Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sunday Reading

Why Trump Won’t Release His Taxes — The New York Times reports on how Donald Trump was able to parlay business losses into not paying federal income taxes.

Donald J. Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns, a tax deduction so substantial it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years, records obtained by The New York Times show.

The 1995 tax records, never before disclosed, reveal the extraordinary tax benefits that Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, derived from the financial wreckage he left behind in the early 1990s through mismanagement of three Atlantic City casinos, his ill-fated foray into the airline business and his ill-timed purchase of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.

Tax experts hired by The Times to analyze Mr. Trump’s 1995 records said that tax rules especially advantageous to wealthy filers would have allowed Mr. Trump to use his $916 million loss to cancel out an equivalent amount of taxable income over an 18-year period.

Although Mr. Trump’s taxable income in subsequent years is as yet unknown, a $916 million loss in 1995 would have been large enough to wipe out more than $50 million a year in taxable income over 18 years.

The $916 million loss certainly could have eliminated any federal income taxes Mr. Trump otherwise would have owed on the $50,000 to $100,000 he was paid for each episode of “The Apprentice,” or the roughly $45 million he was paid between 1995 and 2009 when he was chairman or chief executive of the publicly traded company he created to assume ownership of his troubled Atlantic City casinos. Ordinary investors in the new company, meanwhile, saw the value of their shares plunge to 17 cents from $35.50, while scores of contractors went unpaid for work on Mr. Trump’s casinos and casino bondholders received pennies on the dollar.

“He has a vast benefit from his destruction” in the early 1990s, said one of the experts, Joel Rosenfeld, an assistant professor at New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate. Mr. Rosenfeld offered this description of what he would advise a client who came to him with a tax return like Mr. Trump’s: “Do you realize you can create $916 million in income without paying a nickel in taxes?”

Mr. Trump declined to comment on the documents. Instead, the campaign released a statement that neither challenged nor confirmed the $916 million loss.

“Mr. Trump is a highly-skilled businessman who has a fiduciary responsibility to his business, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required,” the statement said. “That being said, Mr. Trump has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in property taxes, sales and excise taxes, real estate taxes, city taxes, state taxes, employee taxes and federal taxes.”

The statement continued, “Mr. Trump knows the tax code far better than anyone who has ever run for President and he is the only one that knows how to fix it.”

Separately, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, Marc E. Kasowitz, emailed a letter to The Times arguing that publication of the records is illegal because Mr. Trump has not authorized the disclosure of any of his tax returns. Mr. Kasowitz threatened “prompt initiation of appropriate legal action.”

Mr. Trump’s refusal to make his tax returns public — breaking with decades of tradition in presidential contests — has emerged as a central issue in the campaign, with a majority of voters saying he should release them. Mr. Trump has declined to do so, and has said he is being audited by the Internal Revenue Service.

At last Monday’s presidential debate, when Hillary Clinton suggested Mr. Trump was refusing to release his tax returns so voters would not know “he’s paid nothing in federal taxes,” and when she also pointed out that Mr. Trump had once revealed to casino regulators that he paid no federal income taxes in the late 1970s, Mr. Trump retorted, “That makes me smart.”

The tax experts consulted by The Times said nothing in the 1995 documents suggested any wrongdoing by Mr. Trump, even if the extraordinary size of the loss he declared would have probably attracted extra scrutiny from I.R.S. examiners. “The I.R.S., when they see a negative $916 million, that has to pop out,” Mr. Rosenfeld said.

The documents examined by The Times represent a small fraction of the voluminous tax returns Mr. Trump would have filed in 1995.

The documents consisted of three pages from what appeared to be Mr. Trump’s 1995 tax returns. The pages were mailed last month to Susanne Craig, a reporter at The Times who has written about Mr. Trump’s finances. The documents were the first page of a New York State resident income tax return, the first page of a New Jersey nonresident tax return and the first page of a Connecticut nonresident tax return. Each page bore the names and Social Security numbers of Mr. Trump and Marla Maples, his wife at the time. Only the New Jersey form had what appeared to be their signatures.

The three documents arrived by mail at The Times with a postmark indicating they had been sent from New York City. The return address claimed the envelope had been sent from Trump Tower.

On Wednesday, The Times presented the tax documents to Jack Mitnick, a lawyer and certified public accountant who handled Mr. Trump’s tax matters for more than 30 years, until 1996. Mr. Mitnick was listed as the preparer on the New Jersey tax form.

A flaw in the tax software program he used at the time prevented him from being able to print a nine-figure loss on Mr. Trump’s New York return, he said. So, for example, the loss of “-915,729,293” on Line 18 of the return printed out as “5,729,293.” As a result, Mr. Mitnick recalled, he had to use his typewriter to manually add the “-91,” thus explaining why the first two digits appeared to be in a different font and were slightly misaligned from the following seven digits.

“This is legit,” he said, stabbing a finger into the document.

Because the documents sent to The Times did not include any pages from Mr. Trump’s 1995 federal tax return, it is impossible to determine how much he may have donated to charity that year. The state documents do show, though, that Mr. Trump declined the opportunity to contribute to the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Fund, the New Jersey Wildlife Conservation Fund or the Children’s Trust Fund. He also declined to contribute $1 toward public financing of New Jersey’s elections for governor.

The tax documents also do not shed any light on Mr. Trump’s claimed net worth of about $2 billion at that time. This is because the complex calculations of business deductions that produced a tax loss of $916 million are a separate matter from how Mr. Trump valued his assets, the tax experts said.

Nor does the $916 million loss suggest that Mr. Trump was insolvent or effectively bankrupt in 1995. The cash flow generated by his various businesses that year was more than enough to service his various debts.

But fragmentary as they are, the documents nonetheless provide new insight into Mr. Trump’s finances, a subject of intense scrutiny given Mr. Trump’s emphasis on his business record during the presidential campaign.

The documents show, for example, that while Mr. Trump reported $7.4 million in interest income in 1995, he made only $6,108 in wages, salaries and tips. They also suggest Mr. Trump took full advantage of generous tax loopholes specifically available to commercial real estate developers to claim a $15.8 million loss in 1995 on his real estate holdings and partnerships.

