Yet More Phony "Charity" From Donald Trump

We already know that Donald Trump is a cheapskate whose unwillingness to help others is truly off the charts. We also know that he's an epic blowhard who likes to pretend that he's a brilliant businessman and generous philanthropist. What happens when you put those two things together?

Answer: You host a show in which you flamboyantly claim to personally donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to charity, but when the cameras are off you donate nothing. That's what Trump did on Celebrity Apprentice, and his phony philanthropy became even more pronounced in 2012. But why?

After The Post’s close look at Trump’s promises­ on the show, a mystery remained: What happened in 2012 to make Trump so much more generous on the air?

In the tax records of the Trump Foundation — which Trump used to pay off most of those new promises — there is no record of a donation from Trump himself in 2012....But, in 2012, the Trump Foundation’s records show a large gift from NBC, the network that aired the show. That was more than enough to cover all the foundation’s gifts to “Celebrity Apprentice” contestants’ charities, both before 2012 and since.

....Did NBC give Trump’s foundation money, so that Trump could appear to be more generous on-camera? An NBC spokeswoman declined to comment.

Does Trump ever keep any of his promises? Magic 8-Ball says "Very doubtful."

Driverless Taxis Are Coming to Pittsburgh

Uber is planning to beta test driverless Volvo taxis in Pittsburgh. Atrios, as always, is skeptical because Uber is planning to keep human "safety drivers" in the cars for a while until all the bugs are worked out. But this seems to me like nothing more than the standard way progress works. Eventually the Volvos will log enough miles to be sure the cars are safe, and Uber will apply for a permit to operate them totally autonomously. Another few million miles and they'll be approved for permanent use. How else would you do it?

That aside, there are some interesting tidbits in the Bloomberg article:

On a recent weekday test drive, the safety drivers were still an essential part of the experience, as Uber’s autonomous car briefly turned un-autonomous, while crossing the Allegheny River. A chime sounded, a signal to the driver to take the wheel. A second ding a few seconds later indicated that the car was back under computer control. “Bridges are really hard,” Krikorian says. “And there are like 500 bridges in Pittsburgh.”

Wait. Why are bridges hard?

Bridges are hard in part because of the way that Uber’s system works. Over the past year and a half, the company has been creating extremely detailed maps that include not just roads and lane markings, but also buildings, potholes, parked cars, fire hydrants, traffic lights, trees, and anything else on Pittsburgh's streets. As the car moves, it collects data, and then using a large, liquid-cooled computer in the trunk, it compares what it sees with the preexisting maps to identify (and avoid) pedestrians, cyclists, stray dogs, and anything else. Bridges, unlike normal streets, offer few environmental cues—there are no buildings, for instance—making it hard for the car to figure out exactly where it is. Uber cars have Global Positioning System sensors, but those are only accurate within about 10 feet; Uber’s systems strive for accuracy down to the inch.

A large liquid-cooled computer in the trunk! That actually sounds like a bit of a problem for a taxi, but I guess they'll stay away from airports for the time being.

Trump Plays the Tough Guy Yet Again

Here is Donald Trump's latest pathetic bid for attention:

Hannity asked Trump what he would do about individuals like Seddique Mateen, the Afghanistan-born father of the man who killed dozens in an Orlando nightclub in June and has criticized the U.S. “What do we do when we find somebody that has extreme views?” Hannity asked in a town hall that was taped Tuesday but aired Wednesday so that it wouldn’t interfere with the live broadcast of Trump’s speech in Milwaukee. “Do we throw them the hell out?

“I'd throw him out,” Trump said of Mateen, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen. “If you look at him, I'd throw him out.”

Yeah yeah. Maybe Hillary Clinton will throw Trump out after she becomes president. He's been pretty critical of America, after all. Unfortunately, she'd have the same problem Trump would have if he tried to expel Mateen: nobody would take him.1

This is just the latest in Trump's transparent bids for attention. He's not going to throw anyone out. He knows he's not going to throw anyone out. Hannity knows it. The audience knows it. I know it. You know it.

