Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Re. the belated concession of NC Gov. "Puppet Pat" McCrory: Good riddance to bad rubbish


Puppet Pat: Not smiling so much anymore?

by Ken

So North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, known to DWT readers as "Puppet Pat," has thrown in the towel on his failed reelection, after dragging the proceedings out with a series of crackpot accusations about election fraud -- only to see his margin of defeat hold fast as limited recounts began.

And it was by no means a given that Puppet Pat and the NC GOP would accept the election result. In the above-referenced NYT report on the governor's belated concession to NC Attorney General Roy Cooper, Richard Fausset notes:
The sealing of Mr. Cooper’s victory — he leads by just over 10,000 votes in the unofficial state tally — brings a modicum of relief to Democrats here. Many of them had feared a post-Election Day power play by North Carolina’s Republicans, who control the state’s General Assembly, where the Republicans in recent years have enacted aggressive gerrymandering plans and a law curtailing voter access that have been struck down by the federal courts. Some feared that the Republicans would take advantage of a law that allows contested elections to be settled by a vote of the legislature.
So, not gonna happen. Thank goodness for small favors.

My first response to the earlier news that Puppet Pat's lie-fueled demand for a recount wasn't going so well was: Is there really no price to be paid for pols' lying? Of course I had the president-elect in my thoughts as well, and judging by his example, the answer is "What're you, nuts? Of course not!" As long as the pol is telling the right kind of lies, which usually means the hard-core right-wing kind, they're not only tolerated but encouraged.

But with Puppet Pat, there's a wrinkle. His unexpected defeat -- running far behind, in the statewide vote count, both presidential candidate Donald Trump and reelected turdheap Sen. Richard Burr -- is routinely attributed to the mean-spirited "bathroom bill" he reluctantly signed, and I have no reason to doubt this. A certain number of NC voters seem to have cottoned to the fact that some forms of bigotry have become bad for business. Great!

However, when I hear Puppet Pat's name and reign referred to, alluded to in this snippet from the NYT account:
As a mayor of Charlotte, Mr. McCrory was known as a moderate and pragmatist, a reputation that attracted many Democrats to his 2012 campaign. But the legislature pushed, and he generally supported an ambitious conservative agenda, rolling back the state’s generous ballot-access rules. The legislature also passed expanded rights for gun owners, a private-school voucher plan, new abortion regulations and a tax overhaul that opponents criticized for favoring the wealthy.
What I think of is a terrific post our Noah wrote back in December 2013, "A tale of two Popes -- the one in the Vatican, who takes Jesus' words to heart, and the one in North Carolina." I'm going to take the liberty of reprising the start of that post:
There are two Popes in the news lately. Both represent organizations that claim to speak for Jesus Christ. One's name is Pope Francis, leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Francis is the better-known of the two, and his actions befuddle and anger U.S. Republicans. The other's name is Art Pope. Art Pope is the North Carolina Republican Party's pope.

Unlike many past Popes, Francis seems to take the reported actions and words of Jesus to heart and uses his own words and actions to lead his organization toward the betterment of humanity. Art Pope plays for the other side.

While Pope Francis seeks to aid the poor and the powerless, even leaving the Vatican at night dressed as an ordinary priest to comfort the homeless, Art Pope's mission is to exploit the poor and the powerless to gain more power, even seeking to expand the numbers of poor in his state. Art Pope is a mini-me to the Koch Brothers. He has a lot of money but not Koch Brothers Kash, so for now he has been content to buy just one state out of 50.
As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.
-- Jesus, as quoted in the Book of Matthew, 25:31-46
Art Pope preaches a very different gospel. He has used his material goods to elect and buy the best and truest form of Republican government he can. The end result has been a takeover of North Carolina by political perps that is as extreme as any since the days of segregation. But the agenda that Art Pope pushes is not based solelyon race. Women, senior citizens, Hispanics, and students are all targets of this pope.

It is oligarchist Art Pope who has financed an insane asylum that serves as the North Carolina legislature and governor's office. He is now even Gov. Pat McCrory's budget director, all but officially making the governor his hand puppet.

In 2010, 75 percent of all the outside money that came into North Carolina's legislative elections came from groups backed by Art Pope. His candidates won 80 percent of those races. Pope's money then financed a 2012 election that was so successful for Republicans that it ended in this being the first time since 1870 that the Repug Party controlled the governorship and both houses of the state legislature, the General Assembly. Without Art Pope putting his money behind his agenda, there is no feo-fascist Gov. "Puppet Pat" McCrory; there are no attacks on the teachers of North Carolina (right down to removing money for instructional supplies).

In fact, Puppet Pat seems to think that education should exist only to train people for jobs -- vocational training for worker bees, as it were. Puppet Pat wants Pope's legislature to pass laws that would provide funds to universities "not based on how many butts in seats but how many of those butts can get jobs." Apparently McCrory never learned that education deals with the brains in your head. His stated outlook reveals that education is not about expanding the mind or improving society and moving it forward. As for the promised jobs, they haven't materialized, as his policies continue to damage the state economy.

Without people like Puppet Pat who are so willing to do the bidding of the money men, there is no chronic union-busting; there are no attacks on the voting rights of legal North Carolina citizens; there is no well-orchestrated attack on democracy itself. He is his state's Scott Walker. To Art Pope, just as to the Walker-backing Koch Brothers, there are the privileged few and "the least of these," with nothing in between: lords and serfs. It's a push back to the past -- way back. . . .
So all in all my response to Puppet Pat's graceless concession is: Good riddance to bad rubbish.

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Trump Will Have Vast Powers As President. Thanks, Democrats.


by Gaius Publius

I don't want to let this go by without a mention. There have not been many voices in the mainstream Democratic ecosystem that have taken Obama and his Democratic administration for taking Bush II's war on civil liberties and putting it on steroids.

It's been left to those of us at the margins of the conversation, i.e., not on MSNBC or in the Washington Post, to notice, for example, that via the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act), the executive branch can order indefinite detention of U.S. citizens. Or that Obama's drone kill program normalizes executive execution. As Jonathan Turley wrote in 2012:
On Monday, March 5, Northwestern University School of Law was the location of an extraordinary scene for a free nation. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder presented President Barack Obama's claim that he has the authority to kill any U.S. citizen he considers a threat.
How does this not mean that President Obama asserts the White House right to order you killed?

Seems silly to say it that way, doesn't it? I mean, Obama's one of the good guys (i.e., a Democrat), and he'd never use that power frivolously, right? (Actually, of course he would, but not against anyone you would care about — meaning, ethnically European — except in jest.)

Now all that power that our vengeance-seeking, retributional nation thought was "safe" in Obama's hands will be handed to Donald Trump.

Civil Liberties in the Age of Trump

Suddenly, on the cusp of the Age of Trump, the Washington Post sees a problem (emphasis added):
Glenn Greenwald: Trump will have vast powers. He can thank Democrats for them.

Liberals liked executive authority as long as Obama wielded it. Now they've set a precedent.

