Opinions, Context & Ideas from the TPM Editors TPM Editor's Blog

Low Dollar, Same Grift

There are two things Donald Trump is notorious for in the business world - one is simple bullying as a business tactic, another is cheating people out of money they're owed and then making the 'deal' stick by grinding the counter-parties down with the promise of endless litigation. As Times columnist Joe Nocera puts it, in the business world Trump "is notorious for refusing to pay full price to contractors and vendors after they’ve completed work for him. And he basically dares the people he has stiffed to sue him, knowing that his deep pockets and bevy of lawyers give him a big advantage over those who feel wronged by him." Both traits or patterns of behavior are surprisingly good guides to Trump's presidential campaign.

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Introducing Our New Series on the Privatization Movement

Today we are excited to announce a new feature series on privatization, one of the most significant, far-reaching and little understood trends in American politics, society and economics of the last half century. As we did in our earlier series on the rise of inequality, we've commissioned four in-depth articles looking at the issue from numerous of vantage points: the history of privatization, including its political and ideological origins, a look at key privatized industries like the so-called "corrections industry", public-private partnerships and more. Here's my introduction to the series. We look forward to your feedback and hope you enjoy it.

Caught Out

The start of the week brings us a raft of latter-day Trump endorsers who now have the look of a base-runner caught between 1st and 2nd after a miracle line drive catch. They already committed; no easy way back.

Part of this is the reaction to Trump's escalating round of racist tirades against the federal judge presiding over the complex, far-ranging and increasingly damning fraud lawsuits brought against him. But there's another part of the equation garnering much less attention. Just after Trump clinched the nomination, his head to head poll numbers against Hillary Clinton surged. May horse race polls are erratic and often misleading. We shouldn't read too much into them. But people do read a lot into them. And there's little doubt that seeing Trump go from what seemed like a sure loser to a maybe winner helped a lot of Republican elected officials get over the hump and come out in favor of Trump as their nominee.

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Maybe Trump Really Does Make Less Than $500k a Year

Almost a month ago, I brought you the news that - rather bizarrely for a purported billionaire - Trump receives a tax credit in New York which is restricted to married couples making less than $500k a year. The news is based on the on-going reporting of Aaron Elstein of Crain's New York Business. Trump's folks insisted it was a mistake and said, well of course Trump's makes more than a half million dollars a year. But now Elstein reports that Trump got the deduction again this year? Brand new documents!

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The Eternal City may get a Populist Makeover

When the Huffington Post decided last year to demote Donald Trump’s campaign to the entertainment section, I advised my friends there to take a look at Italian politics, where the second largest party in the country, the Five Star Movement, was founded and is headed by a standup comedian, Beppe Grillo. Yesterday, Virginia Raggi, a 37-year-old lawyer who is the Five Star Movement’s candidate for mayor of Rome – one of the top political jobs in the country – came in first with 37 percent of the vote and has a good chance of winning a runoff on June 19.

Grillo’s Five Star Movement is part of a wave of populist, Euroskeptic movements in southern Europe. Grillo was inspired by Howard Dean’s campaign and Moveon.org to

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The Amazing Origins of the Trump University Scam

I want to tell you about an article that you simply must read. It's about Trump University. But it's a part of the story I at least was not at all familiar with - how what we now know as the Trump University real estate seminar scam grew out of a licensing deal Trump struck with one of the most notorious late night informercial get-rich-quick scammers of the early aughts. The article was published at the end of April in Ars Technica. Even though Ars is widely read and extremely well respected, it's in the tech and science rather than the news and politics space. So that may account for what seems like relatively little discussion of this aspect of the story.

In any case, here's the gist.

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Sparks of the Meltdown

Since Clinton's speech on Thursday I've been trying to gauge Trump's response. But making sense of Trump is no easy thing. He's like no politician who has reached the pinnacle of the electoral stage in perhaps a century, maybe ever. His public appearances are like a fugue of impulse and aggression, overlapped with charisma and humor and a searching for the spirit of the crowd, a sometimes frantic, sometimes slow mix of neediness, divination and dominance.

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When Muhammad Ali was still Cassius Clay

I am a generation older than Josh so I have a different, earlier memory of the guy who was then called Cassius Clay. I saw him win the Olympics as a light heavy weight, and listened to the first Liston-Clay fight on the radio in 1964. It wasn’t televised. It was in theater TV. Liston, who was a Mike Tyson in his prime type – one punch and you were out, and he’d never been knocked down -- was a prohibitive 7-1 favorite. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My friends and I speculated afterwards that Liston must have taken a dive. But if you watch the fight on video, Clay was so quick he was unhittable, and destroyed Liston with his long left-handed jabs. (The second fight, where Liston got knocked out in the first round, still looks to me as if Liston didn’t want to fight. The right-hand that took him out was not even extended. It was more like a hard jab.) When Clay turned Ali and refused to go to fight in the Vietnam War, he was sent to jail in the middle of his career.

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The Greatest of All Time

Boxing has fallen so far in public esteem, so far off the cultural map of the American landscape (for the most part rightly so) that it may be difficult for anyone under 40, certainly under 30, to fully grasp the scope of Ali's greatness or importance on the American scene. Sport but so much more than sport, one of the iconic, transformational figures of the second half of the 20th century. A beautiful black man, a Muslim, a titanic athlete, the embodiment of a certain vision of America - and with that smile. And despite the near universal esteem he enjoyed later in life, a genuine rebel who gave up his peak years as an athlete in a fight over the Vietnam War and racism in America. Beautiful, punishing, genius.

The titanic confrontations with Frazier, Foreman and others were etched into my childhood, written into my relationship with my father. Taking the banished TV out of the closet to watch the big fight. Frazier, who became, ironically, the black champion of a certain part of white America in those fights of the early 70s against an Ali who refused to keep his head down, bowed. I was only really old enough to appreciate at the time the majestic, almost operatic fights with Leon Spinks in the late 70s. Ali already well past his physical prime, fighting, losing to Spinks and then summoning a mix of power, wells of character, brilliance and canniness that allowed him to reclaim the crown for the final time. For every cliched cinematic boxing epic you've ever seen, with spirit, drive, determination and character besting pure and unbridled power, this was it, the real version. It actually happened. Truly The Greatest, one of those 360 degree heroes, the likes of whom will not walk among us again.