Thursday, August 31, 2017

Time For The DC Parties To Dump Ryan And Pelosi For Their Own Good


About a year ago, Pew released a survey about party affiliation in the U.S. One conclusion you would have drawn is that registered voters who identify as independent might soon outnumber both Republicans and Democrats-- combined. More recently-- like last week-- a Harvard-Harris Poll showed net favorability for some of the country's most prominent political leaders. The only leaders from either party with statistically more positive support than negativity are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. People-- as in registered voters-- absolutely hate both Trump and Hillary, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). The public rejects these people-- yet they still are managing to control the levers of power in Washington. The whole corrupt, money-fueled system stinks to High Heaven.

It's hard to imagine Pelosi being able to hold on much longer. Her support inside the House Democratic caucus is finally evaporating. Virtually no one I speak to-- neither incumbents nor challengers-- want to see her leading the party again and the only thing that keeps her in place are the alternatives-- all of which are far worse than she is: Steny Hoyer, Joe Crowley, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Tim Ryan-- or is he on to the presidential sweepstakes now? I called an even dozen House candidates yesterday and even the ones-- about half-- who said they would vote for her as Speaker in 2018, refused to let me use their names. "She's pretty toxic among the independent voters here," one candidate told me. "I don't have anything against her but it isn't just Republicans who hate her. Many Democrats want to see her just move on and make room for someone else... Her time is over."

Yesterday was even worse for Paul Ryan in that regard. Dave Weigel, reporting from Minnesota for the Washington Post went to a Republican candidates' primary forum and found that GOP candidates are as sick of Ryan as Republican voters are. When the a member of the audience asked the 5 Republican congressional candidates if they plan to vote for Ryan to lead their party, 4 refused to back him. Watch at the 56 minute mark:

“I think he’s going in the wrong direction,” said state Rep. Tim Miller.

“I would prefer someone else,” said commercial pilot Dave Hughes.

“We’ll see who runs for speaker,” said businessman Jim Hagedorn.

“He might not even run for speaker,” said St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber.

...Public polling, however, has seen Ryan’s favorable rating and approval rating tumble since the start of the Trump presidency. According to HuffPost’s poll tracker, Ryan’s approval rating was barely underwater, 35/41, the week of Trump’s inauguration. Today, it’s underwater by close to 20 points, 30/49; Pelosi’s rating is 29/49. A Bloomberg poll, conducted shortly before the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act failed in the Senate, found 61 percent of Republican voters approving of Ryan, with every other voting bloc viewing him negatively.

“His numbers are no better than mine,” Pelosi said after Democrats lost a special election in Georgia’s 6th District. “The difference is we don’t engage in the politics of personal destruction.”

Republicans remain confident that Pelosi, who after Hillary Clinton’s defeat has become the focus of most negative conservative ads, is far more polarizing than Ryan. The Democrats’ 2018 House map, skewed by gerrymandering in key Rust Belt states and parts of the south, sets up races in suburbs where Pelosi remains toxic.

But the reluctance on display in Minnesota came from candidates running in three of the cycle’s 12 Trump/Democrat districts-- places where 2016 voters broke Republican for president, but sent a Democrat back to Congress. Trump’s surge among rural white voters nearly took out Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN), whose 1st District in the southern part of the state backed Barack Obama by 1.4 points, then backed Trump by 14.9 points.

Hagedorn, who was nearly elected by that swing, was among the candidates who refused to take a stand on Ryan this week. Saying he did not want to alienate any potential supporters, even “Washington Republicans,” he suggested that it was too early to ask candidates who they’d back for speaker.

...Only one of those candidates, trucking company owner and 7th District hopeful Matt Prosch, said he would back Ryan for speaker. His rivals, Hughes and Miller, veered between criticism of Ryan and hope that he could redeem himself.

“We’ve got to have to have leadership that ensures we do the will of the people,” Miller said. “Whoever that is, I’d support that.” Hughes, who lost to incumbent Rep. Collin C. Peterson (D-MN) in 2016, suggested that he was “not impressed” with Ryan and would see who else ran.

Stauber, who has no primary challenger as he seeks to defeat Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.), was just as lukewarm about Ryan. “When I’m in Congress, I’ll let you know, because people can change their views, change their ways,” he said. “People have the ability to change, and I hope he does.”

Answers like that could come back to haunt Republican candidates. In 2016, the CLF and the affiliated American Action Network spent $4.8 million on advertising against Nolan, a resilient campaigner who held on by just 2,072 votes. This year, as the CLF has focused on defending incumbents, it’s made clear that Republicans who buck Ryan won’t get help. That was demonstrated first when Rep. David Young’s (R-IA) initial opposition to the ACA repeal effort ended the CLF’s investment in his district.

“Our mission is to ensure that Paul D. Ryan remains Speaker after 2018,” said CLF executive director Corry Bliss. “Obviously in allocating resources to accomplish that goal, CLF will prioritize friends and family first.”
Goal ThermometerStauber, the goon running against progressive Democrat Rick Nolan said that "I won’t ask Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to come to my district." He better hope Nolan doesn't either. The sprawling 8th district, which goes from the exurbs not of Minneapolis west to Brainerd and north to Hibbing, Duluth and the Canadian border. Although Obama won the district comfortably both times he ran, MN-08 Democrats couldn't have asked for a worse candidate than Hillary Clinton. The blue collar district flipped to Trump and gave him a 54.2% to 38.8% win. Clinton underperformed Obama by 13 points. Bernie won the MN-08 caucuses by a gigantic margin-- 65.2% to 34.8%. District-wide, he had 12,096 caucus votes to Trump's 3,324. Bernie beat Hillary in every single one of the district's 18 counties and he beat Trump in all 18 as well. Stauber better hope Nolan doesn't invite him to the district. Bernie is, after all, the most popular national political leader in the district. I'm sure Nolan would love to see Bernie debate Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell or, best of all, Señor Trumpanzee, right up in Duluth.

Labels: , , , , ,

Art In Action, Against Trump


-by Noah

America's artists aren't taking the evil that is Donald Trump lying down. They have a message for him and all of his Republican allies. On Monday, two local New York artists paid a visit to the gift shop at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue and left some merchandise on display. The items looked like they belonged in more ways than one. They fit in so well with what one might expect to see at a Trump gift shop that they weren't even noticed until the next day. Only when some reporters, aka "horrible people," "nasty people," "liars," "the worst people," "dishonest people" had been tipped off about the merchandise and came in to buy some, did the Trump shop staff swing into action and remove the "unauthorized" goods.

