Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Most Republicans running for president have only one idea: Be like Reagan! Unfortunately, they seem to remember nothing about Reagan apart from the media-created caricature of a slightly addled old man who somehow mesmerized an imbecilic public with his sunny optimism. Jeb! goes around saying, "I believe we're on the verge of the greatest time to be alive." Marco Rubio answered a question in the first debate about God and veterans, saying: "Well, first, let me say I think God has blessed us. He has blessed the Republican Party with some very good candidates. ... And I believe God has blessed our country. This country has been extraordinarily blessed. And we have honored that blessing. And that's why God has continued to bless us." John Kasich responded to a question at the New Hampshire presidential forum about why he was running, saying: "Well, Jack, look, we're all -- we -- I've received blessings. Most of us here have been very, very blessed, and when you get that way, you have to figure out what your purpose is in life to make the world a little better place." They all sound like Barney, the purple dinosaur, singing, "I love you, you love me!" The other problem with the Be Reagan strategy is: It's not 1980 anymore. Reagan's election is as far away today as the defeat of Hitler was then. Gov. Scott Walker's answer to whether he'd invade Iraq, knowing "what you know today," was: "I'd point out that in the overall issue of foreign policy, I'd say in my lifetime, the most impressive president when it came to foreign policy was a governor from California." What does that even mean? Is he going to invade Grenada, fund the Contras and put missiles in Western Europe? Back in 1996, when Bob Dole said, "I'm willing to be another Ronald Reagan, if that's what you want," at least people laughed. When Moammar Gadhafi was under siege in 2011, Rick Santorum said: "Ronald Reagan bombed Libya. If you want to be Reaganesque, the path is clear." On the other hand, in the quarter century since Reagan bombed Libya, Bush invaded Iraq, prompting Gadhafi to end his WMD program, invite in U.N. weapons inspectors, and pay the families of the Lockerbie bombing victims $8 million apiece. Nonetheless, "bomb Libya" is exactly what our feckless commander in chief did. Obama sent American troops to participate in the NATO bombing of Libya -- which helped oust Gadhafi, which led to Islamic lunatics running the country, which led to the murder of four Americans, including our ambassador, in 2012, and the refugees flooding Europe today. Formulaic applications of Reagan's policies from the 1980s don't always work the same way they did in the 1980s. (Similarly, Duran Duran's new single was kind of a dud.) I used "What Would Reagan Do?" as a joke back in 2005; these guys think it's an actual governing philosophy. When Reagan was running (three and a half decades ago), there was a real fight in the Republican Party over abortion, the Equal Rights Amendment, guns and foreign policy. Reagan had to face down elements in his own party to be pro-life, anti-ERA, pro-gun and to pursue an aggressive anti-Soviet foreign policy. Reagan won. It's over. The ERA is gone. The Soviet Union is gone. The GOP is unquestionably the party of life and the Second Amendment. (If only fetuses could get their hands on a gun!) Ever since the hero of 9/11, Rudy Giuliani, couldn't get out of the starting gate in his presidential bid because he was pro-abortion and anti-gun, no serious Republican candidate is ever going to waver on those two issues again. So why did Marco Rubio find it necessary to stress that he opposed abortion even in cases of rape and incest at the first GOP presidential debate? Did he not live through that whole Todd Akin thing, like the rest of us? Today, the fight in the Republican Party isn't over abortion, guns or the Sandinistas; the dividing line is immigration. Will we continue to be the United States, or will we become another failed Latin American state? On this, it's Donald Trump (and the people) vs. everyone else. Trump announced his presidential campaign by talking about Mexican rapists. Immigration is the only policy paper he's put out so far -- and he's been crushing the polls. He got his one sustained standing ovation from 20,000 cheering fans in Dallas Monday night when he talked about stopping illegal immigration. But James B. Stewart gasses on in The New York Times about Trump's "namecalling, personal attacks and one-liners that have vaulted him to the top of the polls." In the entire article, Stewart never mentions immigration. Perhaps some minority of people will vote for Trump because of his personality. But I notice that it's his position on immigration that gets thousands of people leaping to their feet. The media will talk about anything but Trump's specific, detailed policies on immigration -- all while claiming he doesn't have any "policy details." The very fact that the entire media -- including most of the conservative commentariat -- obdurately refuse to acknowledge the popularity of Trump's immigration plans is exactly why Trump is exploding in the polls. Trump isn't trying to imitate anyone. He's leading on the seminal issue of our time while the rest of the field practices looking optimistic in front of the mirror.