Liberals are understandably panicked about what Donald Trump can carry out. “We have a president-elect with authoritarian tendencies assuming a presidency that has never been more powerful,” Franklin Foer wrote this past week in Slate. Trump will command not only a massive nuclear arsenal and the most robust military in history, but also the ability to wage numerous wars in secret and without congressional authorization; a ubiquitous system of electronic surveillance that can reach most forms of human communication and activity; and countless methods for shielding himself from judicial accountability, congressional oversight and the rule of law — exactly what the Constitution was created to prevent. Trump assumes the presidency “at the peak of its imperial powers,” as Foer put it.
Not to mention the extra-judicial detention and murder mentioned above. The cause of the problem, of course, is Barack Obama. The news is that the Post is now willing to notice this:
[B]eginning in his first month in office and continuing through today, Obama not only continued many of the most extreme executive-power policies he once condemned, but in many cases strengthened and extended them. His administration detained terrorism suspects without due process, proposed new frameworks to keep them locked up without trial, targeted thousands of individuals (including a U.S. citizen) for execution by drone, invoked secrecy doctrines to shield torture and eavesdropping programs from judicial review, and covertly expanded the nation’s mass electronic surveillance.
The other cause of the problem, of course, is that partisan Democrats and other Obama supporters found all of this completely acceptable. (I don't mention Republican enablers here, since they will almost always find authoritarian rule acceptable.)
Blinded by the belief that Obama was too benevolent and benign to abuse his office, and drowning in partisan loyalties at the expense of political principles, Democrats consecrated this framework with their acquiescence and, often, their explicit approval. This is the unrestrained set of powers Trump will inherit. The president-elect frightens them, so they are now alarmed. But if they want to know whom to blame, they should look in the mirror.
Something to keep in mind as you cringe considering the Trump possibilities, or when you fall back into Obama nostalgia.

Constitutionalizing State Violence

Just as one likely cause of Clinton's electoral loss was Obama's mad push to pass TPP before leaving office, one certain cause of all of Trump's abuse of executive power regarding indefinite detention, death-by-drone, and mass-surveillance of citizens (with the resulting blackmail opportunities this clearly offers) ... is that Barack Obama normalized what Bush II did, gave it the color of law, and a bipartisan blessing.

What both parties agree can be done, can be done by either party. It's the other way our Constitution gets amended. Or, as Greenwald puts it:
By putting a prettier liberal face on these policies, and transforming them from a symbol of GOP radicalism into one of bipartisan security consensus, the president entrenched them as permanent fixtures of the American presidency. As [Bush DoJ official Jack] Goldsmith put it, Obama’s actions were “designed to fortify the bulk of the Bush program for the long-run.”
Yes, he did say "designed to fortify" the Bush program "for the long run." In other words, Obama's actions were deliberate, to secure for the executive branch by law what Bush had secured by taking. 

Trump will have vast powers as president, powers that we will not be able to curtail. Thank you, Mr. Obama, and thank you, complicit Democrats. I hope we don't forget you, as the vice grip tightens, that your hand was on it too.


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Republicans Are Hostile To "Buy American" But Will Trump Stop Lockheed From Moving F-16 Jet Production From Texas To India?


Over the last week Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) was one of several Democratic senators angered by the shipping out of the Buy America provisions from the Water Infrastructure bill. Friday he and Rob Portman (R-OH) sent letters to Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid, Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi reminding them that Buy American provisions are broadly supported by both Democrats and Republicans.

Brown: "American tax dollars shouldn’t be spent on Chinese steel. American infrastructure should be built with American products that support American jobs. Period." Portman backed him up: "We must ensure that tax dollars will continue to be invested in America, maximizing American jobs. Provisions like this one have already increased production, jobs, and capital investment in the steel industry, and it is critical that we continue policies that simultaneously improve our infrastructure and our economy." Among the senators signing on were progressives like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Jeff Merkley, Ed Markey, Brian Schatz and Tammy Baldwin but also conservatives like Joe Donnelly, Claire McCaskill, Joe Manchin and Jon Tester. But no other Republicans besides Portman.

And the letter didn't do the trick. McConnell and Ryan were adamant-- and not a word from Trump. Shred Brown, on Monday: "By stripping meaningful Buy America rules from the water infrastructure bill, Washington leadership is choosing China and Russia over Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. This was the first major test of whether Washington establishment Republicans would live up to President-elect Trump’s promises to put American products and American workers first-- they failed, and American iron and steel workers will pay the price."

Tuesday morning Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul said that "The trade deficit is a drag on growth and jobs in the goods-producing sector. It is one signal of weakness that speaks to our challenges in global competition. It will take more than a Carrier deal to save jobs here and bring some home. For that, we need aggressive economic policies, including a rebalance on trade policy, a tax code friendly to manufacturing and patient capital, and investments in our infrastructure, research, and workers."

Last month, right after the election. there was a provocative story in an Indian newspaper, Lockheed Martin won’t heed Trump, to land F-16s in India
President-elect of the US, Donald Trump, may have claimed that Americans are living through the “greatest jobs theft” in the history of the world, but Lockheed Martin seems to have other plans. The American aircraft-maker has started the groundwork with the hope that India would accept its offer of moving its F-16 fighter aircraft production line from the US to India. Trump believes that US companies were moving out jobs to countries such as India, China, Mexico and Singapore.

The offer comes with the rider that India buys the fighter. “We want to be prepared and that is the reason we have started the groundwork,” said Abhay Paranjape, director, Business Development, India, Lockheed Martin. "We have met representatives of 40 defence and aviation firms from across the country to discuss our offer on making F-16s in India," he added.

Earlier this year, Lockheed Martin made an offer to India that it would shift its only F-16 aircraft production line to India provided the Indian Air Force (IAF) buys the aircraft. "We are offering to make F-16 Block 70, the most advanced aircraft in India. It is one of the most proven fighter aircraft in the world and is flown by air forces in 25 countries," said Randall L Howard, who looks after F-16 Business Development.

If the IAF buys 100 aircraft, it gives stability to the industry that will invest a lot of money in various manufacturing units that support the production line, Howard said. "We make it in India, for India and then we make it in India and export to the world. If the initial orders are not there, it may not work for the industry," Howard added.

Though India has not yet responded to the offer, the top executives at Lockheed Martin are hopeful that it will accept the offer. "They are looking for single-engine fighter and we are offering one of the best aircraft, so we are confident that India will accept the offer," said Paranjape. "They have sent letters to a few firms, including us," he said.
Lockheed is building a far more expensive, technologically superior plane, the F-35 and uses that as the excuse for halting F-16 production in Texas. Local Congressman Marc Veasey bought in on some level: "Hopefully we can continue to build F-16’s for other countries that will need them in the future. But the F-35 really is what’s going to keep Lockheed viable for years to come." Lockheed offered several hundred employees a retirement buyout or an opportunity to work on the F-35 production line. starting in 2017. Trump has been busy fighting with Boeing and cutting shady deals with the Indiana air-conditioning manufacturer, Carrier, but I haven't heard a peep out of him yet on Lockheed Martin. That explosion-- now that local American papers are reporting on it-- should come momentarily. Yesterday, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram came right out and asked if Trump will prevent Lockheed from moving high-paid Texas-based jobs to low-wage India.

Fort Worth is the 5th biggest city in Texas with nearly a million people in 4 counties, Tarrant, Denton, Parker and Wise. Lockheed Martin is headquartered there. Trump struggled in the suburbs of the other big Texas cities, losing in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and El Paso, but winning in Ft. Worth.
Tarrant- 52.2%
Denton- 57.7%
Parker- 82.3%
Wise- 83.8%
Although much of Ft. Worth itself is represented by Democrat Marc Veasey (TX-33), the other 3 congressmen who represent the Ft. Worth area are powerful and senior Republicans: Joe Barton (TX-06), Kay Granger (TX-12) and Kenny Marchant (TX-24). I suspect none of them are going to allow F-16 fighter jet manufacture to move out of Texas without a huge commotion-- not to mention Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. It's worth mentioning that Lockheed Martin's PAC spent $4,243,986 on congressional candidates this cycle and that among the biggest recipients were Barton ($16,000), Marchant ($14,000), Veasey ($12,000), Granger ($10,000) and Cruz ($10,000).

The Star Telegram article yesterday emphasized that no one knows what Trump's posture on this will be. He certainly has a lot more clout with Lockheed Martin than he does with Carrier. The Washington Post's Annie Gowen that if this goes through, Lockheed will build new production facilities in India and that India will be the only manufacturer of the F-16 in the world. Bad news for Democrats:
The proposals have the strong backing of the Obama administration, which has sought a closer connection with the Indian military in recent years. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said she was “optimistic” about the prospect of a deal after a visit to New Delhi in August, and Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter is set to return to India this week, with procurement high atop the list of discussion topics.