What was so objectionable to the Trump people? Well, I doubt that 'objectionable' is the right word. The new items were, among other things, pee-proof Trump Rubber Sheets, Trump KKK hoods (Marketed "For Fine People"), Putin 45th President post cards, and Trump Russian flags. One of the artists, who wisely preferred not to give his name, said:
"We thought tourists coming in to buy stuff, especially people from other countries, should get the whole story of who the president is, because the items in the Trump store don't accurately reflect the person."
In fact Senor Trumpanzee himself is probably kicking himself for not already offering the items in question. Would it shock you if he went and had his own versions for sale, right next to his MAGA hats, in the near future? He can even have some Russian "models" demonstrating and wearing the hot new Trump products. I'm surprised he isn't selling Trumpanzee-branded tiki torches yet.

Labels: ,

Can Progressives Win House Seats Where Bernie Showed More Support Than Trump, But Where Trump Beat Hillary? Meet Neill Mohammad (IL-16)


Illinois' 16th congressional district-- which includes Dixon, Reagan's birthplace-- starts up at the Wisconsin border just below Beloit and goes into the eastern part of Rockford, swings south and east into the Chicago exurbs below Joliet and then east to the Indiana border and then south towards Bloomington and Peoria. It's a red district but it celebrated the hometown boy good will to give Obama a narrow win in 2008. Romney beat him in 2012 though, 53-45%, and last year it was Trump country. He beat Hillary 55.5% to 38.3%. She was the wrong candidate for the district. In the primary Bernie beat her in every single one of the district's 14 counties-- and it is her home state-- and on primary day Bernie also beat Trump-- 93,397 to 89,599.
Boone- Bernie- 2,773; Trump- 3,816
Bureau- Bernie- 1,852; Trump- 2,185
DeKalb- Bernie- 8,315; Trump- 5,139
Ford- Bernie- 438; Trump- 1,244
Grundy- Bernie- 3,095; Trump- 3,625
Iroquois- Bernie-875 ; Trump- 2,836
LaSalle- Bernie- 6,739 ; Trump- 6,950
Lee- Bernie- 1,958; Trump- 2,153
Livingston- Bernie- 971; Trump- 2,846
Ogle- Bernie- 2,642; Trump- 4,029
Putnam- Bernie- 504; Trump- 415
Stark- Bernie- 215; Trump- 397
Will- Bernie- 46,305; Trump- 38,507
Winnebago- Bernie- 16,715; Trump- 15,457
If the Democrats nominate another incremental centrist like Hillary, they'll continue losing districts like IL-16. But the self-serving Democratic Establishment which lives, like the self-serving Republican Establishment, first and foremost for corruption. They would rather nominate another dismal Hillary-type than allow a progressive to claim the nomination and beat Trump.

The congressman from IL-16 is mainstream conservative Adam Kinzinger, who is pretty popular. Kinzinger was reelected without an opponent. Two years earlier he beat his Democratic opponent 70.6% to 29.4% and the first time he ran, in 2014, he took the seat 61.8% to 38.2%. Nevertheless, this cycle, sensing an anti-Trump/anti-Ryan tsunami, there are already 4 Democrats vying for the nomination to take on Kinzinger-- "ex"-Republican Christopher Minelli (gun nut and anti single player conservative), Nathan Arroyave (progressive), Sara Dady (progressive) and Neill Mohammad (progressive). Neill, born and raised in DeKalb, a product of that city's public schools and a political science graduate from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, works as a health care management consultant.

A Candidate Can Be For Single Payer And Universal Healthcare And Still Be Skeptical About H.R. 676
-by Neill Mohammad

Health care is a personal issue for me.

My mom has suffered from Crohn’s Disease for most of her life. As a kid, that meant a lot of anxious, sleepless nights, worrying about what could happen to her, and if something did, who would care for me and my brother.

But as hard as it was to grow up with a parent with a serious illness, the one thing I never had to worry about was whether my mom was going to be able to get the health care that she needed.

I was stunned when Adam Kinzinger-- our current Congressional representative in Illinois’ 16th District-- voted to take healthcare away from the tens millions of working families who need it to live productive lives, care for their children, and contribute to their communities.

Adam co-sponsored a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act on just his fourth day in office. In his subsequent six years in Congress he voted dozens of times to bring back medical bankruptcy, lifetime benefit caps, and price-gouging for anyone with a preexisting condition. He voted to kill the Medicaid program, which would kick 6 in every 10 seniors living in nursing homes out onto the street.

Despite all that, I’ve been excited and encouraged to see just how far our public discussion on healthcare has come in just the last few years.

Support for universal healthcare isn’t a niche issue anymore. It’s the bare minimum expected of any progressive political candidate.

We all agree why we need a universal system of coverage, like a single-payer insurance program such as “Medicare for All.” Universal coverage will drive down costs and put patients’ well-being ahead of corporate profits.

Universal coverage will, at long last, end the absurd connection between what job we work at and what kind of care we have access to.

Your boss shouldn’t get decide what doctor you get to see. No  woman should have to go without reproductive health care just because the only place in town that happened to be hiring last week was Hobby Lobby.

We all know why we need real changes in the way that we deliver and pay for healthcare. How we get there, though, is still murky.

Many of the activists I talk to on the trail believe that we already have a solution in hand: the United States National Health Care Act, or H.R. 676. H.R. 676 would replace all other forms of health insurance outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Indian Health Service.

While I appreciate Rep. John Conyers’ longstanding leadership on this issue, simply passing H.R. 676 won’t do it in itself. It is a fantastic statement of purpose, but as a roadmap for the future it has serious shortcomings. If we want to realize our dreams of a more humane system of care in this country, we need to be honest in addressing those flaws.

And we need to address them now. Opportunities for meaningful healthcare reform don’t come around very often, and I don’t want to risk jeopardizing the window in front of us with a flawed and incomplete bill. As it stands today, HR 676:
Does not explain how Medicaid will be merged with the Medicare-for-All system. Medicaid, which insures 70 million Americans-- more than Medicare, covers extremely high-risk patients, many of which receive services which are currently excluded from Medicare. Despite that, Medicaid is an efficient and successful program.

Outlaws any kind of supplemental coverage outside of a single-payer system, even though supplemental policies feature prominently in many systems with universal coverage, such as France and Canada. The reality is that supplemental insurance is going to be a political necessity to get a universal healthcare bill passed, and supplemental insurance has not posed any threat to the basic quality of care or access in those other countries.

