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“Suckers For Trump Need To Believe”: The Psychology Of Chumps And How They Get Taken

Here is how Donald Trump suckers the little people. What follows is a telling of his methods, not commentary on his lack of scruples.

The Question: Why didn’t the trail of wreckage left by Trump’s failed businesses deter students from forking over as much as $35,000 for a class at Trump University? The Answer: They wanted to believe in a plot that favored them.

The skilled con artist knows how to identify chumps and work their emotions. As Trump U salespeople were instructed to tell prospective students, “let them know that you’ve found an answer to their problems.”

Trump’s been at this a long time. In 1995, he raised $140 million from ordinary stock investors for Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts. Why would people put good money in a company built on two casinos that had already gone bankrupt under Trump management?

Because Trump had convinced them that he had become a rich man — not by inheriting his father’s real estate empire but through his celebrity magic. Note that the company’s stock ticker symbol was DJT, Trump’s initials.

Trump controlled a third bankrupted casino hotel, which he later persuaded the company to buy at a grossly inflated price. The bankers finally took over in 2004, sending Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts into a Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

When Trump was done working his “magic,” the stock had lost 90 percent of its value. For every $10 that the believers had invested at the initial public offering, they had $1 left.

A turndown in the casino business could take blame for some of Trump’s other casino problems, but not in this case. During this period, the stock of Harrah’s Entertainment more than doubled. Shares of Starwood and MGM quadrupled.

Trump’s explanation for the diving stock price? “People don’t understand this company.”

Maria Konnikova has studied the psychology of chumps and how they get taken. The skilled con men, she writes, “are exceptional creators of drama.” They spin a story “that makes everything seem legitimate, even inevitable.”

It’s a very human desire to believe the good we’re told will come our way, and it’s not limited to the uneducated. Konnikova tells of a University of North Carolina physicist who fell for an online dating swindle that led to his smuggling cocaine from South America. Elsewhere, the president of a famous New York art gallery was conned into selling forged paintings, including one with the artist’s signature misspelled.

The two patsies conceded the psychological tricks played on them. Konnikova explains, “Faced with incongruous evidence, you dismiss the evidence rather than the story.” Actually, you don’t even see the evidence.

Over at Trump University, economically struggling students ate up the story that Trump himself would be instrumental in blessing them with his secrets to real-estate wealth. They so believed a video promising to teach them “better than the best business school” that they maxed out their credit cards to pay tuition. For those lacking an adequate line of credit, salespeople urged taking on more credit cards. And they did.

Trump University is now defunct and about to go on trial amid charges it defrauded students by $40 million. Trump smeared the judge in the case for his Mexican heritage.

Business reporters trying to get at the truth of Trump’s wealth already assume it is a fraction of what Trump claims. A wish to keep that amount under wraps may account for his refusal to release tax returns.

Evidence of Trump’s confidence games keeps growing, but the pile was already high before he ran for president. Thing is, evidence doesn’t matter to the saps he plays with. It’s always the story.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, June 2, 2016

June 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fraud, Trump University | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Perfect Target For Republicans”: Clinton Should Have Exposed Sanders When She Had A Chance

Here’s my basic problem with Bernie Sanders. To put it bluntly, once a Trotskyite, always a fool. Personal experience of Sixties-style left wing posturing left me allergic to the word “revolution,” and the humorless autodidacts who bandy it about. The Bernie Sanders type, I mean: morally superior, never mistaken, and never in doubt.

I’ll never forget the time in 1970 that several “radical” colleagues my wife had invited for dinner denounced our record collection as racist. Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Flatt and Scruggs. Never mind that we also owned B.B. King, Lightning Hopkins, Beethoven and British rock albums. A taste for country music made us, pardon the expression, politically incorrect.

Also professionally doomed. I needed to resign before they fired me. I had no interest in either of the academic community’s ruling passions: Marxist sentimentalism and real estate.

How Bernie missed becoming an English professor at some picturesque New England college, I cannot understand.

Anyway, here’s where I’m going with this. To me, the Clinton campaign’s high-minded refusal to expose Senator Sanders has been a big mistake, needlessly allowing this unelectable crank to pose as a serious candidate far too long—and enabling Bernie and his impassioned supporters to translate the old GOP anti-Hillary playbook into left-wing jargon.