But the election of a billionaire businessman focused on keeping jobs at home, rather than creating them overseas, has brought a measure of uncertainty to the talks.

“What will be the U.S. policy posture now that the new president-elect is in the mix?” said one high-level official at an American defense firm in India, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal negotiations. “Is he going to continue the policy of engaging in India on co-production and co-development? All of those are unknown at this point.”

...On the campaign trail he railed against job losses to Asia and Mexico.

“We are living through the greatest jobs theft in the world,” Trump said last month, citing American companies that have laid off workers and moved jobs to India, Singapore and Mexico. “It’s getting worse and worse and worse.”

Officials at Lockheed Martin and Boeing said that any partnership to manufacture jets in India would not result in a net loss of American jobs but would create Indian employment-- about 1,000 positions in the case of Lockheed Martin.

About 300 mechanics on the Fort Worth assembly line would be moved to the F-35 assembly line at the same plant. Others would be given an opportunity to apply for other jobs on the newer F-35, Lockheed officials said, although they concede that some positions would be lost in the move because of attrition or retirements.

“I see this as a great opportunity for all parties involved,” said Randy Howard, director of business development for Lockheed’s integrated fighter group. “It doesn’t take jobs away from the U.S., it extends existing jobs, and not just for Fort Worth but for many other companies around the U.S. that build parts for the F-16.”

Nevertheless, workers in Fort Worth say they are worried about the future.

“Wouldn’t you be?” said Earnest Boone, president of the District Lodge 776, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents Lockheed employees.

In October, the Indian government sent a letter to foreign missions and aerospace manufacturers inquiring about single-engine fighter aircraft that could be manufactured locally.

India wants to co-produce the fighter jets as part of its Make in India program, which has the lofty goal of expanding the manufacturing base to 25 percent of the gross domestic product in the next six years.

...The F-16 airplane remains one of the most widely used aircraft in the world, and Lockheed is continuing to negotiate deals to sell the fighter to other countries. Those F-16s would be made in India under the deal once the new assembly line was up and running, Howard said. The aircraft has been made in joint ventures with other nations before, but “we’ve never offered our only production line to another country,” Howard said. “It’s unprecedented.”

Lockheed has promised that India would not only manufacture and export its jets, but it also would play a “critical role” in supporting a fleet of about 3,200 F-16s in operation around the world, said Jon Grevatt, an Asia Pacific defense industry analyst with IHS Jane’s, a defense analysis firm. “That’s a big carrot,” he noted.

A potential stumbling block to the deal is the willingness of the U.S. government to part with enough of its mission system technology to make the package palatable to the Indians. The aircraft is viewed negatively by some in the defense establishment here as a dated platform that first rolled off the assembly line in 1978-- despite its current state-of-the-art avionics. Another strike against it, for some, is that it is the fighter aircraft used by archrival Pakistan.
Trump's bogus deal with Carrier is polling extremely well. Democrats had better remember whose side they're on or continue to suffer the consequences at the polls. Trump isn't really interested in helping American workers per se and that isn't what he means by making America great again. If workers were part of that, he'd be pushing a new industrial policy and he'd be forcing his party to support retraining proposals. Retired Marine Colonel Doug Applegate, who came within a fraction of a percent of beating Darrell Issa in a San Diego-Orange County district told us this morning that "The GOP's crony capitalism meets Trump’s  snake-oil-false-populism. Only the wealthy 1% will benefit while the rest of America lives with fake news. The GOP and Trump have shown themselves to be willing to ship overseas the economic strength of the United States bit by bit." Doug is running again and he is Blue America's first endorsed candidate for 2018. If you'd like to help replace Issa with Doug, you can do that here

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Tuesday, December 06, 2016

The Kushner vs Christie Battle Is Right Up Trump's Alley


You probably saw this eye-popping Christie polling numbers this morning. New Jersey's Fairleigh Dickinson University's poll found that most registered voters think he should be tried for his role in "Bridgegate." His job approval rating was 18%; disapproval is 73%. Meanwhile, Quinnipiac found his disapproval at an historic 77-19%, "the lowest approval rating for any governor in any state in more than 20 years of the Quinnipiac University Poll." On top of that, 48% of voters say he personally ordered the bridge closing and only 43% say he didn't.
Voters also say 71 - 22 percent that Gov. Christie knew his aides were causing "Bridgegate." His potential involvement in the scandal should be investigated further, 56 percent of voters say, while 41 percent say it has been investigated enough.

Christie gets negative ratings from every party, gender, racial and age group measured, ranging from a negative 39 - 53 percent among Republicans to 9 - 90 percent among Democrats.

Looking at Christie's personal qualities, New Jersey voters say:
71 - 24 percent that he is not honest and trustworthy;
67 - 28 percent that he does not care about their needs and problems;
51 - 46 percent that he does not have strong leadership qualities.
Garden State voters say 69 - 24 percent that President-elect Donald Trump should not offer Christie a job in his administration.
I doubt anyone has to worry about that-- at least not in terms of a Cabinet level position. Christie has been passed over for vice president and for every cabinet position he's set his eyes on. Now he's begging Trump to make him RNC head. Conventional wisdom is that his role in Bridgegate-- and the possibility that he's going to wind up a defendant in investigations and a trial at some point-- has kept him out of any appointments. But to really understand why Christie is out in the cold, you have to understand the yiddish word mekhutonim, basically a male relative by marriage, often a father-in-law, but also a desciptor of the relationship between the families of a married couple, a married couple like Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.

As we explained in August, 2015, Jared's father Charles and The Donald are old cronies from the real estate business. So it should have been no surprise when Charles and his wife Seryl threw the first Trump campaign SuperPAC fundraiser.
Trump, who constantly brags about how rich he is and claims he's financing his own campaign, says he's turning down "millions of dollars." Crooked New Jersey real estate developer Charles Kushner is an old friend of Trump's, and Trump's daughter Ivanka is married to Kushner's son Jared, publisher of the NY Observer. Kushner was convicted of making illegal campaign contributions and of tax evasion and witness tampering, and served a year of a two-year sentence in prison. Last Sunday he had a non-fundraiser for Trump at his palatial $6.7 million beachfront mansion in Long Branch on the Jersey Shore. He gave Trump $100,000. The invitation for the non-fundraiser read: "Seryl and Charles Kushner invite you to their home to meet DONALD TRUMP," with Trump’s name in red letters beneath a pair of American flags, just above "Make America Great Again!" Trump insists it was a just garden party.

Kushner, who has primarily given to Democratic crooks like Chuck Schumer, Joe Lieberman, Jon Corzine and Robert Mendoza, blames Chris Christie-- who was the prosecutor who sent him to prison-- for his legal woes. Maybe the only string attached to the $100,000 he gave to Trump's super-PAC was the satisfaction of seeing Christie get buried. But I doubt it; after all, Kushner is well-known for having once retaliated against his own sister by hiring a prostitute for her husband, taping it and sending her the tape. Trump was happy to get the $100,000, but has never allowed himself to be photographed with his pal Kushner. If someone doesn't want campaign contributions, why does he have a super-PAC? Does it have another function that no one ever told me about?
This week Vanity Fair took a stab at explaining in some depth how and why Jared Kushner has worked successfully against Christie at every turn. No one would say Kushner's career, 'til now, has been marked by brilliance. His dad bought him a place at Harvard for $2.5 million and then made him a principle at the family real estate firm. (Sound familiar?) "Kushner, the scion of a billionaire, has a history of jumping into situations with little experience, making risky calls, and coming out fine on the other end. The Observer, which no longer publishes in print, and hardly wields the influence it used to, is still kicking around... [T]hose who knew Kushner during these formative years wonder if he will make the same mistakes of inexperience and hubris on a far more significant scale. According to a number of people who spoke under the condition of anonymity, out of a desire to keep ties with him or professional obligation, Kushner is a kind, charming, mild-mannered guy who has long been overmatched. But he has been buttressed from failure by his rich, well-known family. As he prepares to take on a role with global significance, what happens when the parachute of his family’s wealth can no longer brace the fall? ... [Kushner] is fiercely loyal to his father, Charles, who pleaded guilty to 18 counts of tax evasion, illegal campaign donations, witness tampering, and setting up his brother-in-law with a prostitute to exact revenge, and was sentenced to two years in an Alabama prison in 2005. Jared, who took the reins of his father’s company at the age of 25 as a result, flew down south to visit Charlie most weekends."
Much has been made of Kushner’s familial loyalty even within the Trump campaign, as reports swirled that he convinced his father-in-law to pass over New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, first as the vice-presidential pick, and again, when he got ousted last month as head of the White House transition team. Christie, as U.S. Attorney, was responsible for putting Charlie Kushner behind bars. A source close to the campaign told me recently that there was a major sticking point in the Christie relationship that Jared could not let go of, and that’s what led him to convince Trump to bypass him.