But the most important revelation from the 1995 tax documents is just how much Mr. Trump may have benefited from a tax provision that is particularly prized by America’s dynastic families, which, like the Trumps, hold their wealth inside byzantine networks of partnerships, limited liability companies and S corporations.

The provision, known as net operating loss, or N.O.L., allows a dizzying array of deductions, business expenses, real estate depreciation, losses from the sale of business assets and even operating losses to flow from the balance sheets of those partnerships, limited liability companies and S corporations onto the personal tax returns of men like Mr. Trump. In turn, those losses can be used to cancel out an equivalent amount of taxable income from, say, book royalties or branding deals.

Better still, if the losses are big enough, they can cancel out taxable income earned in other years. Under I.R.S. rules in 1995, net operating losses could be used to wipe out taxable income earned in the three years before and the 15 years after the loss. (The effect of net operating losses on state income taxes varies, depending on each state’s tax regime.)

The tax experts consulted by The Times said the $916 million net operating loss declared by Mr. Trump in 1995 almost certainly included large net operating losses carried forward from the early 1990s, when most of Mr. Trump’s key holdings were hemorrhaging money. Indeed, by 1990, his entire business empire was on the verge of collapse. In a few short years, he had amassed $3.4 billion in debt — personally guaranteeing $832 million of it — to assemble a portfolio that included three casinos and a hotel in Atlantic City, the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, an airline and a huge yacht.

Reports that year by New Jersey casino regulators gave glimpses of the balance sheet carnage. The Trump Taj Mahal casino reported a $25.5 million net loss during its first six months of 1990; the Trump’s Castle casino lost $43.5 million for the year. His airline, Trump Shuttle, lost $34.5 million during just the first six months of that year.

“Simply put, the organization is in dire financial straits,” the casino regulators concluded.

Reports by New Jersey’s casino regulators strongly suggested that Mr. Trump had claimed large net operating losses on his taxes in the early 1990s. Their reports, for example, revealed that Mr. Trump had carried forward net operating losses in both 1991 and 1993. What’s more, the reports said the losses he claimed were large enough to virtually cancel out any taxes he might owe on the millions of dollars of debt that was being forgiven by his creditors. (The I.R.S. considers forgiven debt to be taxable income.)

But crucially, the casino regulators redacted the precise size of the net operating losses in the public versions of their reports. Two former New Jersey officials, who were privy to the unredacted documents, could not recall the precise size of the numbers, but said they were substantial.

Politico, which previously reported that Mr. Trump most likely paid no income taxes in 1991 and 1993 based on the casino commission’s description of his net operating losses, asked Mr. Trump to comment. “Welcome to the real estate business,” he replied in an email.

Now, thanks to Mr. Trump’s 1995 tax records, the degree to which he spun all those years of red ink into tax write-off gold may finally be apparent.

Mr. Mitnick, the lawyer and accountant, was the person Mr. Trump leaned on most to do the spinning. Mr. Mitnick worked for a small Long Island accounting firm that specialized in handling tax issues for wealthy New York real estate families. He had long handled tax matters for Mr. Trump’s father, Fred C. Trump, and he said he began doing Donald Trump’s taxes after Mr. Trump turned 18.

In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Mitnick said he could not divulge details of Mr. Trump’s finances without Mr. Trump’s consent. But he did talk about Mr. Trump’s approaches to taxes, and he contrasted Fred Trump’s attention to detail with what he described as Mr. Trump’s brash and undisciplined style. He recalled, for example, that when Donald and Ivana Trump came in each year to sign their tax forms, it was almost always Ivana who asked more questions.

But if Mr. Trump lacked a sophisticated understanding of the tax code, and if he rarely showed any interest in the details behind various tax strategies, Mr. Mitnick said he clearly grasped the critical role taxes would play in helping him build wealth. “He knew we could use the tax code to protect him,” Mr. Mitnick said.

According to Mr. Mitnick, Mr. Trump’s use of net operating losses was no different from that of his other wealthy clients. “This may have had a couple extra digits compared to someone else’s operation, but they all benefited in the same way,” he said, pointing to the $916 million loss on Mr. Trump’s tax returns.

In “The Art of the Deal,” his 1987 best-selling book, Mr. Trump referred to Mr. Mitnick as “my accountant” — although he misspelled his name. Mr. Trump described consulting with Mr. Mitnick on the tax implications of deals he was contemplating and seeking his advice on how new federal tax regulations might affect real estate write-offs.

Mr. Mitnick, though, said there were times when even he, for all his years helping wealthy New Yorkers navigate the tax code, found it difficult to face the incongruity of his work for Mr. Trump. He felt keenly aware that Mr. Trump was living a life of unimaginable luxury thanks in part to Mr. Mitnick’s ability to relieve him of the burden of paying taxes like everyone else.

“Here the guy was building incredible net worth and not paying tax on it,” he said.

Now Is The Time — John Nichols in The Nation on expressing solidarity with Arab-Americans.

The ugly political climate of 2016 has made this a rough year for the Arab-American community.

Donald Trump’s cruel and unusual campaign has had many targets. But he has been particularly vile in his targeting of Muslims and immigrants from Middle Eastern countries.

By openly disregarding constitutional provisions that were designed to guard against religious tests and to guarantee equal protection under the law for all Americans, Trump has mainstreamed deliberate ignorance and crude bigotry. He has called for banning Muslim immigration. He had stoked resentment against Syrian refugees of all backgrounds. He has entertained the idea of compiling a national database of Muslims living in the United States. And he has opened a discussion about surveillance of houses of worship with suggestions that “we have to be very strong in terms of looking at the mosques.”

The Arab-American community is diverse. Arab Americans are Muslims and Christians; they are religious and secular; they trace their roots to many countries; some are recent immigrants but many have family histories in the US that extend back as far as those of the Republican presidential nominee. What they have in common is a shared sense of having been stereotyped and targeted unfairly in this election campaign.

Arab-Americans of all backgrounds say they feel frustrated and “exhausted” after a year of having to defend themselves from Trump’s attacks. “I was born, raised in America,” Ron Amen, a member of the large and well-established Arab-American community in Dearborn, Michigan, told NPR in a poignant discussion of the campaign. “I served this country in the military. I served this country as a police officer for 32 years. I don’t know what else I would have to prove to people like Mr. Trump that I’m not a threat to this country.