In consequence, Clinton has found herself in a one-sided fight against her own degraded image. Some of it is  her own damn fault. Accepting preposterous fees to speak to Wall Street bankers and then keeping the speeches secret is no way to run for president.

But realistically, Sanders lost any chance of prevailing after he lost New York and Pennsylvania badly. Word has yet to reach him. Meanwhile, it has become common to see Clinton described as “evil,” a “war-monger” and worse on social media, while the Sanders campaign whines that it was cheated. The damage to progressive chances in November from this kind of poisonous rhetoric is hard to overstate.

In The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky puts it this way: “The guy who’s going to end up with about 300 fewer pledged delegates and more than 3 million fewer votes doesn’t get to say ‘you beat me, but you must adopt my position.’ It’s preposterous and arrogant, which of course means he will do it.”

Has leading the Children’s Crusade gone to Sanders’ head? No doubt. However, my larger point is that he’s always been this guy, and Democrats have been needlessly polite about it.

Is it impolite to point out, like Slate’s Michelle Goldberg, that in “1980, Sanders served as an elector for the Socialist Workers Party, which was founded on the principles of Leon Trotsky. According to the New York Times, that party called for abolishing the military budget. It also called for ‘solidarity’ with the revolutionary regimes in Iran, Nicaragua, Grenada, and Cuba; this was in the middle of the Iranian hostage crisis.”

No, that’s not objectionable because it’s undeniably true. No doubt Sanders has an explanation for such heterodox, albeit politically poisonous views. Fine — so why hasn’t he been forced make it?

In 1976, Bernie urged the University of Vermont student paper to “contrast what the young people in China and Cuba are doing for themselves and for their country as compared to the young people in America…It’s quite obvious why kids are going to turn to drugs to get the hell out of a disgusting system or sit in front of a TV set for 60 hours a week.”He wrote stern letters to the FCC protesting shows like “Gunsmoke” and “I Love Lucy.”

Ancient history? Perhaps. But also 30 years after George Orwell’s epochal novel Animal Farm, and around the same as Chairman Mao’s “Cultural Revolution” was winding down after giving millions of Chinese youngsters a swell chance to serve their country in slave labor camps.

As I say, show me an American Trotskyite, and I’ll show you a damned fool.

But again, shouldn’t Bernie have had to explain it?

Let’s pass over Sanders’ newspaper columns fantasizing about rape and suggesting that cervical cancer is caused by sexual frustration.

“Basically,” writes Will Saletan “if you were designing the perfect target for Republicans—a candidate who proudly links socialist economics to hippie culture, libertinism, left-wing foreign policy, new-age nonsense, and contempt for bourgeois values—you’d create Bernie Sanders.”

With so distinguished a record of crackpot opinions, maybe it shouldn’t surprise that Bernie has also misjudged the Democratic electorate. Salon’s Amanda Marcotte is correct: Sanders didn’t lose because establishment Democrats cheated. He lost because his Thomas Frank-influenced theory that strong majorities of white working class voters would respond enthusiastically to left-wing economic populism turns out to be wrong. The “revolutionary” turnout Bernie kept predicting never materialized.

He swept the white-bread college campuses and the cow states. End of story. The urban proletariat? Not so much. Who can be shocked? Campus radicals have been trashing “establishment” Democrats and fantasizing about a working class insurrection all Bernie’s life.

The revolution remains imaginary.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, June 1, 2016

June 2, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Donald Trump’s Bar-Stool Foreign Policy”: Disastrous In A Man Who Sits In The Oval Office

The best reason for conservatives to withhold their support from Donald Trump is that he cannot be trusted to lead America’s foreign policy or command its military. For many this is so self-evident given Trump’s character and the lack of normal political constraints under which he operates, that there’s no need to elaborate. But some need convincing.

Many of Trump’s supporters are happy that he seems to have taken on the foreign policy orthodoxies of his party. They want an America that doesn’t waste trillions of dollars in fruitless efforts like turning Iraq into a democracy, or helping Libyan rebels only to see that country become an operating base for ISIS. They know that Hillary Clinton’s instinct is to use American air power in the name of human rights even if it leads to pro-Islamist outcomes, whether in Kosovo or Libya. In fact, I want and believe the same things.

But there aren’t strong reasons to believe Trump is any better than Clinton when it comes to making peace. In fact, he may be much worse.