But maybe it will get a headline or two. If it doesn't, he'll suggest building a prison for all these America haters at the North Pole. Maybe that will get him some attention. If not, how about Mars? What do you think about that?

1That's aside from the fact that it would be totally illegal, of course.

Table of the Day: Ageism in Silicon Valley

Over at the Upshot, Quoctrung Bui writes about some research showing which jobs older applicants (55+) are most and least likely to get. It's no surprise that older workers are less likely to get physically demanding jobs, but that's not actually the category that toughest on older workers:

This is the Silicon Valley mentality at work. The hiring managers at these companies simply don't believe that anyone over 50 can possibly learn anything new. Nor will these oldsters work 100 hours a week (which is probably true). This is a message to the young bucks of the coding world: you'd better treat your career the same way football players do. You may be on top of the world right now, but in 20 years you'll be considered a dinosaur too. If you don't make enough money so you can retire at 50, you'll be screwed.

Says Who?

Today's ubiquitous new internet meme is "Says who?" It's based on this simultaneously hilarious and awkward 25-second clip of an interview with Donald Trump's famously dickish lawyer, Michael Cohen:

I dunno. Maybe this kind of stuff works during depositions of small-time contractors who are trying to get Trump to pay his bills. In the big leagues, not so much. Here's the inevitable response:

The next 12 weeks are going to be a barrel of laughs.

Last night I linked to a letter from Aetna to the Department of Justice explaining what they would do if their merger with Humana wasn't approved. The answer, basically, was that they'd pull out of a bunch of Obamacare exchanges. As insurance pro Richard Mayhew puts it:

TLDR: Nice exchanges there, be a pity if anything happened.

But Mayhew points out something else. Aetna claims that they're not really threatening the Obama administration. They're losing money! If the merger isn't approved, they really have no choice but to pull back from the exchanges. It's sad, but what are you gonna do?

And yet—in 2015 they made $13.6 million in the individual market in Pennsylvania. That's a very healthy 19 percent of premium revenue. But one of the states they're pulling back from is...Pennsylvania. Nice, profitable, Democratic-leaning Pennsylvania. It's very peculiar, isn't it?

First there was Corey Lewandowski—but Donald Trump got tired of him. Then there was Paul Manafort—ditto. Now Trump is on Svengali 3.0.

So who is Steve Bannon, the latest guy Trump has chosen to spice up his flailing campaign? Well, he's the executive chairman of Breitbart News, the go-to destination for conservatives who consider Drudge and Fox News a little too restrained and statesmanlike. Still, a friend emails to say he is "wicked smart, not an erratic and self-destructive bomb thrower." Maybe! But I have to say that I hear this a lot about conservative bomb-throwers, and I'm a little jaded about their supposed brilliance. So let's allow Twitter to introduce Bannon to a waiting world.

First off, the definitive profile of Bannon comes from Josh Green. "He’s been a naval officer, investment banker, minor Hollywood player, and political impresario," he says. "Today, backed by mysterious investors and a stream of Seinfeld royalties, he sits at the nexus of what Hillary Clinton once dubbed 'the vast right-wing conspiracy,' where he and his network have done more than anyone else to complicate her presidential ambitions—and they plan to do more."

Ben Shapiro is a conservative darling who used to work for Breitbart News. He quit a couple of months ago, and writes today that Bannon "turned Breitbart into Trump Pravda for his own personal gain." He "openly embraced the white supremacist alt-right" and is a "vindictive, nasty figure, infamous for verbally abusing supposed friends and threatening enemies."

Bannon has never run a political campaign:

He's a big fan of Sarah Palin:

There you have it. Wicked smart or just plain nuts? Maybe both!

UPDATE: This post originally ended with a link to an article about Hillary Clinton using pillows, which I mistakenly credited to Breitbart News. It's actually at Heatstreet. Sorry about that. Time for another cup of coffee, I guess.