It is by now well understood that Trump’s rhetoric has fostered a climate of fear and intimidation that is not just divisive. It is, as Congressman Keith Ellison and others have suggested, a source of understandable anxiety and fear for those who Trump targets.

“He’s whipping up hatred to scapegoat a minority religious group, which has some very dangerous historic precedents,” Ellison explained last year. “I mean, it’s the kind of behavior, it’s classic demagoguery, and you know, he’s going to get somebody hurt.”

In divided and dangerous times, it is vital for rational and responsible Americans to speak up. It is important to criticize Trump when he makes bigoted statements. It is also important to express solidarity with individuals and groups that are targeted by Trump — and with organizations that push back against the politicians who stoke fear and resentment.

This is about much more than politics. This is about being on the right side of history.

That is why it mattered, a lot, when Democratic National Committee interim chair Donna Brazile on Friday joined Dr. James Zogby (the co-founder and president of the Arab American Institute who was appointed by President Obama to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom in 2013 and who chairs the Democratic National Committee’s ethnic council) in issuing a extended statement of solidarity with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee:

The Democratic Party shares the mission of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). We stand for diversity, inclusivity, freedom of religion, and we celebrate the contributions of hardworking immigrants and Americans of all ethnicities. This year, we’ve seen a troubling rise in hateful and divisive political rhetoric aimed at Muslim Americans and immigrants, so it’s crucial for those of us who believe that our diversity is our strength to aggressively defend victims of discrimination, and to warmly welcome people of every background into our communities.

Issued to celebrate the annual convention of the ADC, a major gathering of Arab Americans and their allies, the statement declared that “the Democratic Party is proud to stand with our Arab American brothers and sisters. We look forward to working hand-in-hand to defend the rights of Arab Americans, to end stereotyping and discrimination, and to fight for the causes of peace, prosperity and security for all.”

Democrats, and responsible Republicans, have hailed the work of the ADC before.

But these words represent a welcome and necessary show of solidarity that merits notation and celebration. Because in times like these, “solidarity” must become the watchword of a more humane and progressive politics.

Havana Hustle — Jon Lee Anderson in The New Yorker on Donald Trump’s skirting the embargo.

In 1998, a decade after his ghostwritten memoir, “The Art of the Deal,” made him a household name in the United States, the New York real-estate developer Donald Trump sent a team of consultants to Cuba to sniff out new business opportunities. According to a story in the current issue of Newsweek, Trump paid the expenses for the consultants, who worked for the Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corporation. Their bill came to $68,551.88.

The payment was illegal, and was also covered up. Documents obtained by Newsweek suggest that Trump’s executives knew as much, and sought to conceal the payments by making it appear that they had gone to a charitable effort. Clearly, Trump’s company, then called Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, knowingly violated the long-standing U.S. trade embargo with Cuba, part of the Trading with the Enemy Act—which, as it happens, is still on the books today, despite President Obama’s restoration of relations with Cuba, in December, 2014. The embargo is a complex bundle of laws and prohibitions that have accrued over a half century and that can only be done away with by a majority vote in Congress, which seems unlikely to happen anytime soon.

If Trump’s violation of the act had been discovered earlier, the developer could have been sentenced to up to ten years in prison and fined as much as a million dollars. In 2004, the U.S. imposed an undisclosed fine on the Spanish airline Iberia for transporting Cuban goods through the United States. In 2005, an American businessman pleaded guilty to violating the embargo by selling water-purification supplies to Cuba. He and two of his associates, who pleaded guilty a year earlier, were given probation sentences, after years in court. The statute of limitations on Trump’s venture into Cuba has now run out, and he has escaped the likelihood of criminal prosecution. But by compounding the growing perception that he is an inveterate cheat and liar, it could further damage his chances of winning the Presidency on November 8th.

Trump not only violated the embargo but also took ostentatiously hypocritical positions on it. In November, 1999, less than a year after he sent the consultants to Cuba, Trump flirted with launching his first Presidential bid, as the candidate of the Reform Party, at an event hosted by the anti-Castro Cuban American National Foundation, in Miami. Trump swore to his audience that he would never do business in Cuba until Fidel Castro, whom he called “a murderer” and “a bad guy in every respect,” was dead and gone. He added that he thought the embargo was a good thing because money spent on the island went to Castro, not to the people of Cuba. Trump received big applause for his expressions of solidarity with Cuban-Americans, and even cracked a joke that he’d oversee their victory over Communism as either “the greatest developer in the country or the greatest President you’ve had in a long time.”

During the Presidential race, Trump has altered course on Cuba. Last year, during the primary campaign, Trump said that he supported government efforts to restore relations with the island. Then, at a Miami rally two weeks ago, Trump claimed that Obama should have secured better terms in negotiations with Cuba, and that “unless the Castro regime meets our demands,” he would reverse Obama’s executive orders. Among his demands, Trump said, were “religious and political freedom for the Cuban people and the freeing of political prisoners.” The change in position received little notice at the time because of another statement Trump made at that rally: that Hillary Clinton’s bodyguards should disarm themselves, “to see what happens.”

The End of Automotive Styling — Ian Bogost on the death of the sexy car.

The automobile has become the enemy of progress. It’s an unlikely outcome, from the vantage point of the 20th century. Not that long ago, cars were still unequivocal symbols of personal power—especially in America, where basic mobility is often impossible without one.

But now cars are increasingly uncool. For one part, they’re a major source of carbon emissions, and thereby a principal cause of global warming. For another part, they’re expensive to own and operate, especially in big cities. The high-status technology, media, and finance professionals who live in cities like New York and San Francisco and the like can get around by public transit, on foot, and by bike. Elsewhere, the recession stifled car purchases and use among all demographics. Millennials just entering the workforce, who might have started buying cars had the economy been better, are more likely to have found and then acclimated to other options—including ride-hailing services like Uber.