According to the source, Charlie Kushner was going to be released 28 days early from his sentence. The family was ready, eager, anticipating his arrival home. But he ended up finishing out the time. This source claims that Jared Kushner believes that Christie made sure that Charlie Kushner stayed behind bars for the full sentence, even though the family had already started preparing for his early release. “That really sort of twisted the knife in and he just couldn’t let go of that part of it,” the source said. A source close to Kushner confirmed that this is true.

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The Year Of The Trumpocalypse: Noah’s Annual Holiday Gift Suggestions, For 2016 And Beyond; If There Is a Beyond!


-by Noah

Black Friday was extra black this year. Orange is the new black. But look at it this way: If you’re like me, you can treat the installation of the 10 year old going on 70 year old ill-tempered, ill-mannered, immature, mentally ill man-child as President-Apprentice as a chance to save some money; money you will need when Herr Trumpf creates a Bush depression on steroids and who knows what else. Follow my lead. I would never even think of giving a gift to any Trump supporter, unless it was a coupon for a visit to Dr. Kevorkian, or a January barrel ride over Niagara Falls.

I’ve survived Blackest Friday and I hope you have too. The thing to do now is to both plan for recovery and live for the moment, those precious, precious moments. Mayhem Monday is on the way so, here are some holiday gift ideas that you can get for that special friend or loved-one to help ease the trepidation.

Number One: The Inflatable Irish Pub! offers an enhanced version of the alcohol solution to the Trumpocalypse. Set this up in your backyard (you can rent or buy) and invite your friends over. Call it your Get Bombed Shelter. Don’t worry. The neighborhood Trumpies won’t crash your party. They’re too busy making tinfoil hats, watching Alex Jones, and cooking meth.

Number Two: Atomteller Wall Plates For The Nuclear Family!

What better way to celebrate Trumpian complete deregulation of your local nuclear power plant! You can gaze at these and amaze your friends with this startling collection as Trump calls his buddy Putin for tips on how to deal with a Chernobyl-style disaster right here in the good old U.S.A. It’s not just the economy or Trump’s fragile mind that will be in imminent danger of complete meltdown. Imagine eating a romantic dinner, lit not by the old, clichéd candlelight but food that actually, thanks to Trump, glows in the dark and cooks itself! Sure the plates depict a German nuke plant, but, isn’t that somehow fitting?

Number Three: The Trump Voodoo Doll!

Remember several years ago when parents were freaking out trying to get that stupid Tickle Me Elmo Doll or whatever it was. Places like Toys-“R”-Us couldn’t keep them in stock as frantic parents verbally and physically abused store employees who had to break the news that there were no Elmos to be had in their store at any price. Opportunists who managed to score an Elmo they didn’t want got four digit “private sale” prices, obviously breaking the insane-o-meter. On the bright side, a Denver police charity sold one for $7100. If only we could make these Trump Voodoo Dolls every bit as popular as Elmo was that year! We may be on our way. Sales are brisk!

Imagine a country of 70 million Hillary voters, plus their offspring sticking pins into these babies every hour of the day. That’s a lot of psychic negative energy going to the right place, going for the greater good! If we could use social media to have us all simultaneously stick those pins, Trump would have to feel it, wouldn’t he? Sure, he’d try to outlaw the dolls but, too late. And, don’t worry, if the stores run out, voodoo dolls are easy to make. Trust me. I do it all the time! It’s very cathartic.

Number Four: The Selfie Toaster!

Really. This stuff is hard to make up. It’s real. Believe me. Yes. You can now take a picture of yourself and put it on your toast. A few years ago, I wrote about the Jesus toaster and, before that, the Grilled Cheesus (also available on amazon), but, now, we are truly in the ultimate time of me, me, me. I know Herr Trump has to have at least one of these, even if he doesn’t know how to operate it. Hell, he can just have his wife Melanoma make his toast, after she figures out how to boil water. I can see the Trumpanzee demanding toast (exclusively white bread, of course) with his visage on it. For best effect, he can add a nice, thin layer of orange marmalade.

I bet Trump would customize his in gold filigree, with a vocal option that constantly tells him he’s the best.

Now, hmmm, what would Anthony Weiner do with a selfie toaster? Imagine if he ran a little coffee shop. “Hi, coffee, extra cream, dry white toast, please.”

Are you sick of the whole idea of selfies? I know I am and it’s only a matter of time until you are as well. Here in New York, we are infested by khaki-wearing touristas at this most wonderful time of year. Many of them are taking selfies in front of their new shrine- The Trump Tower. It’s so bad, I’m finding it hard to walk down the street without having to do the limbo under some glazed-eyed yahoo’s selfie stick? Do you have thoughts about what you would like to do with that selfie stick? Hey, tourista, you look like you are in need of a special colonoscopy. So, on to...

Number Five: The Selfie Drone!

I bet that they sell these on Youporn, not that I would know for sure. But... maybe I should check? This drone, known as the AirSelfie also fits in the palm of your hand but it only holds a charge for a paltry 3 minutes.

Man, if I still worked in the corporate world, I would buy dozens of these. They are small and hardly noticeable. I’d set them up and maneuver them down the halls into the offices of those fellow employees that had a record of uselessness or, as is often the case, worse. Let’s get cinematic proof! Let’s get film at 11:00 of them sleeping, snorting coke, playing computer solitaire or otherwise pleasuring themselves on the company dime.

You could even go to Congress and launch them from the gallery! You might just catch goofy old Senator McCain playing poker on his phone again.

Number Six: Jim Bakker’s Survival Food Buckets!

Somewhere along the Republican straight line to complete insanity, televangelist Jim Bakker decided to be God’s own version of Col. Sanders, except that, instead of fried chicken, he’s selling his freeze-dried “Survival Food” literally by the bucketful. Why? Because God-- aka, the voices he hears in his head-- tells him that “things are coming.”

In the past year alone, Bakker has urged that you buy his giant buckets o’ food because, for one thing, WW3 is on the way! He has also been pitching them because America is descending into cannibalism, and, the Zika virus, which, according to Bakker and like-minded wackos, is predicted in the Book Of Revelations. Bakker also wants you to buy his buckets because politicians (not mentioning any names) are letting in terrorists!

But now, as of the November election, Bakker wants his followers to start filling their homes up with his buckets due to the coming Anti-Trump riots!
We are in the last days. If you want to be safe and there’s rioting in your street, what are you going to do? Is your mom going to walk down through where they’re burning and killing and all?
Bakker’s wacky co-asylum escapee, Sash Volz says she knows people who live in areas where, due to anti-Trump riots, it isn’t safe to “go outside.” The sky is falling indeed! It seems these riots will be so bad that food supplies will disappear, so you better be prepared. Hell, it appears that in what little is left of Bakker’s mind, these riots will be the long wished for end times, and who wants to be raptured on an empty tummy!