Saturday, January 16, 2016
To Republicans who are livid, fearful, anxious and/or unhappy about the prospect of a Donald Trump nomination and a Donald Trump presidency, consider this. He claims his wealth allows him to self-fund, putting him in a position to downsize and de-corporatize crony government in a way unrivaled in political history. It takes about $1 billion to run -- and win -- the presidency, and fundraising normally occupies much of the candidates' time. To get that kind of money, the average candidate spends time courting and currying favor with "special interests." This means unions, environmentalists, corporate welfare-ists and others give money and, in exchange, expect their interests to be at the very least listened to, if not carried out once in office. For example, rich, profitable corporations such as Boeing and Royal Dutch Shell have, over the years, received billions of dollars in tax subsidies. Some of the money comes straight from federal grants, with most of the money coming from state and local governments in the form of tax credits or abatements, or for "training" their employees -- something they can and should do with their own darn money. Money-losing boondoggles like Amtrak defy logic, common sense, and Economics 101 by still receiving billions from taxpayers. Government unions and government agencies, just like private corporate interests, grease the palms of politicians. One of the prime reasons for the housing meltdown was the power and influence of government-sponsored entities like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, both of which, over the years, gave millions of dollars to the very politicians who supposedly were overseeing them. Dairy producers are guaranteed a profit through taxpayer giveaways to mostly wealthy producers. A program that began during the Great Depression persisted and grew bigger, disproportionally benefiting wealthy producers and artificially jacking up the price of milk. Same with sugar. We subsidize a handful of wealthy sugar producers, guaranteeing them a profit -- while artificially boosting the wholesale price of sugar in the U.S., making it more than double the average price in the rest of the world. Ethanol is a completely unnecessary product produced by manufacturers who get taxpayer incentives to continue making the stuff. Because ethanol produced in the U.S. is made from corn, it crowds out land that would otherwise be used for other crops, artificially jacking up their prices, too. And it reduces the corn available for sale as animal feed, increasing the production costs for meat, poultry, dairy and eggs. Right now, billionaire Sheldon Adelson is reportedly deciding whether to back Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz. In the last election cycle, he gave $15 million to the candidacy of Newt Gingrich. In exchange for his millions, do you think Adelson would expect a President Rubio or a President Cruz to return his calls? Years ago during the so-called Keating Five scandal, a reporter asked banker Charles Keating, a man at the center of the controversy, whether he thought the money he gave politicians bought influence. He replied, "I certainly hope so." Because of Trump something may finally get done about our borders, "catch and release," sanctuary cities and so-called birthright citizenship. A lot of influential Republican-supporting big businesses -- whose money Trump doesn't need -- want cheap labor. That alone makes his candidacy important. As to minority voters, one poll -- and it may be an outlier -- last September found that in a hypothetical head-to-head against Hillary Clinton, Trump would get the support of 25 percent of the 100 voters who identified themselves as black -- four times the amount Mitt Romney received. And, despite his "hostility" to Hispanics, the same poll found Trump getting about as much of their support -- 31 percent -- as did Romney. Yes, Trump takes a lot of dumb, populist positions. His attack on free trade is Bernie Sanders-like. His support for the Supreme Court's Kelo decision, which allows government to take land from a private owner to be used by a different private owner for private, for-profit purposes, is also flat-out wrong. But he spent his career making money, not analyzing policy positions. Advice to Trump's Republican detractors: If he becomes the guy, make him better on substance. Urge him to hire the best and the brightest. Imagine a Secretary of State John Bolton. Or a Secretary of Defense David Petraeus. Or a secretary of treasury like the American Enterprise Institute economist Stephen Moore.Americans pay $2 trillion a year on regulations, according to Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla. Many of these regulations are completely unnecessary but persist because large corporations want them and make contributions to shape and perpetuate them. While regulations cost money, they also create a barrier to entry by new competitors. Trump could do something about this merry-go-round. He doesn't need their money to run -- and win. Republicans should make him a better candidate -- not change his style, which voters find refreshing, entertaining, even endearing, but change his policy positions. Urge him to take more of a policy-principled, low-tax, light-regulation, free-trade stance. Ronald Reagan evolved from a left-wing Hollywood unionist into, well, Ronald Reagan. So could Trump.