I've been bemused for a while by the support for Donald Trump among hard-core anti-immigrant pundits. Mainly this is because I wonder why they think he's serious about his wall. Pretty much everything he says and does is a con job of one kind or another, and there's no real reason to think he'd stick to his guns about the wall if he became president. Instead, since he doesn't actually care one way or the other about this, he'd probably cut a deal with Paul Ryan for some kind of comprehensive immigration reform—and it would have a far better chance of actually passing than it would if Hillary Clinton proposed it. For the anti-immigrant dead-enders, Trump is likely to be the worst possible choice.

More recently, though, I've also begun to think that Trump will be bad for the anti-immigrant crowd even if he loses. For starters, it's never good to have your signature policy associated with a loser. More to the point, though, we all know that public support for specific policies depends a lot on who they come from. When President Obama supports something, Republicans suddenly hate it. When Trump supports something, people who dislike Trump suddenly hate it. Since Trump is dropping in the polls like a rock, this suggests that support for getting tough on immigrants might be dropping too.

Michael Tesler reports that this is exactly what's happened:

A number of studies have found that Trump performed best in the primaries among the most anti-immigrant Republicans. But now, in the middle of the general election campaign, Trump is easily the most unpopular major party nominee in modern times. And his historic unpopularity may have also eroded support for the border wall.

The Pew Research Center gauged support for the border fence before and after June 2015, when Trump announced his candidacy. The percentage supporting the border fence was the exact same in 2007, 2011, and 2015: 46 percent. However, that dropped to 36 percent in March 2016.

In CBS/New York Times polls, public support for “building a wall along the US-Mexico border to try to stop illegal immigration” also dropped....The results from the RAND Corp’s Presidential Election Panel Survey (PEPS) are even more telling....The PEPS data reveal who was particularly likely to shift to opposing the border wall: people who did not like Trump in 2015.

....It appears, then, that Trump’s strong support for the border wall has made this policy considerably less popular with the American public.

Supporting Trump was always a high-risk strategy for supporters of a border wall. They put all their money on snake eyes, and it turns out the dice were not their friends.

Over at the Upshot, Margot Sanger-Katz shows us where terrorist attacks are a big problem:

Attacks on targets in the West are close to zero. So let's zoom in 100x or so:

Terrorist fatalities went up substantially in 2015, and probably in 2016 as well. But generally speaking, the trend has been downward over the past 40 years.

This will come as a surprise to some, but al-Qaeda and ISIS are not the first terrorist organizations in history. The 70s saw a huge outbreak of leftist terrorism in Europe, and the 80s suffered through an outbreak of terrorism from groups associated with Palestinians. It was bad enough that it became a minor staple in science fiction. I remember that future worlds in which terrorism was widespread became a common trope in the late 70s and early 80s. But terrorist attacks slowly faded away and continued to decline in the aughts with the obvious exception of 9/11.

So are we now entering a third wave of modern-era terrorism that claims a large number of victims in Europe and North America? Maybe. One or two years is not a trend, but they might be the beginning of one.

Donald Trump has decided that the big problem with his campaign is that it's just too damn stuffy:

Donald Trump, following weeks of gnawing agitation over his advisers’ attempts to temper his style, moved late Tuesday to overhaul his struggling campaign by rebuffing those efforts and elevating two longtime associates who have encouraged his combative populism.

Stephen Bannon, a former banker who runs the influential conservative outlet Breitbart News and is known for his fiercely anti-establishment politics, has been named the Trump campaign’s chief executive....Trump’s stunning decision effectively ended the months-long push by campaign chairman Paul Manafort to moderate Trump’s presentation and pitch for the general election. And it sent a signal, perhaps more clear than ever, that the real-estate mogul intends to finish this race on his own terms, with friends who share his instincts at his side.

Apparently Trump has decided that if he's going to kick the bucket in November, he wants to do it with friends and family at his bedside when he breathes his last. Instead of losing by seven or eight points, he might lose by a dozen instead. But at least he'll put on a helluva show in the meantime.