Jim Bakker has a thousand reasons why you should be buying his feedbags, er, buckets. And, he even suggests that you can decorate your living room (or bomb shelter) with these colorful buckets! Trump may be the Huckster-In-Chief but Jim Bakker has been selling snake oil for decades. Not to worry if Bakker runs out. Alex Jones, over at Info Wars sells similar things, for similar “reasons.” Maybe us normal people ought to by them, too. This “Civil” War might last forever. Oh, the irony!

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The Democrats' Super-Majorities In Sacramento-- Basically Rendered Meaningless By Corrupt ConservaDems


Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez

Yesterday, Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, who represents a huge swath of hipster and Hispanic Los Angeles (Silverlake, Echo Park, Boyle Heights, Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Montecito Heights, Cypress Park, Chinatown, East L.A.) yielded to an animated draft movement by progressives in his district to run for the congressional seat Xavier Becerra is giving up to become California Attorney General. There is tremendous fear that charter school shill Sarah Hernandez, backed by the usual array of anti-union, anti-education fanatics and, of course, EMILY's List, will be able to sneak her into Congress. Last month, Jimmy was reelected to the Assembly with a nice healthy 86.4% of the vote.

The Assembly... the Democrats just regained a super-majority-- and there's a Democratic governor. So Jimmy and and the Democratic Party would be able to get a lot accomplished, right? (The state Senate also regained a super-majority.) But... not right. The state government can't do much-- and that's because lobbyists have so much sway in Sacramento. How is that even possible? The misnamed "Moderate Caucus"-- corrupt right wing Democrats, the Republican wing of the party always looking to get it's collective palm greased-- work with the Republicans to stop anything and everything that smacks of a progressive vision for governance. Celebrate that Democrats have a super-majority in each house but remember that the anti-union charter school thugs, for example, just elected more garbage Democrats-on-the-take (cash pouring in from robber barons like Gap co-founder Doris F. Fisher, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Carrie W. Penner, the granddaughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, developer Eli Broad and former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg) like Tom Grayson from Contra Costa and Solano counties and, worst of all, Laura Friedman in Glendale and Los Feliz. Friedman was just elected in my own district and she's basically a pro-Choice Republican masquerading as a Democrat with TONS of money from the bad guys allowing her to absolutely swamp the district in deceitful advertising about her progressive opponent.

Back to the problem of the conservatives disguising themselves as Democrats and getting elected to the legislature. Dan Walters explained for Sacramento Bee readers why the super-majorities the Democrats just won mean little in practical terms.
In fact, it could result in more real clout by business, education reformers and other interests that do battle in the Capitol with liberal groups such as unions, consumer advocates, personal injury attorneys and environmentalists-- and more frustration for Gov. Jerry Brown’s legacy war on carbon emissions.

As Democrats were capturing enough Republican-held seats to reestablish the supermajorities they lost in 2014, the ranks of moderate Democrats were also increasing, thanks to big infusions of campaign cash from business and its new, albeit informal, partners in the education reform movement.

The Assembly’s “mod squad,” as it’s been dubbed, was instrumental during the 2015-16 session in blocking key elements of Brown’s multi-point assault on climate change, which he describes as an “existential threat.” He couldn’t win approval of a tight “low-carbon fuel” mandate or reauthorization of the “cap-and-trade” program of emission allowances.

One member of the loose moderate coalition, San Bernardino’s Cheryl Brown, was taken out by a union-backed campaign that dubbed her “Chevron Cheryl.”

However, the coalition’s ranks were bolstered by several victories in other Democrat vs. Democrat clashes. The education reform activists were particularly pleased by the defeat of Mae Torlakson, wife of state schools chief Tom Torlakson, who had strong backing from their foes in school unions.

Meanwhile, the Senate, which had supported Brown on climate change, may be developing a mod squad of its own with wins by business-backed Democrats such as Bill Dodd of Napa and Steven Bradford of Gardena.

In theory, the supermajorities could be used to impose new taxes or place constitutional amendments on the ballot. But they had almost no effect when Democrats had them during the 2013-14 session, and they may be even less likely to be employed in the 2017-18 session that begins next week.

Mod squad influence is rarely demonstrated in showdown votes on specific bills. Rather, legislation that fails because of their presence is usually placed on the shelf without votes after legislative leaders count noses and come up short.

The 17-year, 90.4 percent record of the California Chamber of Commerce in defeating bills it labels “job killers” is a testament to the clandestine nature of the perennial war between business interests and liberal groups.

Typically, the chamber pins its epithet on a few dozen major bills and only one or two of them make it through and are signed into law, but decisive votes on the vanquished measures are rare.

Thus, mod squad influence will not be apparent from official voting records, only in the final tally of what makes it into law and what doesn’t.
Eloise Reyes
Progressive champion Eloise Reyes defeated Chevron Cheryl Brown in San Bernardino (54-45%) and that's one very bright spot. This week Eloise was the very first freshman to introduce a bill in the Assembly. Another bright spot for California progressives is that the single most corrupt conservaDem in Sacramento, Isadore Hall-- yes, even more corrupt than Chevron Cheryl-- left the state Senate to run for Congress and, although heavily favored and backed by the entire disgustingly corrupt Democratic Party establishment (which pretends to oppose the conservaDems), was defeated by progressive underdog Nanette Barragan in the L.A. South Bay area. Her district, CA-44, stretches from San Pedro up through Wilmington, Carson, Rancho Dominguez, North Long Beach, Compton, Lynwood, Watts and South Gate and her colleagues were so impressed with her strength as a fighter that last week she was elected co-president of the new congressional freshman class, basically taking over for Ted Lieu in that spot.

Meanwhile, one of the worst former corrupt Sacramento conservaDems, Lou Correa, was-- like Hall-- heavily backed by California's utterly vile Democratic Party establishment and he managed to beat a devoted progressive for Loretta Sanchez's congressional seat in Orange County. He immediately joined the Blue Dogs and New Dems and will be a reliable vote for much of the damage Paul Ryan plans on doing-- just as he voted with the GOP consistently in Sacramento. Many say that now that ultra-reactionary Blue Dogs Gwen Graham (FL) and Brad Ashford (NE) have been driven from Congress, Lou Correa will quickly supplant Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) as the worst Democrat in the House. Do you think that's too bold a statement? See if this changes your mind at all. The problem with electing these garbage fake Dems, like Laura Friedman, to legislatures is that, aside from doing irreparable damage, it puts them in position to build power and move up the political ladder. Don't we have enough problems with Republicans without allowing the same sort of monsters to take over the Democratic Party? Democrats need more members of the working class in elected position; here's a suggestion:

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Climate Change in the Age of Trump: A "Humanitarian Crisis of Epic Proportions"


Notice the massive river deltas (blue dots) and other large low-lying areas (purple), including the North China Plain, the Chinese "breadbasket" (source; click to open at full size in a new tab).

by Gaius Publius

We're about to witness a kind of "perfect storm," perhaps in our lifetime — the confluence of soon-to-be out-of-control climate degradation with the perfect person in the perfect place to make that degradation worse, President Donald Trump.

First, on the effect of Trump on military climate policy, from Scientific American (emphasis mine):
The military and intelligence communities may soon turn a blinder eye toward some climate change-related threats, indicated by President-Elect Donald Trump’s recent choices of climate-change skeptics for  national security jobs, along with his own dismissive comments. But though experts say Trump and his team could roll back some recent initiatives, the momentum of bureaucracy, along with a military need to take the long view, mean climate-related plans are unlikely to be abandoned entirely.

The Department of Defense and the intelligence community have long considered climate change a crucial input into national security planning and policy. Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said climate “can significantly add to the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict.” The Pentagon calls this a “threat multiplier.”