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
The used games market is always a hot topic amongst developers and publishers who don't get a cut of any pre-owned sales. Frontier Development's David Braben argues that the used games business has effectively killed off the single-player focused endeavor, and he believes that not only are used games pushing more games to focus on a multiplayer setting, but he thinks those used games are helping to inflate prices on titles as studios seek ways to recoup lost revenues. "The real problem when you think about it brutally, if you look at just core gamer games, pre-owned has really killed core games," reflected Braben. "In some cases, it's killed them dead. I know publishers who have stopped games in development because most shops won't reorder stock after initial release, because they rely on the churn from the re-sales." "It's killing single player games in particular, because they will get pre-owned, and it means your day one sales are it, making them super high risk. I mean, the idea of a game selling out used to be a good thing, but nowadays, those people who buy it on day one may well finish it and return it." "People will say 'Oh well, I paid all this money and it's mine to do with as I will', but the problem is that's what's keeping the retail price up -- prices would have come down long ago if the industry was getting a share of the resells." Braben, who has worked on titles like Elite and Kinectimals, is currently facing a crisis on his current title, The Outsider. The game is heavily invested in single player story mechanics, but Braben remains somewhat skeptical of the current development landscape. "Developers and publishers need that revenue to be able to keep doing high production value games, and so we keep seeing fewer and fewer of them." If anything, there appear to be signs that some studios are simply, if not begrudgingly, moving to the mobile gaming space, where used-game sales simply do not exist. Braben has acknowledged that his studio is working on new IP specifically for mobile.
Saturday, January 9, 2016
These days, people on the Right seem to be polarized: Either they think Donald Trump is a brilliant, unstoppable ball of winning or they believe he’s the classiest, most luxurious demagogue to come along in decades. I have a bit of a different take. I’ve read and enjoyed Donald Trump’s books, he was nothing but gracious to me when we met, I have friends I like and respect a great deal who work for him and I even used a picture of the two of us together on the Christmas cards I sent out this year. Moreover, Trump’s willingness to take on issues ignored by the Republican Party, his lack of political correctness and the real genius he has for identifying important issues other candidates aren’t talking about and bringing them to the forefront are nothing short of amazing. Additionally, no one should underestimate a strong leader whose name has been synonymous with business success for over a decade, especially when he’d beat the whole rest of the Democrat and Republican fields combined in the famous, “Who would you want to have a beer with?” test. As I’ve said before, other Republicans can learn a lot from Trump and anyone who can’t see that is a fool. However, even though I would certainly vote for Trump if he’s the nominee and would also work hard to get him elected, I have two major qualms about him. The first is that I question how conservative he’d be if he gets into office. Given his mixed track record on conservative issues, I doubt if even the most diehard Trump fans would hold that against me, but the bigger problem is that I just don’t think he can win a general election. There are a number of reasons for that, but the largest one is that Trump couldn’t be financially competitive. That may seem bizarre since we’re talking about a man whose name is synonymous with wealth, but even Donald Trump doesn’t have enough money to self-finance a general election run at the presidency. Keep in mind that Hillary Clinton and the Super Pacs supporting her will spend north of 3 BILLION DOLLARS. On the other hand, if you take away the value of his name, Trump’s net worth is probably somewhere in the 3-4 billion dollar range and most of it is tied up in assets. Ask yourself if Donald Trump is really going to sell Trump Tower, the Trump International Hotel, his golf courses and his other properties at cut rate prices to pour the money into his political campaign. It may not even be possible, but even if it is, do you really think Trump would liquidate most of his fortune to run for President? When you consider that Trump has been so tight-fisted during the primary that he might run the first Presidential campaign ever to turn a profit, it seems very unlikely. On top of that, keep in mind that Donald Trump has made the fact that he’s self-funding a central part of his messaging. If Trump were to win and change his mind, not only would it hurt him with his core supporters, it probably wouldn’t be all that effective. Trump’s fund raising operation so far has understandably been mediocre and the Super Pacs that were gearing up to support him were asked to stand down. Those Super Pacs were particularly important because there are hard limits on what rich supporters can give to campaigns, but not on what they can give to a Super Pac. Without major