Maintains traditional Medicare’s “fee for service” model, which we know produces the wrong kind of incentives for reducing costs. It encourages providers to direct patients to unnecessary and redundant scans and other diagnostic tests.

Medicaid is responsible for the care of the sickest and most vulnerable Americans, such as nursing home residents, the severely disabled, and infant children. The lack of detail in the bill means that pushing Medicaid recipients into a different program is risky if we don’t give careful consideration to what change will look like.

Let me explain why.

Unlike Medicare, Medicaid already offers comprehensive health insurance and includes coverage for hearing, vision, and ancillary services like long-term care. Medicaid also has extremely low or zero cost-sharing for most enrollees, unlike traditional Medicare, which has large deductibles and no limit on out-of-pocket expenses.

Many seniors enroll in Medicaid precisely so they can cover the bills the Medicare won’t pay-- things like long-term nursing care.

As former CMS director Andy Slavitt and many scholars have pointed out, Medicaid provides high quality care at a lower cost than commercial employer plans and Medicare. Despite covering these lower reimbursement rates, research from the Kaiser Foundation has shown that people on Medicaid report similar access to care and similar satisfaction rates to those with commercial plans.

Finally, we know that it is straightforward to expand Medicaid to the uninsured with minimal disruption. The program started as a small plan to cover mothers and children on welfare in the 1960s. In the 1980s and 1990s, it expanded to cover the disabled, all parents, as well as many more children. After the 2010 passage of the ACA, it expanded to become universal for all members of households under 138 percent of the poverty line, which granted more than 12 million uninsured Americans access to health care.

All of this was done with relatively little disruption to the group insurance market. That lack of disruption is politically important-- since most people aren’t sick, many Americans remain happy with the commercial insurance they get through their employers. I’ve even talked to voters who, understandably, see Medicare as a potential downgrade versus what they have now.

These challenges are all surmountable, but they are real challenges. That’s why we need to continue to focus the political debate on the ends of healthcare reform-- why health insurance needs to be universal-- even while we continue to work on the right means of getting there.

I support Medicare for All. But I’d also be perfectly happy with Germany’s system, which is built on private insurance programs which are tightly regulated. Or France’s system, which includes private supplementary insurance alongside their government program. I don’t want to rule out any potential solution as long as it fulfills all of the basic expectations of a universal coverage system.

Some Democrats are already acting in that spirit and moving the ball forward. Sen. Brian Schatz has just introduced a bill for a universal Medicaid buy-in, which would address coverage and access issues under the Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile, Sen. Sherrod Brown and six other Senators have introduced a Medicare buy-in for people over 55. I’d support both of these ideas while expanding federal support for Medicaid further to reach more people-- including households within 200 percent or more of the poverty line.

Like Schatz-- who’s said he’d support Conyers plan, and will likely sign on to Bernie Sanders’ single-payer plan-- I want to build a universal coverage plan that works.

We only get so many chances at real healthcare reform. We have to make the most of this opportunity. We have to get it right.

If you'd like to learn more about Neill and his campaign, this is his official website.

Labels: , , , , ,

Sam Jammal: "Thousands Of Lobbyists Are Lining Up With Their Own 'Fixes' To Our Tax System"


In his Washington Post column yesterday, just before Señor Trumpanzee's closed-to-the-public speech in Springfield, Missouri, Greg Sargent predicted that we'd hear the death rattle of whatever pretensions to genuine economic populism Trump has ever harbored, if any. "Trump," he continued, "will make it official that this rhetoric is merely a disguise for the same old trickle-down economics we have heard for decades-- confirming that his economic agenda is in sync with the very same GOP economic orthodoxy that he so effectively used as a foil to get elected... [T]he most recent version of his plan would shower most of their benefits on the wealthy and corporations. And the Wall Street Journal reports that this is what his plan is expected to do, quoting officials who say he will sell this as pro-worker, by claiming it will end the 'rigged' economy he railed against during the campaign:"
One of the officials said Mr. Trump would make a “very bipartisan speech” that would reflect Americans’ frustration that a well-connected few are reaping economic gains.

“We’re going to end the rigged system,” said the official, echoing language used by groups backed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch and contending that Americans understand how they would benefit if businesses prosper. “We’re going to build a tax code that really allows all Americans to have access to the American dream.”
Sargent wanted to be clear that though Trump's plan is being "sold as as targeting the well-connected few," it is just a vehicle to "slash the top rate and corporate rate and repeal the estate tax." It's nothing more than newish packaging on serially failed Republican Party trickle down economics.
“The basic fallacy is that rich guys and corporations are paying too much,” [Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center's Steven] Rosenthal told me. “But actually we tax capital lightly, and we tax corporations ineffectively. We have a top statutory rate of 35 percent. But our corporations pay a much lower rate-- maybe half of that, depending on how you estimate it. They are paying an effective tax rate that is pretty competitive with our international competitors.”

Now, if Trump wants to make the case that huge high-end tax cuts will actually help workers, fine-- let’s have that debate. But the point is that Trump is revealing once again that his populist economic nationalism-- as he himself defined it-- was largely a scam all along. It had several main components. Trump signaled he’d break from Paul Ryan-style limited-government conservatism by protecting social insurance programs and by pushing for massive infrastructure spending. He’d break with the GOP economic orthodoxy that has reigned since Ronald Reagan, by taking on economic elites and getting them to “pay more,” and by pursuing protectionist trade deals in the interests of American workers. He’d also protect their interests (or pretend to, anyway) by deporting undocumented immigrants and building a wall on the Mexican border.

Trump sold out the first with his failed health plan. The big-spending infrastructure scheme is nowhere in sight. And today he will use that same rhetoric to sell a tax plan that lavishes most of its benefits on the top. Sure, maybe Trump’s trade agenda will end up benefiting workers-- we’ll see. But for now, his populist economic nationalism is pretty much dead, effective today. Just about all that’s left of it are the stepped-up deportations and the frantic bellowing about his Mexican wall to cheering rally crowds.