Yet Trump has tapped retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn to be his national security advisor, and Flynn has ridiculed the idea that climate change poses any particular threat to the country. Congressman Mike Pompeo (R–KS) has been named to head the CIA, and he has questioned the scientific consensus on climate change and has voted for more oil drilling and against any regulation of carbon emissions. Joshua Busby, an associate professor of public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, who has studied the intersection of climate change and national security, says the appointments mean “some of the gains made by the Pentagon and other executive agencies to prepare for the security consequences of climate change could be undone.”
Anti-climate policy changes at the Pentagon will almost certainly be replicated in NASA via the defunding of its climate science research:
Donald Trump is poised to eliminate all climate change research conducted by Nasa as part of a crackdown on “politicized science”, his senior adviser on issues relating to the space agency has said.

Nasa’s Earth science division is set to be stripped of funding in favor of exploration of deep space, with the president-elect having set a goal during the campaign to explore the entire solar system by the end of the century.

This would mean the elimination of Nasa’s world-renowned research into temperature, ice, clouds and other climate phenomena. Nasa’s network of satellites provide a wealth of information on climate change, with the Earth science division’s budget set to grow to $2bn next year. By comparison, space exploration has been scaled back somewhat, with a proposed budget of $2.8bn in 2017.

Bob Walker, a senior Trump campaign adviser, said there was no need for Nasa to do what he has previously described as “politically correct environmental monitoring”.
Let's set aside the fact that this and similar moves will make the U.S. a pariah among nations. Set aside the consequences of moving, but not quickly enough, to mitigate (lessen) the climate disaster — a likely outcome under Clinton. Consider instead the consequences of moving as aggressively as possible to increase the problem and magnify the disaster.

That's climate change in the Age of Trump — accelerating over the cliff.

The Coming Climate Refugee Crisis — 200 Million and Counting

It's estimated that in the world today there are more than 36 million refugees from climate and other natural disasters, more than for any other cause, including war. Under any president that number would increase, but certainly under Trump it's set to increase to disastrous proportions. Let's start with what the National Geographic thinks would happen anyway: 
The International Red Cross estimates that there are more environmental refugees than political refugees fleeing from wars and other conflicts. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says 36 million people were displaced by natural disasters in 2009, the last year such a report was taken. Scientists predict this number will rise to at least 50 million by 2050. Some say it could be as high as 200 million.
Two hundred million refugees isn't just a humanitarian crisis; it's a military one as well. This is what Europe looked like when an unchecked mass migration took place in Roman times.

Every border in Europe was politically and ethnically redrawn. 

What you see above took place in roughly 400 years. Imagine a migration of this scale taking place in one tenth the time — in just 30 years, roughly the time between now and the article's mentioned date of 2050.

What If the Estimates Are Too Conservative?

Now consider that no recent reputable climate estimate has been wrong in a conservative direction — wrong because things are moving more slowly than anticipated. Almost nothing in the climate world is moving more slowly than expected. In fact, a great many climate estimates are very wrong in the other direction — because things are moving a whole lot faster than anyone thought they would.

Then consider the Trump Effect, that what would have happened anyway will certainly be made worse by Trump, both by his acceleration of the cause (CO2 and methane emissions) and by his armed and deadly reaction to its results.

With that in mind, let's look again at that perfect refugee storm we've been talking about.

First, consider the population-size estimate. The National Geographic article mentions up to 200 million refugees. The nation of Bangladesh alone holds 158 million people. Most of its land will be quickly under water or be threatened by water under any significant sea level rise (see map above). Where will they go? India is already planning to keep them out. And that's just one small region. The entire world holds a human population of 7.5 billion and many similar low-lying regions and large deltas.

So, what if the estimates above are too conservative? An world environmental refugee population of 200 million in 35 years seems like a lot, but it's really only 2.5% of world population. Climate threatens far more people than that. If 150 million in just Bangladesh are panicked and trying to escape, they alone would account for most of that total.

What if not just 2.5% of world population, but 10% or 20% of world population fell into environmental refugee status? We're now looking at 700 million to 1.5 billion people, not just fleeing, but starving, fighting and dying as well. In other words, utter world chaos of every type imaginable. It would in fact be far worse than the migrations through Europe pictured above, and not just because of the time compression. People didn't mass-migrate into Europe from the east during Roman times because they were dying at home and bringing epidemia with them. The mass migration pictured above involved people who were, in the main, healthy.

Next, consider the time estimate. Nothing says this crisis has to be linear, with a relatively slow and steady ramp-up to the (totally arbitrarily chosen) year of 2050. Donald Trump will be president (one presumes) through 2020. Collapses often happen very quickly. What if the bottom falls out between now and, say, 2024, perhaps while he's still in office, then picks up speed? A world refugee crisis that blows up in the next 10 years compresses the time scale to an impossible-to-deal-with degree, yet anyone still alive in the next ten years or so might watch it. The Trump Effect.

As I said above, climate change in the Age of Trump could be a perfect storm, a disaster in which no way to make it worse goes unexplored.

The One Road Out

Interestingly, from that horrific possibility comes the route away, the one road home. Imagine what would happen, in this pre-revolutionary country, if Trump doubles down on this, in North Dakota?
'People Are Going to Die': Father of Wounded DAPL Activist Sophia Wilansky Speaks Out

Is devastating policy brutality against water protectors in North Dakota a harbinger of what's to come when Donald Trump takes office?

Sunday's brutal police assault against peaceful Dakota Access Pipeline activists left one water protector, Sophia Wilansky, at risk of losing an arm, and her distraught father spoke out Tuesday and Wednesday against the shocking show of force and demanded government action.

Wayne Wilansky, a 61-year-old lawyer and yoga teacher from New York City, spoke to a reporter in a Facebook live feed about his daughter's devastating injury, allegedly caused by a concussion grenade.

"This is the wound of someone who's a warrior, who was sent to fight in a war," Wayne said. "It's not supposed to be a war. She's peacefully trying to get people to not destroy the water supply. And they're trying to kill her."

Most of the muscle tissue between Sophia's left elbow and wrist as well as two major arteries were completely destroyed, Wayne said, and doctors pulled shrapnel out of the wound.

The Morton County Sheriff's Department has denied using concussion grenades or any equipment that could cause an injury like Sophia's, despite witness accounts and the shrapnel recovered by surgeons from Sophia's arm. [Note: There's video of recovered cannisters.]

The police in Morton County, North Dakota are acting with such brutality, Wayne warned, that eventually "people are going to die."
"Eventually, people are going to die." And then what? The murder of more non-violent protesters as people gather in response? Before the 2008 economic crisis, this would not have occurred. But after that crisis, with nearly everyone in the country in revolt (remember, they elected Trump and nearly elected Sanders), I don't see either side standing down.

This is the rolling civil war I talked about, something the nation's leaders seem determined to push people into. It would be a terrible way to settle the nation's economic disputes, but when it comes to racial murder or climate justice for all succeeding generations, I'm not sure I see the alternative, sad as it is to say that.

Stay tuned.


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Buyers' Remorse? Or Trumpy-the-Clown Can Do No Wrong?


Will Americans suddenly like obstructionism now that it's coming from the Democrats rather than from Republicans? Or will they agree that the collection of misfits and rogues Trump has been nominating for office are beyond the pale and really do need to be stopped? Or will Americans think the GOP needs to be taught a lesson for what they did to President Obama's nominations, particularly Merrick Garland? Or... is the plan to obstruct Trumps' nominees-- a plan that can only end in Trumpy-the-Clown victories-- going to further alienate the public from government and make them hate it more, something that always serves the long-term strategies of conservatives, who strive to make the public distrust and dislike government? You know the answer already-- in a deeply divided nation, all of the above will prove true, dividing the nation even more deeply.

