Photo of the day

From In Focus’ photos of the week:

Fulton Hotshot Michael Turowski lights a controlled burn on the so-called “Rough Fire” in the Sequoia National Forest, California, on August 21, 2015. In California, which is suffering its worst drought on record, about 2,500 people were forced to flee Christian camps east of Fresno at Hume Lake as the Rough Fire crossed Highway 180, officials said.

Republicans coming around on Trump

I still don’t think Trump will be the GOP nominee, but it is becoming a less outrageous proposition by the day.  Josh Vorhees with a nice piece in Slate on how digging into the latest polling provides evidence that GOP voter perceptions of Trump are changing in ways that give him much more chance of hanging around:

Republicans have been consoling themselves with during the Summer of Trump: The first is that despite the billionaire’s unexpected rise to the top of the polls, his appeal is too limited to attract the kind of support he’ll need to stay there once the field narrows. The second is that the Donald’s allure is all about his personality and not about his actual policies.

Both of those fundamentals are likely still generally valid—but the new numbers out of Iowa suggest they might not be as rock solid as Republican powerbrokers would like to believe…

That may still prove true in time but right now Trump’s Iowa ceiling looks a whole lot higher than it once was. In the three months since the last time the Register’s pollsters asked the question, the percentage of likely GOP caucus-goers who said they could “never” vote for Trump dropped in half from 58 percent—the highest in the field at the time—to 29 percent, a number roughly in the middle of the Republican pack. Likewise, those who said they could see themselves voting for Trump doubled from 34 to 68 percent over that same period. His favorability splits tell a similar story: 61 percent of likely GOP caucus-goers said they had a favorable opinion of him, compared to 35 percent who had an unfavorable one. That’s a near complete reversal from where those numbers stood in May, back when no one thought he’d actually get in the race.

I’ve based my own opinions of Trump off earlier polling that seemed to suggest he was already near his ceiling with GOP voters.  Looks like he’s changing that ceiling.

The working theory is that it’s much more about his personality—the combination of his anti-establishment anger and brash bluster— than about his specific policy views…

Still, Trump has gotten specific on immigration. And on that topic at least, Iowa Republicans like what they’ve heard. When pollsters asked about Trump’s deport-them-all immigration strategy without mentioning his name, it was remarkably well received. Nearly half of the Republicans polled—47 percent—said that “rounding up 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally and sending them to their home country” would be a “good way” to address the nation’s immigration problems, compared to 37 percent who said the opposite. Meanwhile, two-thirds of the GOP respondents said that generally speaking, the issue of illegal immigration was a strength for Trump.

Trump still has pretty much no establishment party support at all.  And that matters.  But there’s ever more indication that we get to have the fun of Donald Trump meaningfully in this race for a long time to come.

The real secret to Donald Trump’s wealth

He inherited a ton of money!!  That’s it.  In fact, this awesome piece from Dylan Matthews shows he’s just a bit richer now than if he had invested his inherited millions in an S&P Index fund back when he inherited in the early 1970’s.  You know the best way to get rich in America?  Inherit wealth.  The best way to get even richer?  Inherit wealth.  And just invest with a non-horrible investment strategy.  I sat in on a class the other day where a number of students spoke of Trump’s business acumen in terms of awe (“he basically built Manhattan as we know it”), blithely unaware of the fact that the obvious key to Trump’s great wealth is that he inherited a huge amount to get started (and quite likely inherited a bunch of great connections, too).

“It takes brains to make millions,” according to the slogan of Donald Trump’s board game. “It takes Trump to make billions.” It appears that’s truer than Trump himself might like to admit. A new analysis suggests that Trump would’ve been a billionaire even if he’d never had a career in real estate, and had instead thrown his father’s inheritance into a index fund that tracked the market. His wealth, in other words, isn’t because of his brains. It’s because he’s a Trump…

In an outstanding piece for National Journal, reporter S.V. Dáte notes that in 1974, the real estate empire of Trump’s father, Fred, was worth about $200 million. Trump is one of five siblings, making his stake at that time worth about $40 million. If someone were to invest $40 million in a S&P 500 index in August 1974, reinvest all dividends, not cash out and have to pay capital gains, and pay nothing in investment fees, he’d wind up with about $3.4 billion come August 2015, according to Don’t Quit Your Day Job’s handy S&P calculator. If one factors in dividend taxes and a fee of 0.15 percent — which is triple Vanguard’s actual fee for an exchange-traded S&P 500 fund — the total only falls to $2.3 billion.

It’s hard to nail down Trump’s precise net worth, but Bloomberg currently puts it at $2.9 billion, while Forbes puts it at $4 billion. So he’s worth about as much as he would’ve been if he had taken $40 million from his dad and thrown it into an index fund. [emphasis mine]

Now, Trump may be a better-than-average businessman.  He is, undoubtedly, a brilliant self-promoter.  But in the end, what Trump proves more than anything, is that it pays to be born wealthy in America.

The shame of America

Somehow it always the same people who think America is so damn great who cut mental health funding, preach law and order, and don’t seem to give a damn that a mentally ill young man dies after four months in prison for stealing a candy bar.  Ugh.  Dahlia Lithwick:

Jamycheal Mitchell died last week in a Virginia jail, waiting for a hospital bed to open up in a mental health facility. He was arrested in April for stealing less than $5 worth of junk food (a Snickers bar, a Mountain Dew, and a Zebra Cake) from a 7-Eleven. He was charged with petty larceny and trespassing, and bond was denied. In May, a judge ordered him moved to a state mental health hospital, but no beds opened up. And so Mitchell sat in the Hampton Roads Regional Jail for four months, possibly starving himself to death, until he was found dead in his cell on the morning of Aug. 19…

The lack of beds for the mentally ill in Virginia has been a longstanding problem, a problem politicians pledged to fix in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech massacre, and again after state Sen. Creigh Deeds was almost killed by his son, after state authorities could find no psychiatric bed for him in a crisis. Gus Deeds killed himself after that attack. Natasha McKenna, suffering from schizophrenia, was shocked to death with a stun gun in a Fairfax County jail in February…

As the Richmond Times-Dispatch notes, very little has changed since the Virginia Tech shootings, despite a lot of big talk at the time: “Media outlets, including this one, have produced shocking exposés of the problem. But little of substance has been done. Lawmakers did increase funding for mental-health services after Virginia Tech, but cut it back again after the recession. Republicans have not agreed to expand Medicaid in any form, which would provide many more resources for mental-health care.”

Stories about the escalating crisis of mentally ill prison inmates no longer surprise us, nor do the statistics that increasingly show that the mentally ill are not only disproportionately incarcerated, but also disproportionately mistreated in custody…

The story, broken by a reporter for a British newspaper in New York, has engendered surprisingly little local coverage. Apparently we are no longer all that shocked or horrified that a mentally ill black American can be disappeared into the criminal justice system for boosting a few bucks worth of snacks. And we aren’t even all that stunned anymore that a severely ill prisoner—ostensibly under the care of prison staff, various lawyers, mental health experts, and a judge—could simply die one morning without explanation, while waiting months for a hospital bed. [emphasis mine] When asked by the Guardian which state agency was ultimately responsible for making sure that Mitchell was actually transferred to the hospital as ordered, the court clerk said: “It’s hard to tell who’s responsible for it.”

It’s one thing to say Jamycheal Mitchell’s life was not a story. But it’s a national tragedy to say his death will not be one either.

I’m ashamed that this is our country.  Unfortunately, the people who write the legislation and the people who fund those who right the legislation are not.  Double shame on them.

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