Meanwhile, over at the NY Times Magazine, Nick Confessore's How to Get Rich in Trump's Washington asserts that the Trumpanzee presidency has changed the rules of influence peddling and spawned a new breed of lobbyist on K Street.' His opus is based on a view that Trump's surprise election meant that Washington's "lobbying old guard-- the guys that threw down black Amex cards at Joe’s Crab and sent fat quarterly bills to clients they barely did any work for -- were on the defensive" and that new-- or b-list-- hustlers and shady characters would have a chance.
There are about 10,000 registered lobbyists in Washington-- roughly 20 for every member of Congress-- and thousands more unregistered ones: consultants and "strategic advisers" who are paid to help shape government policy but do not disclose their clients. By whatever name, they are the people companies and countries hire to help roll back regulations, unstick bids, tweak legislation or get meetings. Lobbying is at once Washington’s most maligned, enduring and essential industry. Underpaid young politicos and retiring lawmakers depend on Beltway lobby shops-- known as ‘‘K Street’’ after the city boulevard that once housed many of them-- for the high-six-figure salaries that will loft them into Washington’s petite aristocracy. Congress needs K Street, too: After decades of cutting its own staff and research arms, much of Capitol Hill’s institutional memory and policy expertise now resides in the lobbying industry. But the private sector needs lobbyists the most. The modern federal government is so sprawling and complex that it practically demands a specialized class of middlemen and -women.

Over the decades, lobbying has evolved from a niche trade of fixers and gatekeepers to a sleek, vertically integrated, $3-billion-a-year industry. A good lobbyist doesn’t go into a meeting asking for legislation; she or he already has the bill drafted, a coalition of businesses and trade groups poised to support it, a policy brief to hand out to reporters and to the officials positioned at dozens of decision points throughout the bureaucracy and relationships with advertising and polling firms to manage the public rollout. Everyone has a lobbyist-- or three, or 50-- and the lobbyists know everyone. K Street is majestic and immovable, veined through Washington like fat through a prime steak.
Last year venerable figure among Texas Democrats told me that a crook like Vicente Gonzalez, running for Congress at the time, had no interest in being an actual congressman-- and no knack for what it would take to succeed as one-- but that he would just join up with the most corrupt members of Congress he could find so as to start the process of building a post-Congress lobbying business. And, indeed, Gonzalez won-- pretending to be a progressive and even tricking the Congressional Progressive Caucus into endorsing him over an actual progressive-- and immediately joined the Blue Dogs, a group, like the New Dems, that routinely sells it's votes to lobbyists.

Last cycle, lobbyists spent $29,750,705 on "campaign contributions" (legalist bribes) for people running for Congress $22,779,300 of which went to incumbents. $16,047,566 went to corrupted Republicans and $13,652,190 went to corrupted Democrats. Of the dozen most corrupt people running for House seats last year-- measured by the amount of bribery they accepted from lobbyists-- 11 were Republican sleaze bags and just one was a Democrat, ultra-slimy New Jersey Blue Dog Josh Gottheimer.
Paul Ryan (R-WI)- $413,332
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)- $333,934
Barbara Comstock (R-VA)- $241,138
Steve Scalise (R-LA)- $197,321
Pat Tiberi (R-OH)- $170,753
Kevin Brady (R-TX)- $156,416
John Shimkus (R-IL)- $148,235
George Holding (R-NC)- $126,809
Patrick McHenry (R-NC)- $125,650
Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)- $120,766
Josh Gottheimer (Blue Dog-NJ)- $119,436
Greg Walden (R-OR)- $111,120

What do these 12 have in common-- aside from being conservatives? Each one is known throughout Washington have having no sense of morals and being out for themselves with careers contemptuous of American working families. Back to Confessore, the journalist who knows more about lobbyists, their corrupt practices and how they operate than anyone reporting about politics today. He wrote that "like virtually every other candidate for president, Trump campaigned against this thicket of money and influence, positioning himself as an outsider who would 'drain the swamp.' This pledge would soon prove more rhetorical than real, but it contained a grain of truth. Trump arrived in Washington with a relatively short baggage train of Beltway relationships and obligations. He didn’t read policy briefs; he barely had policies. His inner circle was a hodgepodge of Breitbart alumni, nominally Democratic financiers, Trump Organization employees on loan, the odd reality-show star and Republicans who would have been unemployable in almost any other administration. The smart money in Washington-- K Street and K Street’s clients, the big corporations and trade associations-- didn’t quite know what to expect. But mostly, they didn’t know whom to call." And that's where swampy creatures and crooks like Corey Lewandowski, Michael Cohen, Brian Ballard, Brad Gerstman, Barry Bennett, Newt Gingrich and other Trump (and Pence) cronies stepped in. Big firms like Lockheed Martin and paying immense sums to buy access to Trumpanzee. "Many of the Trump-connected lobbyists," wrote Confessore, "told me they were turning away as much business as they accepted. One person offered Lewan­dowski $250,000 just to get the president to tweet about him. A lobbyist who worked on Trump’s inaugural committee told me of a billionaire who, within a week of the inauguration, offered a million dollars if the lobbyist could arrange for his picture to be taken in the Oval Office with the new president... By the end of his first 100 days in office, it seemed, Trump had not so much drained the swamp as enshrouded it with a billowing fog of uncertainty. No previous president had changed his mind more often, or contradicted his cabinet so frequently, or permitted such vicious ideological combat under his White House roof... All of this had inadvertently created an entirely new business model for Trump’s friends and former employees. In normal times, K Street did much of its business on Capitol Hill, where the churn of legislation offered unending opportunity to deliver goodies for clients. But the power vacuum in Trump’s cabinet agencies, and the inexperience of his West Wing staff, seemed to offer a different kind of opening. It was easy to imagine that a single phone call, coming from the right person, could redirect a major policy initiative. Some of the old firms would do O.K., Lewandowski thought-- the ones that had relationships in Congress, that understood the intricate ballet of lawmaking. But the real action, he was betting, would be at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. 'I think this particular administration is really going to be driving the agenda,' he told me. 'Not Congress.'"
Official Washington professed itself to be aghast at Lewandowski, who did not bother to couch his sales pitches in the Beltway’s customary euphemisms: He was what they pretended not to be. Ethics watchdogs cast him as living proof of the hollowness of Trump’s campaign promise to "drain the swamp." Lewandowski disagreed. In his view, the swamp was the sprawling, unresponsive bureaucracy, not the people you paid to help you get your phone calls returned. Still, friends of Lewandowski’s told me that White House officials had advised him to keep a lower profile.