Sure Democrats say it isn't just about revenge-- something Trump voters can at least understand-- but that some of Trump's "more controversial Cabinet picks-- such as Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Steven Mnuchin for treasury secretary-- demand a thorough public airing." Who says Sessions is "controversial?" Not the people of Alabama. Not voters who elected Trump. Of course the Democrats should "demand a thorough public airing," but why announce it as some kind of strategy that re-focuses the argument away from Sessions? Sherrod Brown: "They’ve been rewarded for stealing a Supreme Court justice. We’re going to help them confirm their nominees, many of whom are disqualified? It’s not obstruction, it’s not partisan, it’s just a duty to find out what they’d do in these jobs."
The tit-for-tat between the parties looks like it's here to stay.

“I’m not into retribution. I really think public service should be more than that,” said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat. “But they’ve set a pretty harsh standard.”
Republicans are betting that "the public" doesn't care about the Democrats' complaints-- and, at this point, they're probably right. Only 11% of Trump voters wish the election could be a do over and they could not vote for him. 23% say they would have voted for Bernie Sanders if they had the chance. But when that 11% number turns into 50%, that's when the public won't be buying into lies promoted by Michael Flynn about Hillary child sex rings in the back of DC pizzerias and maybe buyers' remorseful be strong enough for the public to rally behind the flawed and unattractive Democratic Party alternative.

Now... as Darren Samuelsohn reported for Politico yesterday, too many Americans just don't even care that Trump has more conflicts of interest than every president before him combined. That's what McConnell and Ryan are counting on to push their their toxic agendas. Republicans, he wrote, are "dismissing Democratic threats of investigations and ethicists’ calls for divestment out of a belief that the political landscape has shifted. Voters rewarded Trump in part on the idea that success in business will equal success in government, and Republicans are therefore unwilling to encourage the president-elect to put distance between the Oval Office and Trump Tower, or between himself and the children who serve him as trusted advisers." Newt Gingrich suggest the Democrats "get over it."
[P]olitically, Trump and many Republicans sense he is insulated from the heat Democrats intend to bring. He said as much himself last month amid a wave of news accounts and Democratic congressional oversight requests demanding closer scrutiny of his finances. “Prior to the election it was well known that I have interests in properties all over the world. Only the crooked media makes this a big deal!” Trump posted on Twitter.

...Almost daily, Trump’s critics fire off letters demanding action or introducing resolutions with little chance of picking up speed. They’re circulating op-eds and news articles written by local and national news organizations that have seen their own power wane. They’re circulating petitions and videos on and jamming congressional phone lines.

“It’s asinine,” Chris Wilson, a GOP strategist who ran the data and analytics shop for Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, said of the Democratic attempts to confront Trump on his conflicts of interest.

“If there was a situation that came up in which later there was a true conflict of interest, that created a dangerous national security situation, the problem is now nobody would believe them... They’re just jumping into it so quickly and on such a stupid issue that it’s almost embarrassing to watch.”

Trump, of course, hasn’t been sworn in yet-- so much of what’s happening now lives very much in the realm of the hypothetical.

...At least for now, the early polling shows a divided county that’s still coming to grips with the complexities of the Trump conflicts. A CNN survey released last month found almost 60 percent of respondents saying they didn’t think Trump was going far enough with indications that he would hand over control of his company to his children. Another poll, taken before Thanksgiving by Politico/Morning Consult, had more than six in 10 respondents welcoming Trump’s children playing a large role in running their father’s company. But less than a third said they were willing to accept the idea that Trump’s family would be involved in his administration.

Democrats and a smattering of GOP voices are demanding Trump sell his whole business outright, moving his assets into a “blind trust,” like other recent presidents did, where he has no clear insight into his investments and therefore can’t direct policy in a way that would yield personal profit. What’s more, they insist Trump needs to remove his children from the White House and no longer include them in his transition planning and in meetings with foreign officials and other people who will be involved in his government decision making.

Trump’s supporters, however, see little reason to make such dramatic changes.

“You can’t take Trump as a name and a $10 billion system and hide it. It’s just stupid,” Gingrich said. He’s urging Trump to turn the company over to his children and establish a panel of three to five people who meet monthly and review the company’s activities “and make sure in no way it’s being used to the advantage of Trump.”

Republicans who fought Trump during the campaign saw the same signs among voters-- the conflict issue isn’t one they cared much about.

“His brand perception as a successful businessman was too strong,” said Tim Miller, a former Jeb Bush spokesman. “If we had a full year and put big money behind it, could we have changed that? Who knows? But during the small window we were working in, we saw no movement.”
And with a hack hyper-partisan Republican, Jason Chaffetz, chairing the House Oversight Committee, it's pretty clear that there will be no serious investigations into Trump's conflicts, like a concerted attempt it whitewash them. There's already a wikipedia page for this-- and Trump's conflicts of interest are already regular fodder for the late night comedy shows.

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Monday, December 05, 2016

Media Takes a Crack at Critiquing Itself, Sort of, at the National Press Club


- by Skip Kaltenheuser

Thursday night, Dec. 1st, the National Press Club in Washington, DC put up a panel discussion, The Trump Victory and 2016 Election-- What the Media Got Right & Wrong. A promising title, it filled every seat. I expected much would be made of media lost in a labyrinth of echo chambers, unable to dodge the bull-headed minotaur of Clinton surrogates, but I was wrong. Other than pesky polling, there wasn’t as much “why” in the journalists’ analysis as hoped. Or of what they got wrong. You can watch a video of the panel above.

Uncertain I could attend that night, early in the day I sent the panel written questions I’d welcome their consideration of. Two of the panelists were from the Washington Post, so among my questions was a request for comment on the Harper’s article by Thomas Frank, Swat Team, in which Frank noted a sustained editorial drumbeat throughout the primaries against Bernie Sanders that took its rhythm from Clinton campaign talking points. Another request was for comment on a Washington Post article that uncritically amplified the nonsense of an incognito organization-- my money’s on ? and the Mysterians. This group,, cries tears for a couple hundred online outfits the incognito’s claim are Ruskie tools.

I was disappointed that neither request found takers, as both relate to the why of what the media got wrong. To be fair, the panel allocated time to questions from the floor and I didn’t get one in before the clock ran out.

By the way, there is a Rootstrikers petition to give the Washingon Post a piece of your mind. Would I be shocked if the whole damn list of stooges and useful idiots was a hoax to see who’d take the bait of Russian caviar, if they’d get a big fish like the Washington Post? No. But it’s probably too much to hope for.

At the end of this post are excerpts of issues I sent to the panelists, on which I’d welcome any comment. The issues drifted into something of an essay, but they might form the bones of a good discussion in the future.

Though there wasn’t a great deal of introspection as to the why, there were still some good offerings. CNN Politics Senior Digital Correspondent Chris Moody gave an interesting account of a smart idea CNN had, to have him travel around with a crew avoiding campaign professionals, experts and strategists. Instead, they traveled in a Winnebago for a month, from New York City to Las Vegas.

Speaking with regular folks wherever they found them, the news crew soon picked up that for undecided voters, it wasn’t the normal response of "I like this candidate or that one." It was indecision over whether they could stomach voting for either one. Many people were honestly struggling right up to election day. Among those Moody spoke with were ranchers near the Mexican border, who were getting the brunt of immigrants passing through, as policies drove them from populated areas to rural areas, while government claimed it had solved the problem. They’d been very frustrated for a long time.

There were many besides ranchers who expressed similar disillusionment with government not working for them. A lot of people simply concluded that whatever Trump stood for, he was different, he was change, so what did they have to lose? Though surprised when watching the returns, Moody was no where near shocked. If I had cable, Moody is someone I’d look forward to.

Another item of interest, regarding the ubiquitous presence of Trump in media throughout the primaries, some of it has a simple explanation. Bookers lining up guests on shows would call all of the primary candidates. Often all but one would reject interview requests, and that one was Trump. And Trump was ever-ready on the dial to call in and hijack a program.