Then there’s the robocars. Once a wild-west, self-driving are cars gaining momentum. Google has been driving robotic Lexus SUVs in Mountain View for years. Uber has begun a working trial of an autonomous fleet in Pittsburgh. Tesla has installed partially-autonomous “autopilot” in its cars for years. And finally (thanks partially to Tesla autopilot’s questionable safety record) the U.S. government has issued guidelines for autonomous vehicles, along with an endorsement of their promise for the future.

Autonomous cars are destined to become fleet cars. Services like Uber and Lyft depend on the idea that riders don’t want to own cars, but only to rent them when needed. Making the cars drive themselves removes the need for people to operate them, too—thereby snuffing out all the human pleasure associated with driving. While still hypothetical, Google’s autonomous cars will likely work the same way. Like many technology businesses, Google and Uber are based on the premise that people don’t want to own anything—whether a word processor or an automobile—but only to borrow them on-demand. Leasing a car feels much the same as owning one. The lessee is still responsible for it, still garages it, still winces at dings on its surface. But nowadays, a different kind of lease has become common: the transient usage of software-driven services that appear and disappear at whim. Google Docs leaves much to be desired, but who cares when it’s free and easy to use? A particular Uber ride might be more or less unpleasant than another, but soon enough it will drive away never to be seen again. Goods become tools, and temporary ones at that.
But yet, people do care about cars that way. Or at least, they did. As automobiles become more like online software services, travelers will become less attached to their aesthetic properties. As I’ve written about before, Tesla has already begun preparing car culture for the end of the automobile as an object of desire. The Model S is a supercar that’s as stylish as a pair of Dockers. Google’s prototype for a cute pod of a self-driving car does something similar. Uber’s early autonomous cars are about as unsexy as they come: a fleet of Ford Fusions topped with big, LIDAR hats—hardly the kind of vehicle that could adorn posters on adolescent bedroom walls. As my colleague Megan Garber put it, cars like these take the automotive logic of the 20th century— “cars as luxury, cars as freedom, cars as sex”—and flip it on its head. Now vehicles are becoming a commodity and a service. What’s less sexy than a car a bunch of other people have also recently occupied?

* * *

The increasing un-sexiness of cars helps explain a startling, recent rumor: that Apple is in talks to acquire or invest in the British supercar company McLaren.

McLaren is best known for its Formula 1 pedigree, although the company also makes million-dollar road cars for the very wealthy. In recent years, the company has also expanded into design consulting and parts, strengths it developed thanks to the unforgiving conditions of Formula 1 racing. Estimated to be worth about $2 billion, Apple could easily snap up the company with some of its $200 billion or so in cash reserves.

Apple, meanwhile, has reportedly been developing its own electric and/or autonomous vehicle program. As with everything Apple, the company has been secretive about its plans. One thing we do seem to know about “Project Titan,” as the Apple project was code-named, is that it recently underwent a dramatic restructuring, including a number of layoffs. All is not well in Apple’s garage.That makes the possibility of an Apple partnership with automakers seem more likely. McLaren quickly denied the rumors of investment or takeover, but whether or not a partnership or acquisition will ever really happen is less interesting than what it means that the public would find one so interesting in the first place.

Some of those affinities are obvious. McLaren has been working on lighter and more efficient electric drivetrains, a feature of obvious interest to any future automaker. And Apple’s reported shift from developing a complete autonomous car to a provider of technologies for other manufacturers seems to correspond with McLaren’s strategy to use Formula 1 as a testbed for more mainstream applications. Other Apple technologies, like the iPhone in-car entertainment system known as CarPlay, offer paradigmatic examples for potential operational infrastructures for future automobiles. The “Intel Inside” of future automobiles.

But others are less obvious. In truth, the appeal of Apple’s hypothetical absorption of McLaren is most easily explained from the gut or the crotch rather than from the head or the hands. No matter the number of analysts poring over the strategic benefits of a future set of Apple-branded components and subsystems derived from McLaren inventions and installed in ordinary Fords and Hyundais, the idea of an Apple acquisition of McLaren evokes one singular and undeniable image: a sleek, dark, and perfect Apple supercar.

I can imagine it in my mind’s eye. Black or silver (or rose gold, of course), the Mac (forgive me) is a vessel where the seam between glass and metal cannot be distinguished. When a nearby owner is recognized, the gentle sigh of tamed hydraulics acknowledges him or her, engaging some heretofore unthought car door entry paradigm. Its engine hums low and bright, powerful yet winsome. If the automobile has always been a symbol of power and freedom and sex, and if everyone wants nothing more than to stroke an iPhone until it sublimates pleasure and access—just imagine how good it would feel to grip the tightly stitched wheel of an Apple-McLaren love child.

But yet, we already know that no human will soon grip any wheel, let alone that of a supercar. And so the truth eventually creeps into the dream. There will be no Apple supercar, because cars themselves are being dismantled and reinstalled as technology services.

McLaren, for example, has already spun off a consulting group called McLaren Applied Technologies, which domesticates the wild Formula 1 machine into more practical affairs: data analysis, advanced control systems, data-driven intelligent products. The Formula 1 racer inevitably must settle down into the workaday necessity of, say, “facilitating analysis of human and machine performance through advanced data analytics, algorithms and prediction.”

It’s the supercar equivalent of your favorite punk band selling its signature lick for an adult diapers jingle. The very idea of a supercar—and to some extent, of an ordinary one—is excess. A singular human being whose feet and hands pilot two tons of metal and rubber and leather and explosives from the garage to the supermarket.And yet, that is just the function that automobiles are now abandoning. Instead, cars are becoming leased appliances, made and sold with efficiency to suppliers intent on renting them out for minutes at a time to customers who would rather forget ever having been inside them. Nothing could be less sensual than the boring universe of business-to-business fleet sales—except, maybe, the boring universe of business-to-business fleet-sales component supply.Cars once lived among us, their clear-coated steel body moldings and tinted glass  windows offering counterpart to human flesh and tailored textile. But soon, they will live on the inside of technology services—as components and subsystems, just as do the microprocessors and batteries and GPS units and accelerometers that drive our smartphones. Automobiles are doomed and destined to become mere parts infrastructures for worldly conveyance. There they won’t even be seen, let alone desired. What kind of freak lusts for microprocessors?The dream of Apple’s subsumption of McLaren is a collective final breath of the automotive dream. And like that death rattle, it is both terrifying and beautiful. Even near its end, the automobile still has its wits about it. The memory of speed and power and control persists, for a moment anyway, just before it turns into yet another borrowed appliance, to be used and also forgotten.