Trump supported all the dumb wars and interventions that he now claims to have been against. He supported President George W. Bush on invading Iraq. Though he says he was against it, Trump supported the intervention in Libya in the most anti-realist terms possible when he said, “We’ve got to go in and save these lives.” He is just all over the place, saying that we shouldn’t be involved in Syria, and then a few minutes later saying that the U.S. should create safe zones in Syria.

The simple explanation for these changes is that Donald Trump hasn’t ever thought hard about foreign policy; he simply has an instinct for where public opinion is at any moment on any given war and runs ahead of it. That’s fine for someone holding forth at the bar stool. It’s disastrous in a man who sits in the Oval Office.

Almost the entirety of the foreign policy establishment is against Donald Trump. That includes not just the hawkish neoconservatives, but also the foreign policy realists who would be the only group of advisors that could shape Trump’s “America First” foreign policy into a real alternative to the last 25 years of post-Cold War interventionism. He would simply be disarmed of the kind of expertise needed to run America’s foreign policy. Getting his way with the full-time employed members of the State and Defense Departments will prove difficult and lead to upheaval or administrative gridlock, at best.

Trump has named a handful of under-qualified foreign policy hands. Some of them are quite alarming in themselves, like Walid Phares, who has repeatedly sounded the bell that Muslims have a secret plot to take over America and impose sharia law.

Trump seems to believe any and every conspiracy theory that passes by his nose — not just that vaccines cause Down syndrome or that Barack Obama may be a secret Kenyan. He has said he believed that Obama struck a deal with the Saudis to keep oil prices low ahead of his re-election in 2012. If you thought that it was bad when the Bush administration came to believe its own bad intelligence, imagine what a Trump administration would do when the president wants to believe something. Beyond that, Trump has promised that American military members will commit war crimes and other acts of torture on his say-so, merely because he is Donald Trump.

America is already too quick to use its military power to try to shape outcomes in far-off places throughout the world. This defect would only be exacerbated if a person with Trump’s twitchy sense of honor and aggression steps into the role of commander-in-chief.

The very fact that most of the elected officials of the Republican Party — including those that once called Trump a “cancer,” a “con artist,” or an “erratic individual” who can’t be trusted with America’s nuclear arsenal — have lined up to endorse him or even become his vice president shows that our political class is unlikely to resist him doing something truly dangerous if he is perceived as popular. Too many, when faced with the choice between their high principles and Trump, chose Trump as an expediency. We should not tempt them with a choice between their president and the security of our nation.

 

By: Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week, May 30, 2016

June 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, U. S. Military | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Dramatizing The Truth About Trump”: Trump University Is A Devastating Metaphor For The Trump Campaign

When Donald Trump became the heavy favorite to win the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, news leaked out of Clinton world that the campaign against him would resemble the 2012 campaign Democrats ran against Mitt Romney. “The emerging approach to defining Trump is an updated iteration of the ‘Bain Strategy’—the Obama 2012 campaign’s devastating attacks on Mitt Romney’s dealings with investment firm Bain Capital,” Democratic operative and campaign aides told Politico. “This time, Democrats would highlight the impact of Trump’s four business bankruptcies—and his opposition to wage hikes at his casinos and residential properties—on the families of his workers.”

That idea was puzzling to some liberals because, for all the superficial similarities between Trump and Romney, they represent very different kinds of oligarchs: Trump, a tribune of the working class, versus Romney, a champion of capitalism and big business. Trump’s everyman-billionaire political identity, taken at face value, is much harder to weaponize than Romney’s was. The fear was that if Democrats set about reprising the 2012 campaign against a self-styled populist, it would fail or backfire. Trump, after all, acknowledges his personal avarice— “I‘ve been greedy, greedy, greedy.” His promise now is to turn that greed outward on behalf of us.

Fortunately, the steady pace of disclosures from the civil case against Trump University—including testimony from Trump employees who say his business-education program scammed the vulnerable out of tens of thousands of dollars a head—provides Democrats a way to repurpose the Romney strategy against a very different kind of foe. The Trump University scam undermines the very notion that a man of Trump’s greed can ever be trusted to advance the interests of others. If exploited properly, it will be Trump’s undoing.

The Democrats can capitalize on lessons they learned from 2012. Early in that campaign, they ran up against a problem they hadn’t planned for. When they pressed voters in focus groups for their views on Romney’s economic platform, it didn’t rate as negatively as they expected, because voters literally couldn’t believe the premise of the questions: Why would anyone who wanted to be president propose privatizing Medicare and giving rich people enormous tax cuts? For a scary number of voters, it just didn’t compute.