...In a sense, Lewandowski’s biggest problem was the president himself. Lewandowski had bet that the White House would be the center of energy and action in Trump’s Washington, but instead the Trump administration was being swallowed by its own chaos. Divided by factions and backbiting, unable to wield full control of the bureaucracy or execute on many of its own ambitions, the administration was in danger of becoming a minor player in the policy debates of the day. Many companies were coming to the conclusion that on complex issues like tax reform, their energies were better directed at lawmakers on Capitol Hill-- and their money better spent at the traditional lobbying firms stocked with ex-lawmakers and their former aides.

Moreover, despite Trump’s campaign pledges, many of the agencies he now oversaw had proved more than friendly to the legions of longtime Beltway lobbyists working for the energy, telecommunications and other industries. In many cases, Trump had hired them outright: By the summer, he had appointed more than 100 lobbyists to jobs in the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department, the Federal Communications Commission and elsewhere. Their old clients didn’t need much help from the new Trump guys on K Street. They already knew exactly whom to call.

Perhaps that’s why the traditional lobbying shops were doing just fine. As for protecting clients from Trump’s Twitter howitzer-- well, that had turned out to be easier than it looked, several lobbyists told me: Just show up in person, promise the president you’ll create some jobs and publicly give him the credit. "You make it about Trump and you link it to jobs, and you could be Russia or China and he will support you," one told me. "It is that unsophisticated."
Ann Coulter was live-tweeting the Trumpanzee speech yesterday

So let's go back to the Trumpanzee tax proposal and Sam Jammal-- candidate for the Democratic nomination to take on Wall Street shill Ed Royce in CA-39: "Right now, thousands of lobbyists are lining up with their own 'fixes' to our tax system. Everything is centered on how the most wealthy will benefit. None of the conversation is about how we help working families... Tax reform should be about making sure the middle class is still a reality for our community. We should scrap corporate tax reform and focus on reforms that help regular people. This includes increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit, expanding deductions on child care, student loans and home ownership, and promoting job creation by entrepreneurs and small business-- not paybacks to the uber wealthy. We can't continue to have an economy where so few can get ahead and so many are falling behind. Everything we are hearing on Trump's tax reform looks like a bad deal for our families. We need to stop this 'reform.'"

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Trump Tax Cuts For Multi-millionaires Will Be Paid For By Painful Cuts To Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Education


On Tuesday we asked half a dozen of the Blue America candidates how eager they are to go on the offensive over the GOP tax agenda. All of them are very eager to do just that. For example, James Thompson, the candidate for the Kansas congressional district centered around Wichita, thinks if the 2018 election iOS decided on tax policies, he'll be the next congressman from KS-04. "If you want to know what will happen to the rest of the United States as a result of Trump's tax reform," Thompson told us Tuesday morning, "just look at Kansas. The so called 'tax reform' being pushed by President Trump and Ron Estes is the nationalization of the same failed trickle down tax experiments of Sam Brownback in Kansas. Our schools and hospitals are underfunded and closing. Our infrastructure, especially in rural areas, is collapsing. Our businesses are leaving our state. Our guards in the prison system are underpaid and overworked in overcrowded prisons. Our police departments don't have the money for proper training and are short staffed. Our mental health care facilities, formerly number one in the country, are now ranked at the bottom. More and more people are falling below the poverty line. These are just a few of the examples of what 'tax reform' did to Kansas. The filthy rich got the tax break goldmine, and the working people of Kansas got the shaft. Supply side economics do not work. Businesses do not hire new employees because of tax breaks. Demand drives business. Rather than trying to get a bigger piece of the pie, how about increasing the size of the pie? Paying a living wage will circulate more money into the economy and create a larger tax base. Finally expanding Medicaid will allow 100,000 additional Kansans to get medical care, again pumping more money into our local economy. We have lost more than 2 billion dollars in the last couple of years as a result of failing to expand Medicaid. Using targeted trade agreements to allow farmers to sell their products internationally while also protecting the wages of our working class people at home will bring more money into our state. Republicans don't want to do this though, they want the pie all for themselves. In Kansas, we say 'pigs get fat, and hogs get slaughtered.' The Republicans are all greedy hogs lined up at the 2018 trough gorging themselves on the slop Trump is feeding them."

The next day, Tumpanzee was in Springfield, Missouri promoting his tax plan-- with one lie after another-- at a closed-to-the-public event behind the closed doors of one of his rich campaign donors. Just before Trump spoke, Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness, warned the media to “Make no mistake; what Trump and Republican leaders in Congress are proposing is not tax reform. They simply want massive tax cuts for millionaires, billionaires, and big corporations, at the expense of everyone else. And those tax giveaways will be paid for by cuts to Social Security, healthcare, education and other programs that maintain living standards for working families. It’s Trumpcare all over again, and it must be blocked.”

When Señor Trumpanzee says he will enact historic tax reform, as he always brags he will, all he's talking about is a fairly standard conservative $5 trillion tax giveaway benefitting the wealthy and big corporations. What there is of a Trump budget shows tax cuts being paid for by $4.3 trillion in cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, and other services that help working families get by in the GOP law of the jungle society they envision. He claims his plan will help the middle class but his revisions to the tax code primarily benefit the top 1% of income earners, no one's definition of the middle class. Everyone in the top 1% gets, on average, a nice $175,000 tax cut. Something like 25% of middle-class families would actually pay higher taxes under the Trumpanzee/Paul Ryan plan. Even worse, Trump would pay for his tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations by cutting public services working families rely on, such as Social Security, Medicaid, education, infrastructure, nutrition programs and other vital services.

Likewise, his bullshit claims that his plan helps small businesses are nothing but a hoax-- another boon for the wealthy. Trump says he's going to lower small business' taxes to 15% but most small businesses already pay taxes at a 15% rate or lower, so less than 7% of business owners would get any tax cut. More than three-quarters of the tax cuts would go to the richest 1% of business owners, who would get an average tax cut of $75,000 each year. These are not Main Street shopkeepers, but hedge fund managers, Wall Street lawyers and real estate developers like Trump, who would lower his own tax rate from roughly 40% to 15%.

And Trump was braying in Springfield, as Republicans always do, that corporate and individual tax rates need to be reduced because we have the highest taxes in the world-- a flat out lie Republicans love to recite endlessly. As Americans for Tax Fairness has shown, Americans are not taxed higher than other countries and, as a percentage of the overall economy, Americans pay less in taxes than 30 of 35 other similarly developed countries. And although the official corporate tax rate is 35%, most corporations pay much less because of loopholes. In fact, the Government Accountability Office found that profitable U.S. corporations paid an effective tax rate of only 14% from 2008 to 2012.