Doonesbury — Quick, get me evidence.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Cheapskate

Via the Washington Post:

In May, under pressure from the news media, Donald Trump made good on a pledge he made four months earlier: He gave $1 million to a nonprofit group helping veterans’ families.

Before that, however, when was the last time that Trump had given any of his own money to a charity?

If Trump stands by his promises, such donations should be occurring all the time. In the 15 years prior to the veterans donation, Trump promised to donate earnings from a wide variety of his moneymaking enterprises: “The Apprentice.” Trump Vodka. Trump University. A book. Another book. If he had honored all those pledges, Trump’s gifts to charity would have topped $8.5 million.

But in the 15 years prior to the veterans’ gift, public records show that Trump donated about $2.8 million through a foundation set up to give his money away — less than a third of the pledged amount — and nothing since 2009. Records show Trump has given nothing to his foundation since 2008.

It’s one thing to not give money to charities; not everyone can afford to chip in to every worthy cause.  But it’s entirely another when you’ve pledged to donate and then don’t follow through.  And even worse when you brag about your generosity and then have to be shamed into paying up.

To quote Archie Bunker, “it’s easy to be generous when it don’t cost you nothin’.”

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Fair Warning

It’s been awhile since we’ve heard from Florida’s junior senator.  Here’s why.

Joining the chorus of Republicans condemning Donald Trump over his rhetoric toward a federal judge’s Mexican heritage, Marco Rubio offered a cutting remark: I warned you.

The Florida senator on Monday called on Trump to stop questioning Indiana-born U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s ability to preside fairly over Trump University fraud cases due to his Mexican heritage but appeared to take solace in having predicted that something like this would happen.

“I don’t defend what he says, and all I can tell you is I ran for president and I warned you this is what was going to happen,” Rubio told WFTV’s Christopher Heath. “I consistently said if he became the nominee, we’d face these sorts of difficult choices we now have.”

But he’s still going to vote for him and campaign for him.  He warned you.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Selling Their Souls

From Sunday’s New York Times:

Activists and leaders in the social conservative movement, after spending most of the past year opposing and condemning Donald J. Trump, are now moving to embrace his candidacy and are joining the growing number of mainstream Republicans who appear ready to coalesce around the party’s presumptive nominee.

Though their support for Mr. Trump is often qualified, this change of heart is one of the more remarkable turns in an erratic and precedent-defying Republican campaign. It reflects the sense among many Republicans that, flawed as they may see him, the thrice-married billionaire is preferable to the alternative.

“Oh, my, it’s difficult,” said Penny Nance, the president of Concerned Women for America, a group that has openly campaigned against Mr. Trump. “He’s not my first choice. He’s not my second choice,” she added. “But any concerns I have about him pale in contrast to Hillary Clinton.”

And Mr. Trump — whose litany of offenses against cultural conservatives include support of Planned Parenthood, past positions on abortion rights and his more accepting views on gays and lesbians — is winning over this once deeply skeptical constituency.

He has made overt moves, such as suggesting last week that he would name Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, and sent subtle signals, like employing people for his campaign who are well known in the movement.

Mr. Trump has, to a large extent, placated a vocal and powerful element of the Republican Party’s base, whose backing he will need if he wants to wage a general election campaign leading a united conservative movement.

In him, they see a convert to their cause, not a transgressor.

It’s more like they found a kindred spirit.  All of the groups named in the article are well-known for being pliable on their hard-core beliefs as long as they can manipulate them to their advantage and tap into someone else’s wallet.

So I’m not at all surprised that Christian conservatives would find their way to follow Donald Trump.  They know a fellow grifter when they see one.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Character Reference

Disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay invoked Jesus in an attempt to get the judge to go easy on Dennis Hastert for sexually assaulting teenage boys.

“He is a good man that loves the Lord. He gets his integrity and values from Him. He doesn’t deserve what he is going through.”

Can’t wait until we hear from Mark Foley.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Caught Another One

Yep, another family-values holier-than-thou Republican has been caught in flagrant hypocrisy.  This time it’s Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama.

State Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, is moving to start impeachment against embattled Gov. Robert Bentley amid the scandal engulfing the governor’s office surrounding his former senior political adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. If the House impeaches Bentley, it would bring the governor one step closer to being removed from office by the legislature.

House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, confirmed to AL.com that Henry was planning on bringing the articles of impeachment against the governor as early as next week. Henry could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ford said “over half” of the House is in favor of impeachment. A majority is needed to impeach the governor.

I really don’t care what consenting adults do in private.  In fact, I don’t even want to know as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone or break the law.  But when someone has sold himself as a God-fearing Baptist deacon and stands behind laws that discriminate against consenting adults.

If he has any sense of decency, he’d find a reason to stop inflicting himself on the people of Alabama.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

When We Do It, It’s Good

When Tim Wolfe resigned as the president of the University of Missouri system over racial tensions, the right-wingers went into their expected rage over political correctness and mob rule.  When, they ask, has a leader ever been forced out of office because the people he is in charge of don’t like the way he’s leading them?  It’s anti-American and tantamount to terrorism.

Oh, really?  Steve M says “Let’s ask John Boehner.”

What did these students do to Tim Wolfe? They did exactly what the conservative movement did to Boehner: they applied pressure until he realized that his position was untenable and his only hope of heading off a possibly unquenchable rebellion was to resign. The defenestration of Boehner was, as I recall, hailed by conservatives as a great moment for American liberty, even though he’d been duly elected by both the voters of his district and the very House Republicans who went on to toss him out the window. But the forced resignation of Wolfe is fascism in a way that the campaign against Boehner wasn’t because, well, it just is.

This is just the latest example of right-wing outrage over someone else doing something they racked up goodie points for.  When Cliven Bundy, the freeloading rancher in Nevada refused to pay grazing fees to the Bureau of Land Management, he was hailed as a hero by Fox News for standing up for freedom; when Eric Garner sold cigarettes in New York without paying taxes, he was labeled as a thug by the right-wing media for defying the just laws of this nation and he got what was coming to him.