Trump University will dramatize the truth about Trump for those voters in the same way Bain Capital dramatized Romney’s stone-heartedness.

The sustained attack on Romney’s private equity career and his capital worship—the ads featuring people whose lives were ruined by the “creative destruction” Bain Capital rained down on their places of employment, and quoting Romney telling a voter, “Corporations are people, my friend”—allowed Democrats to dramatize the story they were trying to tell about Romney’s political agenda.

“[O]nce people have learned that Romney was willing to fire workers and terminate health and pension benefits while taking tens of millions out of companies,” a prominent Democratic pollster told The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent four years ago, “they are much more ready to understand that Romney would indeed cut Social Security and Medicare to give tax breaks to rich people like himself.” If the Republican nominee is a heartless capitalist who cares naught for working people, then perhaps he really does want to serve the rich in office.

Trump University will serve the same purpose for a campaign aimed at exposing a phony populist for what he is:

Trump U is devastating because it’s metaphor for his whole campaign: promising hardworking Americans way to get ahead, but all based on lies

— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) June 1, 2016

Fallon is the Hillary Clinton campaign’s secretary, so consider the source, obviously, but his argument holds up to the 2012 test case exquisitely.

Democrats won’t want to attack populism per se, and will have a hard time convincing certain voters to take them at their word that Trump’s promises are fraudulent. He’s incredibly successful, after all! But Trump University will dramatize the truth about Trump for those voters in the same way Bain Capital dramatized Romney’s stone-heartedness. Trump says that he—and only he—has all the answers for the ailing middle class. That he will ply his business acumen on behalf of the everyman and turn his good fortune into theirs. All they have to do to secure his beneficence is fork over their votes. But it’s all a scam. All lies. And when his victims and former employees testify to this for the country, it will be devastating.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, June 1, 2016

June 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Trump University | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“If Democracy Goes Too Far”: ‘The Bullet Box’ Is An Option If The Ballot Box Fails, Says Gun-Rights Advocate

All Second Amendment enthusiasts are not the same. There are those who strongly believe in the right to bear arms for purposes of self-protection against criminals and for hunting and other sports usages. And then there are those who believe the ultimate purpose of the Second Amendment is to keep revolutionary violence on the table as a fallback plan if in their view “essential rights” are threatened, including gun rights themselves.

You can pretty clearly put many members of the Gun Owners of America, a group that considers the NRA a bunch of accomodationist squishes, in the latter category. The group’s longtime executive director, Larry Pratt, made that clear on his own radio show this week:

[T]he courts do not have the last word on what the Constitution is. They decide particular cases, they don’t make law. Their decisions, unlike the Roe v. Wade usurpation, don’t extend to the whole of society, they’re not supposed to. And we may have to reassert that proper constitutional balance, and it may not be pretty. So, I’d much rather have an election where we solve this matter at the ballot box than have to resort to the bullet box.

While Pratt’s term “bullet box” is attracting attention, this is a very old sentiment not just among gun enthusiasts but in broad swaths of movement conservatism. Recent proclamations in favor of the right to overthrow the government as essential to the maintenance of constitutional order have come from 2016 presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee. But perhaps the clearest statement was made in 2012 by now-senator Joni Ernst, one of the GOP’s rising stars:

“I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere,” Ernst said at the NRA and Iowa Firearms Coalition Second Amendment Rally in Searsboro, Iowa. “But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.”

Ernst, of course, like other Second Amendment ultras, is implicitly arrogating to herself the right to decide when godless socialist tyranny — you know, things like Obamacare or environmental regulations or court-imposed reproductive rights — has gone so far that it’s time to bring out the shooting irons and start executing one’s enemies. But you have to wonder how people like Ernst and Cruz and Huckabee and Pratt would react if such rhetoric was coming from the political left — say, a black nationalist group. The right-to-revolution thinking really does boil down to Mao’s famous edict that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

For the present, it’s enough for Pratt to remind the rest of us that his tolerance for democracy and judicial supremacy has its limits, and if pushed too far, the “bullet box” is ever-ready.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, June 1, 2016

June 2, 2016 Posted by | Democracy, Joni Ernst, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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