Also of note was RNC National Spokeswoman Lindsay Walters account of the strategy of the Republican ground game. They delved deep into data showing where Trump and get-out-the-vote troops had to focus to catch "unallocated voters" in areas in which Clinton was ahead. Areas that with a change of wind Trump might be in striking distance if he could reach and appeal to the unallocated voters still adrift, who might then be turned out to vote. So in the areas it most counted, the vaunted Clinton ground game operation got caught from behind.

Mike McCurry responded to a question of why Hillary didn’t put the email controversy to bed right away. McCurry, former Clinton White House Press Secretary and presidential debate commission co-chair, said it simply wasn’t in the Clintons mental makeup to believe that anyone would attribute mischievous motives to them. They think it’s self-evident that they act in the interest of the American people, and that people would understand that. They believe people would discount anything that raises questions about their own integrity and truthfulness. They don’t understand perception, the perception of negativity.

McCurry is known to be an honorable guy, and he knows the Clintons well, so he might be accurate that that’s really how they thought people would think.

But I have a difficult time wrapping my head around it. Of course, it doesn’t get to why the curious behaviors happened in the first place. And if, after all they have experienced, the Clintons were really that confident that people wouldn’t really think anything untoward might underlie their decisions and motives…what can one say? Victims of their own echo chamber?

Margaret Sullivan is media columnist for the Washington Post and was previously the public editor of the New York Times. I was surprised to see the emphasis she tried to put on the Comey letter’s impact, and heartened to see McCurry and the Post’s Abby Phillip put the letter’s cha-cha in what I view a more realistic perspective, as just another of many things in motion out there. Walters said RNC analysis showed that trends showing Trump rust belt gains were already in place.

From Phillip’s observations, a greater bellwether was how late in the game the Clinton campaign increased spending in Wisconsin and Michigan. Phillip noted the Clinton campaign realized they were losing momentum in the upper Midwest before the Comey letter came out.

One of the panel observations that had resonance: Media was too easily distracted by shiny things to look at-- tweets, for instance-- instead of insisting on more of a focus on the issues, on the details beyond the tweets. Tweets are easy.

Another impression that lingers is how meaningless campaign message themes ultimately are, which doesn’t mean the better ones won’t have an effect. "Stronger Together" didn’t fly as well as Bill Clinton’s “Bridge to the 21st Century.” But according to McCurry Bill Clinton was very frustrated coming up with a message. Clinton’s bridge slogan didn’t appear until Bob Dole said he wanted to build "a bridge to the past." After that, Clinton turned it to the future and sought out every bridge he could walk across.

I tried to get at the media’s tunnel vision in an early June post on why Hillary would be a far weaker candidate, including with independents, than Bernie.

In another post I gave an example of government’s soft treatment of wayward bankers that the public would see as a major fail, of the fix being in for privileged insiders.

Saturday I attended an Irish wake for John Patrick Cosgrove, age 98, a former president of the National Press Club who was an Irish force of nature and a class act. JFK came to Cosgrove’s 1961 inauguration, where Cosgrove made the President join the club and pay dues in full before entering. Cosgrove was sworn in by Chief Justice Earl Warren.

Attendees at the wake included many elder journalists with impressive institutional memories of how Washington works, and who understand the importance of shunning the herd instinct that underlies many of journalism’s shortcomings. I doubt many of them would have been as manipulated by either Trump or Clinton as so many journalists were this campaign.

FYI, issues I’d hoped would get more play from the press club panel, from a note I sent:

Dear Ms. Sullivan and panel members,

I'm not sure I can make it to the presentation, but I'd welcome any thoughts you'd offer on the following matters.

I've a theory on why so much of the mainstream media got the election so wrong. I believe you have to go back to the Democratic primaries to catch media's early derailment, as the media also got most of the significance and power of the Sanders campaign wrong.

My thinking is that much of media abdicated journalism early on to essentially sign on to the Clinton campaign, treating Hillary as inevitable, as the presumptive nominee from the git-go, and odds-on electoral college victor.

Once in that echo chamber, journalists adopted the Clinton campaign viewpoint wholesale. We now know from WikiLeaks how chummy the campaign was with a number of key journalists, including those attending the campaign's off-record cocktail parties.

Related to that, I would welcome any comment on Thomas Frank's Harper's article, Swat Team, in which Frank analyzed Washington Post coverage, particularly editorials, and found a clear pattern of grinding down Sanders with Clinton campaign talking points.

Even now, the Clinton campaign and a number of journalists seem hell-bent on blaming everyone else for the electoral college loss, but not blaming a highly flawed candidate and an arrogant campaign goofing around in Texas and Arizona, bragging about the coming blowout, instead of tending to the wounds of the Rust Belt.

Related to the deflected blame game, I'd welcome comment from the panelists on the Washington Post's uncritical article on a mystery organization's list of 200 online sites run by people who are either Putin stooges or useful idiots. I'm quite familiar with some of those sites, and the ones I know of, including Naked Capitalism, are nothing as described. How could such nonsense be passed along to readers without an investigation of those behind the website? It's not for nothing Joe McCarthy comes to mind to a number of critics of the Post article.

This gets to another related issue, how much of media has discredited itself to the point of people wanting to raise the middle finger to a media busy jamming the Clinton influence machine down our throats as much as the public wanted to raise the middle finger to the perceived political establishment.

Think of the media pile-on, from the Sabbath Gasbags to editorial writers, on Trump when, joking or not, he welcomed Russian hacking. I even heard the word "treason" bandied about, and musings on prosecution. But no thinking person reading and listening to the media reaction believes that Putin or anyone else waits outside America's Internet door like Dracula, unable to enter until Trump invites them across the threshold. There was something of the boy who cried wolf there.

Why wasn't more focus on the veracity and implications of the WikiLeaks emails? Instead we heard distress over doctored emails, with no examples forthcoming. This kind of drumbeat contributed to the belief that news organizations were not giving the public straight info, that they didn't trust the public to make up its own mind.

If you'd like a specific WaPo example, I recall an essay by Dana Milbank, lauding the superiority of Clinton for the Democratic party because unlike the well-meaning Bernie, with his quaint collection of little contributions, Clinton was also raising Big Money for down-ballot candidates. When it was revealed that this was something of a scam, that the Clinton campaign was clawing back the money for its own use, often before state organizations got a whiff of it, I don't recall even an "oops" from Milbank. But I might have missed it, because sooner or later one quits reading the predictable.

So that's my theory: much of key media organizations, of journalists and editorialists, were so vested in the echo chamber promoting a Clinton victory that they didn't fully grasp the public's disdain toward politicians earning vast fortunes solely because of their vaunted public service. Media didn't realize the public, including in the flyover states, easily understood that the only way for the Clintons to earn fortunes of that size is by the sale of influence.

Media also missed the extent of the anger at banks over their ongoing damage to so many families, banks becoming inseparable from the Clintons who deregulated them and who continued to benefit from bank patronage. The media didn't understand that the public instinctively knew that the Clintons were unlikely to bite the hands that lifted them into the oligarchy. The media didn't understand the anger at Eric Holder and the revolving door, of failure to prosecute even bankers who laundered money for violent drug cartels. The public was ready to make a statement, a protest, the only way it could, even if the result was Trump.

It's also hard to ignore the WikiLeaks revelation of the Clinton campaign's early objective of having Trump become the easy-to-beat Republican nominee, and not to wonder at media mostly averting its gaze during the Republican primaries from Trump's connections to Roy Cohn and other unsavories. Ratings and page reads appeared to take prominence over close study of worrisome material on Trump available for decades.

In any case, I give great credit to the media echo chamber, and the public's adverse reaction to it, for landing us in Trumpville.

Thanks much for considering these matters and for any comments at the press club. If I can't make the event, I'll look forward to catching it online later.

Best fortunes with your intriguing and important topic.

Skip Kaltenheuser

John Cosgrove delivering a National Press Club membership card to President John F. Kennedy in 1961

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