The two situations, however, are not at all alike: Cliven Bundy is white and armed; Eric Garner was black and unarmed.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Another Day, Another Hypocrite

It’s hardly newsworthy to find yet another anti-LGBT Republican with a profile on a gay dating site, so I point out this one because his allies are defending him against having his “private personal life be exposed, by no choice of his own, for what can only appear to be political motivations.”

No, dear, this person made the choice to go to a well-known website and put up his profile.  Presumably he knew the chances that someone in his town would see it; indeed he was probably hoping they would, although not because he was asking for their vote in his race for city council.

It’s getting to the point where there should be a website where closeted Republicans can meet.  Oh wait, there already is one: it’s called every gay dating website in the world.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Caught Another One

This is getting to be a cliche.

The controversial House Majority Leader in Indiana — he cosponsored the state’s “religious freedom” law — resigned suddenly on Tuesday after a sexually compromising video was sent to all of the people on his “Contacts” list, the Advocate’s Bil Browning reports.

After news of the mass-texting began to circulate, Representative Jud McMillin (R) claimed that his “phone was stolen in Canada and out of my control for about 24 hours. I have just been able to reactivate it under my control. Please disregard any messages you received recently. I am truly sorry for anything offensive you may have received.”

But his “Canadian girlfriend stole my phone” defense apparently didn’t convince many of his “Contacts” — or at least, not the ones who mattered — and so Tuesday night he released a statement in which he said that the “time is right for me to pass the torch and spend more time with my family.”

I really feel sorry for his family.  Now they have to spend more time with this moralizing hypocrite.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Limited Offer

Mike Huckabee held a huge rally in defense of the Christian county clerk who stood fast for her religious freedom to discriminate against same-sex marriage.  But when a Muslim loses her job for exercising her religious freedom by not doing her job?  [crickets]

After defending Kentucky clerk Kim Davis’ refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) on Wednesday would not say whether a Muslim flight attendant should be able to deny alcohol to passengers on a flight.

CNN’s Alisyn Camerota asked Huckabee about Charee Stanley, a flight attendant for ExpressJet who was suspended for refusing to serve alcohol. She said it violated her religious beliefs.

In Mr. Huckabee’s world, only Christians get to do that.

Via Steve M, Jim Hoft at the right-wing Gateway Pundit mocked her plight, noting that she only converted to Islam two years ago and serving alcohol is 50% of her job.

All religions are equal, but…

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What About “Religious Liberty”?

When the Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality was the law of the land — and even before — the Religious Right was all twitterpated about their loss of religious liberty and that they were going to be discriminated against.  To demonstrate what it’s like to be discriminated against on the basis of religion, let’s go to Farmersville, Texas.

A proposal to bring a Muslim cemetery to Farmersville has stoked fears among residents who are vehemently trying to convince community leaders to block the project. The sentiment reflects an anti-Muslim distrust that has been brewing over the last year in parts of Texas, most notably 25 miles away in Garland — the scene of a deadly May shooting outside a cartoon contest lampooning the Prophet Muhammad.

“The concern for us is the radical element of Islam,” David J. Meeks, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, told The Dallas Morning News. He said he thinks the cemetery would be the first step toward a broader Muslim expansion in town.

“How can we stop a mosque or madrassa training center from going in there?” he asked, referring to a type of Islamic school.

So “religious liberty” only counts if it’s the right kind of religion.  Got it.

Religion vs. Christian 07-07-12

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sunday Reading

Divide and Conquer — From The Economist, the reason Donald Trump is rallying the base of the GOP.

Because America’s electoral system all but guarantees the irrelevance of small parties, there’s no point to an American version of the Green Party or, for that matter, of UKIP or the National Front, which would absorb the country’s most rabidly anti-immigration white voters. The Republican Party is therefore a very big tent, covering tolerantly wealthy Chamber of Commerce types and upbeat religious conservatives, as well as working- and middle-class whites anxious about their dwindling majority and declining status in an increasingly multicultural America. When it was possible for Republicans to win national elections with only a smattering of support from non-white voters, the occasional venting of xenophobic paranoia about the criminality and infectiousness of immigrants might have helped as much as it hurt. But those days appear to be gone for good. If a Republican is to win the White House in 2016, he or she really must put a serious dent in the Democrats’ advantage with black, Hispanic and Asian voters—which poses a serious problem for the GOP. They’ve got to somehow pack both non-whites and bigots, immigrants and xenophobes, into the same big tent. Mr Trump is now exploiting this tension to his advantage.

A viably inclusive Republican presidential campaign will have to mute the coded and not-so-coded messages of white cultural superiority that have turned Americans of colour into reliable Democrats. But many conservative whites are still twitchy about their waning dominance. And they still matter in Republican politics, and have the power to decide primaries in many states. Perhaps the wariness of their party’s leading lights to cater to them as conspicuously as they once did leaves them feeling jilted. And that spells opportunity for an enterprising Republican candidate who is willing to damage the GOP’s brand, and his own, among Hispanics in order to steal some spotlight and, possibly, an early primary. Presidential politics is the ultimate reality show and, like it or not, Mr Trump knows how to play.

A famous billionaire may seem an unlikely populist champion, but Donald Trump is brilliantly suited to the role. The gaudy Mr Trump has always been a poor-man’s idea of a rich man, cunningly embodying America’s by-the-bootstraps cult of can-do capitalist success. Mr Trump has spent decades assiduously cultivating a public image as an unabashedly prosperous, fearlessly candid, hard-nosed negotiator. He is to millions of Americans more a figure of admiration than ridicule. For conservative whites who also feel that their relative position is slipping in an increasingly multicultural nation, such an unflappably indomitable fighter and audaciously authoritative voice makes a most welcome standard bearer.

Although Mr Trump’s divisive primary strategy, and seemingly inevitable presence on the GOP primary debate stage, is a headache to his more inclusive Republican rivals, it also presents them with an opportunity to prove their political chops and run away from the pack. If a candidate emerges from the Republican field who can manage to win over Hispanics by persuasively denouncing the Donald, all the while maintaining the loyalty of conservative xenophobes, he or she is a unique, high-wire-walking coalition-building talent who deserves to, and very well might, win it all.