And when Trump boasted that his plan making deep cuts to the tax rate on accumulated offshore corporate profits will “bring that cash home” to be “reinvested” in the American economy, it's a complete conservative fantasy. The GOP's proposal to tax those offshore earnings at just 10%, instead of the 35% they currently owe, amounts to a $600 billion tax cut for tax-dodging corporations-- a huge loss of revenue that could be used for economy-boosting public investments. When Congress provided a similar tax giveaway in 2004, corporations that brought home their profits cut tens of thousands of jobs and gave 90%-- so 90 cents of every dollar-- in earnings brought home to rich shareholders through stock buybacks and dividends.

Americans For Tax Fairness: "Recent experience and academic research both show that tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations are a poor way to stimulate the economy and create jobs. And Trump’s proposed deep budget cuts to infrastructure, healthcare, medical research and education won’t help create jobs, either... Only the richest one of every 500 estates currently pays the estate tax-- the estate must be worth $5.5 million or more to be affected. The only effect abolishing the estate tax will have on American workers is to deprive them of over $20 billion in annual revenue, which pays for public services used by those who haven’t inherited a fortune... Big corporations don’t need a tax cut-- what they need is to start paying their fair share of taxes again.

As Sam Jammal, the progressive opponent challenging Wall Street shill Ed Royce-- Royce has taken an astronomical $7,303,507 in bribes from the Financial Sector since coming to Congress in 1993-- told us earlier in the week, he finds "this whole tax reform conversation to represent everything wrong with Washington. Right now, thousands of lobbyists are lining up with their own 'fixes' to our tax system. Everything is centered on how the most wealthy will benefit. None of the conversation is about how we help working families... Tax reform should be about making sure the middle class is still a reality for our community. We should scrap corporate tax reform and focus on reforms that help regular people. This includes increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit, expanding deductions on child care, student loans and home ownership, and promoting job creation by entrepreneurs and small business-- not paybacks to the uber wealthy. We can't continue to have an economy where so few can get ahead and so many are falling behind. Everything we are hearing on Trump's tax reform looks like a bad deal for our families. We need to stop this 'reform.'"

Goal ThermometerMatt Cartwright is one of a small handful of progressive Democrats reelected last year in district that Trump won (click on the thermometer on the right for the list). Trump beat Hillary in Matt's largely blue collar Pennsylvania district 53.4% (10 points better than Romney had done) to 43.3% (12 points worse than President Obama had done in 2012). Meanwhile, Cartwright, an assertive and skillfiul champion for working families, was reelected 53.8% to 46.2%, a margin of over 20,000 votes. But the Republican Party is targeting Matt in a big way this cycle. They've recruited a self-funding Wall Street hack, John Chrin, a former managing director at JP Morgan Chase who lives on millionaires' row in swanky Short Hills, New Jersey-- a Wall Street company town. He claims he can run in PA-17 because his paternal grandfather owns a company that owns a landfill in Northampton County. Chrin's mansion is about a two hour drive--more if there's traffic on the I-80-- from Scranton and Wilkes-Barre in the district. He lives in Leonard Lance's district although I suppose he can move into his grandfather's company's landfill if the commute to PA-17 gets too arduous for him. Trump's tax plan is tailor-made for people exactly like John Chrin. Above is the new ActBlue "Trump District Progressives" thermometer. It's important; please take a look.

Yesterday, Matt, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, told us that his "own impression is that in all likelihood, the GOP tax plan will follow the 2017 playbook for major Republican legislation:  it will be introduced with much fanfare and loudly ballyhooed by the president. Then, people will read it. These people will include the diligent accountants and analysis at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The CBO will score it and reveal it to be an unabashed giveaway to the wealthiest people in America, an actual tax increase to many middle-income earners, and a drain on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The ensuing public outcry will stun even the most insensate GOP members of Congress, and result in the president blaming GOP congressional leaders and claiming he never had anything to do with it. Then the president will send out an astonishing tweet, on a different subject, so outrageous as to be incapable of being ignored, attempting to get everyone to forget about his festival of legislative failures and broken promises. How long Americans continue to fall for this nonsense is anybody’s guess."

Ro Khanna represents a big chunk of white collar Silicon Valley. He also represents the solidly middle and working class blue collar areas in the South and East Bay like Newark and Fremont. He's no more a fan of Trump's tax plan than Matt Cartwright is. He told us that "Trump's $5 trillion giveaway to the speculator class is not just morally wrong but also hurts our economic growth. If we really want to grow the economy at 3 percent, we should use that money instead to give tax credits to working families, to have Medicare for all, to invest in research and development, to provide debt free college and to support apprenticeships, tech courses, and vocational education. The democrats need to make the case that our policies are pro growth and pro American competitiveness.  We also shouldn't be afraid to provide a bold $5 trillion plan for investing in our economy as a counter to Trump."

Meanwhile, in the alternative universe on the fringes of American society, this is not a parody of the Bannon-Mercer neo-Nazi website, Bretbart. This is an actual Breitbart page from yesterday. This is what the neo-Nazis across America are reading today. And remember, we're talking about people with 2-digit IQs incapable of intellectual discernment beyond that of a slow-witted 8 or 9 year old. And they're armed.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Is The Other White House Neo-Nazi, Stephen Miller, Laying Low 'Til It All Blows Over?


Feelin' isolated... by Nancy Ohanian

As Señor Trumpanzee ran around frantically trying to claim credit for something to do with Hurricane Harvey-- instead of blame for denying the climate change that made it catastrophic-- his support on the fringe right kept eroding. Monday, Politico reported how dangerous far right lunatic was whining at the National Review that the adults surrounding Trump don't let Bolton anywhere near him anymore. Bolton claimed that "that although former chief White House strategist Steve Bannon had asked him to draw up a plan to extricate the United States from the Iran deal in late July, that plan never made it to Trump’s desk after Bannon was fired earlier this month."

And Bolton isn't the only neo-Nazi type being kept away from the impressionable and senile occupant of the Oval Office. In fact, actual Nazi, Sebastian Gorka-- unceremoniously fired and barred from the White House grounds-- told The Hill that he blames Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan and frets that Trumpanzee is feeling "isolated." In his interview, the vengeful Gorka said Ryan and McConnell are living in a "fantasy illusion that Nov. 8 was their victory as much as it was the president's" and that their "credibility is lost and unrecoverable... I don't think [Ryan and McConnell] are working against [Trump], but they're definitely not working with him." He threatened that "they will pay a penalty for that mistake and belief."
Gorka said Trump feels more isolated at the White House, and suggested he does not like all of the changes instituted by new chief of staff John Kelly, who has restricted access to the president as a means of bringing more discipline to the Oval Office.