help from Super PACs, it’s highly unlikely that Donald Trump could win a general election. Imagine a campaign where Hillary and her Super Pacs spend more than 3 billion dollars and Trump barely manages to stockpile 500 million in his war chest. In every swing state, Hillary would have a better get out the vote operation, better staffing and she would be able to blanket the airwaves with her ads while Trump couldn’t compete. In a race like that, Hillary could win in a walk EVEN IF she goes to prison over her email server. Getting beyond the money issue, most people would agree that Trump has done so well because he’s been dominant when it comes to attracting earned media. However, a big part of Trump’s success in that area has been as a result of relatively friendly blanket coverage from conservative radio hosts and online media. In a general election, those outlets will be much smaller factors and they definitely wouldn’t be capable of delivering the election to Trump. Of course, Trump has also gotten plenty of attention from the mainstream media as well, but do you really think the MSM liberals will allow themselves to be used to beat Hillary in 2016? Sure, they’re happy to run “Can you believe he said this?” stories about Trump now when they think he’s causing problems for Republicans, but if he becomes the nominee, every story about Trump will be a straight-up hit piece. If even that doesn’t work, they’ll just find some excuse to stop covering him altogether if that’s what it takes to beat him. This is why it’s so important for a Republican to have a huge war chest because you NEVER get a fair shake from the MSM. Even the Left’s favorite Republican, John McCain, was savaged by the press when he ran for President. In fact, any Republican who hopes to win a general election by getting his message out to the voters through ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, the Washington Post, New York Times, etc. isdoomed before he starts. Unfortunately, that’s the difficult position Donald Trump would be in during a general election campaign. On top of all that, you have to look at Trump’s demographic strengths and weaknesses. Trump does extremely well with blue collar workers and men with high school degrees. There are also some indications that he is particularly attractive to people who normally don’t vote, but those voters are by their very nature tough to count on in an election. Trump might also do better than Republicans generally do with black men. However, beyond that, almost every indicator is negative. Trump does poorly with women, he will guarantee a huge Hispanic turnout for the Democrats and given the rabid hatred for him in some quarters of the Republican Party, it seems likely he’ll bleed even more GOP support than he would bring in from the Democrats. Furthermore, although approval numbers don’t generally mean a lot this early in the game, they are relevant when someone is as well-known as Trump. Right now, Trump has a 34% favorable rating and a 57% unfavorable rating. Candidates don’t win races with numbers that bad and since Trump is already a known quantity, it’s going to be EXTREMELY difficult to get his numbers up. Fairly or unfairly, when people know enough about you to form an opinion and have already decided they don’t like you, it’s very hard to change their minds. Last but not least, Trump may be the single most gaffe-prone candidate in history, primarily because no other candidate could survive saying even a fraction of the off-the-wall things that he does. It just goes on and on. McCain’s not a war hero because he was captured, blood coming out of her “whatever,” “schlonged,” saying we should shut down part of the Internet, calling for killing the relatives of terrorists, "How stupid are the people of Iowa?,” incorrectly claiming a group of black pastors was showing up to endorse him when it wasn’t, having his spokesman express a desire to use nukes on TV, a gazillion tweets calling people “losers” for saying something he didn’t like – and probably a half dozen other now forgotten mistakes or goofs with a larger point (No, “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey didn’t cheer 911 and, yes, Trump could have discussed Mexican criminals coming over the border without offending people if he’d used better language). As someone who writes about politics for a living, Trump is extremely entertaining, but most Americans want a sober and serious President, not someone who’s “fun” because he might say the Pope got “schlonged” or Angela Merkel has blood coming out of her “whatever.” I do think Donald Trump is qualified to be President, but he’s not “presidential” and you can be certain that if he’s the nominee, there would be many, many more gaffes before the election in November. Just to reiterate, not only do I like and respect Donald Trump, but if he does turn out to be our nominee, I will support him all the way and hope he proves this column wrong. That being said, Hillary is VERY beatable, she’s essentially promising to go EVEN FURTHER than Obama and I fear for the future of this country if we throw away this opportunity. I think Cruz would beat her handily, Christie could probably pull it off and, God help us all, maybe even Rubio would defeat Hillary Clinton. Since I don’t think Donald Trump can get the job done, regrettably I cannot support him in the primary.