You Call It Hypocrisy, They Call It Legislating — Steven I. Weiss in The Atlantic on the deal-making that runs our lives.

Political hypocrisy is so pervasive that it calls to mind Gregg Allman’s objection to the term “Southern rock.” The one has so much to do with the other, Allman said, that one might as well say, “rock rock.” To many voters, the seeming lack of ideological consistency in our elected officials smacks of corruption.

But hypocrisy, suggests recently retired Representative Barney Frank, is less evidence of corruption than evidence of its absence. It is what makes Congress function. It is the only tool legislators have after they’ve rooted out real corruption.

“Legislators do not pay each other for votes, and every member of a parliament in a democratic society is legally equal to every member,” Frank writes in his new memoir, Frank:A Life in Politics From the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage. For legislators, cooperation is a form of political currency. They act in concert with other legislators, even at the expense of their own beliefs, in order to bank capital or settle accounts: “Because parliamentary bodies have to arrive at binding decisions on the full range of human activity in an atmosphere lacking the structure provided by either money or hierarchy, members have to find ways to bring some order out of what could be chaos,” Frank writes. So trading votes is how the business of politics is conducted. “Once you have promised another member that you will do something—vote a certain way, sponsor a particular bill, or conduct a hearing—you are committed to do it.”

In other words, constituents might not find their representative’s vote on an environmental bill to be consistent with their ideology, or might think that their senator’s take on the filibuster is dependent almost entirely on which party is in the majority—and they’re probably right. What Frank is revealing is that elected officials understand their votes in the same way, but that there’s no shame in that. As Frank has it, legislators have to act in ideologically inconsistent ways in the short run if they want to advance their larger objectives in the long run, as those larger objectives can only be achieved with teamwork. And the other members of their legislative team are only going to play ball with them if they know that they’ll take one for the team, that they’ll vote for something they don’t like because the team needs it.

And Frank goes further: Instead of seeing political flip-flopping as a necessary evil, he suggests it is inherent to democracy. In an interview for the TV show I host on The Jewish Channel, Up Close, he explained that, “Any legislator is in an essentially compromised position, given the nature of democracy, because your decision about how to vote inevitably is a compromise—our system wouldn’t work otherwise—between your own views and your voters’.” Frank argues that observing a legislator in any single moment or vote can give a false perspective on that legislator. Votes cast in support of apparently contradictory measures on several different occasions offer a more accurate view of a particular representative than any single vote held up to exemplify their approach to legislating.

As legislators are pulled this way and that by public opinion and by their commitments to fellow legislators, there’s also another force at play: the passage of time. Legislatures have a “strong bias against relitigating an issue that has been legitimately decided,” Frank writes. So legislators are left to choose among the available options at the time of the initial vote, and then often unable to revisit the issue later, even as opinions shift. “If every issue is always on the active agenda, if an issue that was already disposed of by a majority can be reopened whenever the side that lost regains and advantage, instability infects not just the body that made that decision but also the society that it is governed by.”

[…]

This is how Frank, the first gay member of Congress to come out voluntarily, ended up as an early architect of the policy that would eventually become “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” To head off the prospect of gays being entirely banned from the military in 1993, Frank advocated a middle path that he felt was the best achievable result at the time. Even though Bill Clinton ultimately took the plan in a harsher direction than Frank had hoped for, Frank knew he couldn’t introduce a bill to remove it at every subsequent congressional session. But choosing not to revisit “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” at every opportunity didn’t say anything about his desire to see it end, in the same way that the initial proposal didn’t say anything about his desire to see gays serve openly in the military.

Frank’s view of hypocrisy is a self-serving narrative, to be sure, but it’s also a very rare example of a legislator choosing to actually explain such behavior, rather than pretending that such behavior does not exist.

The Perils of Snorkeling — Colin Stokes in The New Yorker explains why it’s better to stay on shore when you come down to the Keys.

Sharks

When you are in the ocean, you are exposing yourself to the extremely likely possibility that you will be attacked and subsequently eaten by a shark. All fish that are not brightly colored look like they could be sharks, especially against a backdrop of murky water, which is terrifying.

Non-Shark Fish

Fish swim in ways that will make you anxious. If they are swimming toward you, they must logically be swimming away from something that you should swim away from, like a shark. If they are swimming with you, they are probably escaping from a shark that is pursuing you. And the fish are much faster swimmers than you. They are also visibly defecating in the water near your face, possibly out of spite.

Coral

This is the thing that you are meant to swim near, but which is apparently lethal if you touch it.

Other Snorkelers

They will be sure to abandon you as they swim on ahead, pretending not to be paralyzed by the fear of being eaten by a shark, leaving you vulnerable to an attack. If they are not too far away, they will be too close, and they will either scare you to death by touching your leg with a shark-like fin or will swim directly in front of you, giving you a perfect view up their swim shorts.

Water

It is extremely salty, unlike the water that comes out of the tap in your apartment in the city, where you are comfortable and things are safe. The water will seep into your mask and make it extremely hard to see where the sharks are in the water. It will also fill your snorkel, giving you a glimpse of what it is like to be waterboarded while you are on holiday, which was not on the itinerary.

The Sun

You will be burned horribly on your exposed back as you snorkel. The only solution is to wear a T-shirt in the water and feel like the fat child at a pool that is filled with sharks who like to eat fat children.

Alcohol

You drank four beers and a Sex on the Beach before making the decision to get in the ocean, and you are now sobering up underwater, worrying about what will happen if you throw up into your snorkel.

Aquariums

You could observe all the tropical fish and coral that you are seeing now from the comfort of an air-conditioned room in Coney Island, with the added bonus of not having to pay the airfare to go to the Caribbean. Plus, there’s a roller coaster. But, on second thought, that might be something you should not do either.

Doonesbury — Through the lens, dimly.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

He’ll Take What He Wants To Take Away From You

Via the Des Moines Register:

Ted Cruz, one of the loudest critics of Obamacare, will soon be using it for health insurance coverage.