“The president currently feels, to a certain extent, isolated,” Gorka said. “Individuals don't have access to him as they did in the past.

“So we know [Chief of Staff] General Kelly wanted to impose a certain regimen on the system,” he said. “But there are aspects of the new regime that the president is not satisfied with, let me leave it at that.”

Gorka said the key to Kelly's success in his new role will ultimately come down to chemistry and a “commitment to the president's vision.”

“He's definitely asserted control as one would expect from a military professional,” says Gorka. “The key unknown is whether his style will comport with the president's expectations and own style.

“Look at White House history. Being an effective chief of staff is never just about efficiency. It's far more about chemistry and commitment to the president's vision.”

Though Gorka insists he resigned, the White House has disputed that characterization in a statement that explicitly said he had not resigned. Many see Kelly as having pushed out Gorka, who worked as a deputy assistant to Trump on national security issues.

Gorka said Bannon’s exit was a reason for his own departure. He insisted the final straw, however, was a speech the president gave on the administration’s new Afghanistan policy that didn't include the words “radical Islam.”

Gorka, in a series of interviews, has said many in the White House are working against Trump and do not believe in his “Make America Great Again” agenda.

“There are individuals who don’t agree with the original agenda that we campaigned for,” Gorka said. “And as such, I can't support that dilution of the original mission. But I can do a lot more on the outside to make sure the president’s original vision is implemented.”

Above is an actual ad Republicans are running in rural areas of several states to rile up their base-- although our art director swapped out the photograph of the perfect little Aryan family they used-- looks like it came right out a Deutschland über Alles propaganda piece, for one that better represents the actual Trumpist base in all its glory. And below... well please watch the short MSNBC segment all the way to the end or you'll miss Chris Hayes' best impression ever:

Labels: , ,

Feel sorry for "Miss Mitch" McConnell? Huh? Well, maybe if he's standing in the path of the Falling Anvil of Orange


If Looks Could Kill Dept.: Naturally in the above photo it's the World's Blowsiest Blowhard bloviating, while Senate Majority Leader "Miss Mitch" McConnell, er, sits silently by -- of course it could be that he's just thinking about the fun of going home to the company of Transportation Sec'y Mrs. Miss Mitch. (Note: If you have a suitably Photoshoppish imagination, feel free to visualize Miss Mitch with a hatchet buried in that odious head. Either odious head, actually.)

by Ken

Miss Mitch is one of the last people on the planet I would normally expect to be sticking up for. Nevertheless, that's kinda what I found myself doing the other day.

It all started when I noticed this link in a DailyKos roundup:

NYT: Trump yelled at McConnell for not protecting him from Russia investigations

That's not when I found myself feeling sorry, kinda, for Miss Mitch. Not yet. Oh, I suppose I was commiserating with him, kinda, but mostly I found myself seeing Trump, and maybe even kinda sorta feeling sorry, or something, for a poor horrendously damaged boy buried under infinite layers of crud. I dashed off an e-note I to the gang, in which I took care to note first:
I've never bothered to inform myself about our Donald's family history, since I've never wanted to know any more about those hateful people. I've always wanted to know LESS about them -- really, as little as possible. Just hoping they would all go away and I wouldn't have to think about them any more.

So I was surprised when The Donald not long ago rambled publicly about his druggie brother Fred. Then today I noticed this link in a DailyKos e-mail.
"Suddenly," I went on to explain:
this image of Trump yelling at McConnell gave me an image of Little Donnie growing up being persistently abused verbally by Big Fred. In the pictures of Fred I've seen he looks like a total wienie, but even the wimpiest guy wouldn't have much trouble bullying his kid for at least a certain number of years. And then, just maybe, there's a fleeting image of Little Donnie being abused who-knows-how by Young Fred.

I realize this isn't a deep thought, and of course merely a speculation rather than a fact. And even if it were an established fac, it wouldn't be an especially surprising one, since we know that men who engage in domestic abuse are overwhelmingly likely to have been victims of abuse. Still, for me something clicked into place here.
This is pure thumb-sucking, of course. I have no inside knowledge, no particular expertise, just a heap of instincts piled on by grizzled experience -- activated, I suppose, by some morbid curiosity as to how a human mind becomes this perverted.

Some of the response, though, targeted Miss Mitch, and included some skepticism about a possibly staged feud between these two pillars of the revered, harmoniously functioning U.S. federal government. What follows is a somewhat cleaned-up version of my reply. Again, it's all pure thumb-sucking.


It's all so preposterous and unbelievable, I'm pretty much speechless. [Okay, the "pretty much speechless" part proved a faulty prediction. Is anyone really surprised? -- Ed.]

I don't have much trouble, though, believing that Trump is screwing with Miss Mitch, partly because showing people who think they're hot stuff that he can screw with them to his heart's content is one of the things he most loves to do and partly because, as people are noting, the Trump Faithful are so clueless that at least on the surface -- which is as far as Trump sees, and as we know he doesn't see that very well -- it looks like a winning face-saving strategy to trick them into believing that it's McConnell and Ryan who've betrayed them and not their messiah.

In my understanding of the situation, Miss Mitch surely understands exactly what Our Leader is doing to him but can't see a play for himself. Miss M, since achieving real power, has taken pride in being a pragmatist, working in the trenches with a good deal of success to make reality align with his wishes and goals. Then along comes Trump, who simply doesn't acknowledge reality, and Mitchie's whole history leaves him bereft of tools with which to counter.

Think back to January 2017, when Mitchie knew he was probably facing two years (at least) of hell, trying to "lead" a majority that had to look completely unleadable, even if the new president behaved sensibly. His "majority," already increasingly hard to deal with in the last Congress, was giving him pretty clear signals that he couldn't count on them for anything if it made the poor dears unhappy, and given the chasm that had opened up in the Republican Party, there were hardly any issues on which he could expect to make 50 of the buggers happy -- let alone find 60 votes where needed.

And then Trump turns out to be . . . TRUMP! All the things Mitchie has spent so many years learning about how the Senate works, and Congress as a whole, and Congress and the president -- it's all out the window, because Trump doesn't care. Fuck reality! Leaving Mitchie in need of some kind of play, any kind of play, and I assume he's discovered that he doesn't have any. By "a play" I mean something, anything, that in some way, shape, or form brings him even the tiniest bit closer to a good outcome for Mitchie -- and there isn't one.

