bench, they’re going to pour out, in California, New York… The problem is, is that [Trump] will — if the vote were today, I believe, he would win the electoral states that he would need, because, living out there, I will tell you, his level of support has not gone down one inch. In fact, I’d say it’s even more rabid than it was before, because they’re afraid now.”

Moore explained to Goodman that he believes the reason 2016 Democratic presidential candidate  Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump was because, in states like Michigan, she did not generate enthusiasm among rank-and-file Democrats.  In 2020, Moore is afraid that Democrats will lose again if they repeat the Clinton “mistake.”

The good news is, again, number one, never forget, there’s more of us than there are of them. The majority of the American people agree with us. Seventy percent of the voters next year are women, people of color and young adults… So, what we have to do is we have to make sure we don’t give them another Hillary Clinton to vote for. 

Michael Moore is a smart guy.  What he is saying is that if, in 2020, Democrats nominate a Hillary-clone then they’ll lose again because Trump will carry the midwest and, therefore, win the electoral vote.  This is an important argument that has three components: 1. Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election because Democrats in critical states, such as Michigan, didn’t vote for her.  2. Moore believes the 2020 “centrist” Dems, such as Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar, are bound  to be as unpopular as Clinton.  3. In 2020 the other political dynamics will be the same as they were in 2016.  That is, Trump will probably carry the Independents.  Furthermore, Moore believes Trump will probably win the same “red” states and the Dems will probably win the same “blue’ states and therefore, the race will come down to the same handful of states such as Michigan.  Let’s examine each of these contentions.

1.Hillary lost swing states because registered Democrats didn’t vote for her.  The 2016 election post-mortem suggested that Clinton lost the electoral college because she underperformed in three states and lost them by a total of 77,759 votes. Trump won Pennsylvania by 44,307 votes (0.7 of a percentage point), Wisconsin by 22,748 votes (0.7 of a point) and Michigan by 10,704 votes (0.2 of a point).

Michigan: Trump had 2,279543 voters (47.50%) and Clinton had 2,268,839 voters (47.27%).  Two other candidates, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein had 223,499 voters (4.66%).  So it’s likely that some Democrats who didn’t like Clinton, chose instead to vote for Johnson or Stein.

The CNN exit polls indicated that while there were more potential Michigan Democratic voters than Republican, only 88 percent of Dems voted for Clinton versus 90 percent for Trump.

Wisconsin was similar to Michigan: Trump had 1,405,284 voters (47.22%) and Clinton had 1,382,536 voters (46.45%) , while Johnson and Stein had 137,746 voters (4.62%).  Once again it was likely that some Democrats that didn’t like Clinton voted for Johnson or Stein.

Pennsylvania results indicated that Trump had 2,970,733 voters (48.18%) and Clinton had 2,926,441 voters (47.46%).  Johnson and Stein had 196,656 (3.19%).

The CNN Pennsylvania exit polls were similar to Michigan.  There were more Democratic voters (42%) than Republican (39%) but only 87% of Dems stayed with Clinton versus 89% that stuck with Trump.

Conclusion: In these key states, Michael Moore is right when he states that Clinton lost because her base didn’t stick with her.  But it’s an oversimplification, because Moore ignores the decisive role played by Independents — Trump carried the Independents in each state.  (By the way, the national exit polls indicated that Trump carried Independents — 20 percent of the electorate — 48% versus 41% for Clinton.)

2. The 2020 “centrist” Dems, such as Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar, are bound  to be as unpopular as Clinton.  Michael Moore believes that 2020 Dems are about to make the same mistake they did in 2016 and nominate an unpopular candidate — leading to a “hold your nose” election where Trump will prevail. The most recent polling data doesn’t support this.  538 ( ) notes that Trump is by far the most unpopular candidate (47.8% “very unfavorable” rating).

Among the Democratic candidates: Joe Biden had a 31.4% “very unfavorable” rating, while Bernie Sanders had a 34.4% rating and Elizabeth Warren 34.2%.

Conclusion: Michael Moore seems to be off in his assertion that the 2020 centrist Democratic candidates  will be as unpopular as Hillary Clinton.

3. In 2020, Michael Moore assumes the other political dynamics will be the same as they were in 2016.  There are  actually two parts to this assertion; the first is that Trump will, once again, carry Independent voters.  This doesn’t seem to be the case.

The latest Gallup poll shows that Trump’s approval rating is 42 percent with Independents.  This is consistent with the 2018 election results where Democratic candidates “took 55 percent of independents compared to just 41 percent for Republican candidates.” (  A recent The Hill article observed: “A recent Reuters/Ipsos survey found that 62 percent of independents ‘disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling his job as president.’ ”

This shift in the sentiment of independent voters seems to indicate that, in 2020, Independents will prefer the Democratic presidential candidates over Trump.  There isn’t a lot of polling on this, but a November Washington Post/ABC News poll ( showed that among Independent voters: Biden led Trump by 56% to 39%.

The second Moore assertion is that the 2020 election map will look the same as it did in 2016.  That is, the coasts will go to the Democratic presidential candidate, the south and heartland will go to Trump and the election will be decided by a small number of states, such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Many Democratic strategists don’t agree with Moore’s perspective; they think many more states will be in play.  Seven states have been mentioned as possible Democratic targets.

Arizona: In 2016. Trump won Arizona with 48.1% (Clinton got 44.6%).  However, the state is inexorably swinging towards the Democrats.  In 2018, Democratic Senator Krysten Sinema replaced (outgoing) Republican Jeff Flake.  Recent polls show that Trump’s popularity is waning; Real Clear Politics indicates that he and Joe Biden are tied in the Arizona polls.  (Explanation: I’m using Joe Biden as the potential Democratic candidate because — in these seven states — Biden has the best poll numbers versus Trump.)

Florida:  In 2016, Trump won Florida with 48.6% (Clinton got 47.4%).  As we know, this is a volatile state.  At the moment, Joe Biden leads Trump by a 2 percent margin.

Georgia:  In 2016, Trump won Georgia with 50.4%.  We know this state is difficult to peg because of historic Republican-instigated voter suppression.  Nonetheless, at the moment, Joe Biden leads Trump by 8 percent.

Iowa:  In 2016, Trump won Iowa with 51.1%.  In the latest polls, Trump leads Biden by approximately 2 percent.

North Carolina:  In 2016, Trump won North Carolina with 49.8%.  At the moment, Biden leads Trump by 3 percent.

Ohio: In 2016, Trump won Ohio by 51.3%.  In the latest poll, Biden leads Trump by 6 percent.

Texas:  In 2016, Trump won Texas by 52.2%.  In the latest polls, Trump and Biden are even.

Conclusion:  Michael Moore is predicting that Donald Trump will again win in 2020 because (1) Democrats will nominate an unpopular candidate — Moore, who is a Bernie Sanders supporter, believes that Joe Biden will prove to be as unpopular as Hillary Clinton.  (2) Moore’s second assertion is that Democrats will again lose Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.  At the moment, Biden (and other Democratic candidates) are ahead of Trump in these three states. (3) Moore’s third assertion is that, in 2020, Independent voters will break for Trump.  Once again, this doesn’t seem to be the case.  (4) Finally, Michael Moore believes that the 2020 electoral map will be the same as it was in 2016.  Once again, this is questionable.  At the moment, Democratic candidates — particularly Joe Biden — seem to be extremely competitive in seven states that Trump carried in 2016.

I’m not saying that Trump will definitely lose in 2020.  I’m saying the situation looks different than it did in 2016 and Dems should have “guarded optimism.”  At the moment, several Democratic candidates — notably Joe Biden — have a good shot at defeating Trump.