“We will presumably go on the exchange and sign up for health care, and we’re in the process of transitioning over to do that,” Cruz, a Republican candidate for president, told The Des Moines Register on Tuesday.

Cruz’s wife, Heidi, is going on an unpaid leave of absence from her job at Goldman Sachs to join Cruz full time on the campaign trail, Cruz told the Register.

Bloomberg was first to report that Heidi Cruz has taken the leave. CNN noted that Cruz, who has boasted about not needing to receive government health care benefits, would no longer be covered under his wife’s health insurance plan.

Cruz confirmed that to the Register.

I’ll give him credit for being upfront about his hypocrisy.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Calling Them Out

This has got to have some folks nervous in Birmingham:

Alabama’s only openly gay legislator is putting her anti-gay colleagues on notice: If they keep espousing family values rhetoric as a reason to oppose marriage equality, she’ll start making their marital infidelities public.

“I will not stand by and allow legislators to talk about ‘family values’ when they have affairs, and I know of many who are and have,” wrote state Rep. Patricia Todd (D) on Facebook over the weekend, as reported by the TimesDaily in Alabama. “I will call our elected officials who want to hide in the closet out.”

Todd’s post came after a federal judge ruled Friday that Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. She told The Huffington Post that she decided to issue her threat after reading some of the anti-gay rhetoric coming from certain elected officials in the state.

“If certain people come out and start espousing this rhetoric about family values, then I will say, ‘Let’s talk about family values, because here’s what I heard.’ I don’t have direct knowledge, because obviously I’m not the other person involved in the affair. But one thing you would never hear about me is that I ever cheated on a partner or had an affair,” said Todd.

“One thing I’m pretty consistent on is I do not like hypocrites,” she added. “If you can explain your position and you hold yourself to the same standard you want to hold me to, then fine. But you cannot go out there and smear my community by condemning us and somehow making us feel less than, and expect me to be quiet.”

I am not in favor of outing someone, straight or gay, as long as they’re not doing one thing in private and then condemning the very same thing in public (Hey, Newt!).  But hypocrites need to be called out, and then some.

Friday, June 27, 2014

But Not For Thee

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that Massachusetts’ buffer zone law around abortion clinics violated the First Amendment.

“The buffer zones burden substantially more speech than necessary to achieve the Commonwealth’s asserted interests,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in the decision, concluding that the law violates the First Amendment. “Petitioners wish to converse with their fellow citizens about an important subject on the public streets and sidewalks — sites that have hosted discussions about the issues of the day throughout history.”

Oddly enough, the Supremes don’t have a problem keeping their fellow citizens away from them.

The Supreme Court, meanwhile, maintains a tight perimeter: “No person shall engage in a demonstration within the Supreme Court building and grounds.”

Supreme Court buffer zone 06-27-14

I think it’s about time someone had a serious conversation with the Court about both irony and hypocrisy.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

An Expert On Marriage

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi claims that same-sex marriage is equivalent to a plague.

The attorney general of Florida says in court documents that recognizing same sex marriages performed in other states would “impose significant public harm.”

Eight gay couples and the American Civil Liberties Union have sued the state in federal court. The lawsuit argues Florida is discriminating against the couples by not recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal.

Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed a response that asks a federal judge to throw out the lawsuit.

Bondi’s office says the state has a legitimate interest in defining a marriage as between a man and woman because Florida’s voters adopted an amendment in 2008 that banned same-sex marriages.

I would be interested in hearing exactly why Ms. Bondi thinks a legal contract between two people represents “significant public harm.”  Based on the fact that she has been married three times, I assume she’s an expert on it.

HT to Riptide.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Dragging Him Out

Via TPM:

A Republican state senate candidate who supported North Carolina’s ban on gay marriage once worked as a female impersonator at a gay nightclub, the Winston-Salem Journal reported Saturday.

Real estate agent Steve Wiles, 34, went by “Mona Sinclair” when he worked at the now-closed Club Odyssey in the early 2000s, according to the club’s co-owner and another former employee. Wiles’ former co-workers claim he was gay at the time and was a frequent visitor at the nightclub before he began working there.

Wiles denied that he worked as Mona Sinclair in interviews with the Winston-Salem Journal, and responded “no” when the newspaper asked whether he was gay.

But Wiles also appears as Mona Sinclair in a cached version of the Miss Gay America website. The cached webpage said that Wiles was suspended from the organization for “conduct unbecoming to a promoter of the Miss Gay America pageant system.”

Wiles campaigned for North Carolina’s constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in 2012, according to the Winston Salem-Journal.

Doing drag is a noble art form; it takes a lot of skill to make it work, and there’s no shame in it, so he shouldn’t be scorned for it.

As far as whether or not he’s gay, that shouldn’t matter in the abstract, but if he is and he’s campaigned against marriage equality, then he’s a flaming hypocrite and deserves to be shunned.

Oh, by the way… “Mona Sinclair” is a terribly unoriginal drag name.  What’s wrong with something like Helena Handbasket or Hedda Lettuce?  I need to have my friend Sybil Bruncheon coach him on the finer points of dragdom.

Sybil Bruncheon 05-04-14

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Rubber The Wrong Way

Cardinal Timothy Dolan on where women can buy contraceptives:

“Is the ability to buy contraceptives, that are now widely available — my Lord, all you have to do is walk into a 7-11 or any shop on any street in America and have access to them — is that right to access those and have them paid for, is that such a towering good that it would suffocate the rights of conscience?” Dolan said in an exchange uploaded by Raw Story. “I don’t think so. I hope the Supreme Court agrees.”

This from a guy who, if he lives up to his vows, never bought a rubber in his life.

Or perhaps this is what he tells his priests when they’re getting ready for choir practice.

His Eminence was speaking on TV last Sunday about the Hobby Lobby case — he wants them to win — and getting just about everything wrong.  The case is not about having contraception paid for by Hobby Lobby, nor is it about over-the-counter methods like condoms.  It’s about a person’s right to have access to healthcare without the interference of holier-than-Christ employers.

The more women have access to birth control, the fewer abortions there will be.  I hear the Catholic Church has a view about that.