Publicly oppose the president? What does that get him? Except a one-way ticket out of the circles of power. Consult the numerous variants of the proposition: If you try to kill the king, you better make sure he's dead. It's especially true, surely, with this particular imperial wizard.

Do we imagine that Mitchie has forgotten what happened to poor "Sunny John" Boehner, the ex-House speaker, when he merely tried to get the Tea Party crazies in his House GOP conference to be, you know, a little reasonable? Now Mitchie not only has this problem in spades in his conference (after all, his crazies are senators, and each of them knows better than anyone how much more powerful a single senator is than a whole wolfpack of House GOP crazies).

It's not a matter of "policy" as such. Beyond a general far-right agenda, after all, Miss Mitch has no policy, no principles to speak of except what's good for Mitchie. You'd think this might make him just the fellow to deal with Trump, who after all has no principles to speak of except what's good for Donnie, and certainly no policy; he's had so many positions on so many policies that he couldn't keep track of them if he cared. The thing is, though, that "what's good for Donnie" is good only for Donnie and his nearest and dearest. For most everyone else it's a living nightmare.

Take Obamacare repeal-and-replacement. As began to become clear with the dawn of the new administration, Obamacare repeal was going to be a vastly different feat to accomplish than it had appeared in those years when Republicans could ritually vote for repeal, knowing President Obama would veto any such bill. Once Obamacare repeal became a real, live issue, it became clear that it would have been hard enough to manage if all that Mitchie had to deal with was: (a) the House Republican crazies, and (b) the Senate Republican crazies. But Trump showed not the slightest understanding of that process, or seem to feel any more need to than he had any interest in what was actually in any repeal bill.

The one and only thing he cared about was being able to sign a bill that could be called "Obamacare repeal" because of the intense political pressure he felt to not break yet another campaign promise, especially one he'd make such a fetish of promising it to the voters who came to worship him, voters to whom he had lied so persistently and shamelessly. And throughout the process, he did nothing but make it even harder -- whether he was injecting himself into the process or withdrawing from it, lobbing grenades or sulking in his tent, cajoling and hectoring or ignoring and snubbing, everything he did was strategically wrong.

If you're Mitchie, you entered the Obamacare-repeal derby with a legislative position that was impossible, and at every twist and turn Trump did everything in his power to make it harder. At each of those twists and turns Mitchie kept coming up with new stratagems to make the thing doable, and each time Trump managed to make it, if you will, impossibler.

A few months into the Trump presidency, as the Man of Orange made it more and more abundantly clear that yes, this was how he planned to "govern," my sense formed that no, he's not going to be impeached but I also don't see how he serves out his full term. The only course I saw was that eventually enough DC Republicans -- and the people who bankroll them -- might come to come to the realization that the son of a bitch is killing us!!! He's so nuts and so inept that he's going to cost us our positions and whatever finger position we have on the levers of government. At that point the Trump exit I imagined would happen through behind-the-scenes persuasion: having him hear from all the people he trusts that the only way out for Donnie is to get the hell out of that damned White House. This I suspected, and still suspect, may be more possible than it seemed/seems, because by all accounts he's not having the fun time he was expecting.

Which wasn't/isn't an especially glad prospect for me, because it simply leaves us at the mercy of the Unspeakable Pence, who unlike Trump and Mitchie has a whole political agenda he believes deeply in. I've heard people say that a President Unspeakable would occupy the office in a weak position, I think that's nuts. Look how much the Right is accomplishing in Washington changing the nature and structure of the U.S. government even in these times of legislative stasis. Take Trump out of the equation, and I think Pence, in league with all those frothing-at-the-mouth loonies who chair the relevant House and Senate committees, is in a position to set in motion an orgy of legislative craziness.

So yeah, I feel kinda bad for Miss Mitch. It doesn't really matter what exactly the president is yelling at him about. The notion that there's something Mitchie could have done to shield his master from Special Counsel Mueller's investigations is totally nuts to everyone who has even the teeniest-tiniest contact with reality, but that number doesn't include POTUS. It might be suggested that Miss Mitch really doesn't have much to lose at this point, considering that right now the Senate majority leader's powers are pretty much zip, especially if he's going to find himself in the president's crosshairs as designated scapegoat.

Nevertheless, what can Mitchie do? I don't think he can even dare to offer the president a confidential opinion that he'd do well to get going while the going is still good. However incompetent Trump may be at actual constructive achievements, would you want to challenge his ability to make your life a living hell?


I didn't go into this in my original e-mail, but I've been thinking about it as I reread and tinkered with what I did write.

Remember when I wrote that "I suspected, and still suspect" that persuading Donnie to get the hell out of the White House "may be more possible than it seemed/seems"? Ironically, the apparently growing momentum of Special Counsel Mueller's investigations, with all those grand juries he's had impaneled, may make this persuasion harder, and harder still if Mueller shows signs of having the goods on Donnie.

Donnie, after all, knows why he take the monumental risk of resolutely refusing under any circumstances to release those tax returns. And Donnie surely has a pretty good idea of what looking into his business dealings can turn up. And it's not just the humiliation of being revealed as a lifelong fraud -- far from a master dealmaker and entrepreneur, a bumbling business halfwit who had certain public-relations talents but proceeded to fuck up every deal he touched and would have been a bankrupt and pauper if he hadn't gotten the inspired idea to start courting the world's sleaziest superrich scumbags to keep him afloat in exchange for aiding and abetting their international money-laundering and other fraudulent and/or illegal enterprises.

As desperately as Trump has been trying to sling mud at Special Counsel Mueller and his associates (who include a large number of lawyers and other investigators with a track record of investigating and prosecuting the very kinds of enterprises their current mandate calls for them to get to the bottom of), I can't help feeling that his real terror is that Mueller appears to be -- can you believe it? -- an honest man! And a competent one.

The legal point remains unresolved as to whether a sitting president can be indicted, and nobody has yet pressed the point. An ex-president seems like a whole other president, which could mean that Donnie has a special interest in not being pried out of the White House.

But he has to leave sometime. Doesn't he?


I would be remiss if I signed off without sharing Noah's vision of what's to come for our beloved Senate majority leader, shared as we were kicking this around via e-mail. "My version," he ventured, "would have Mitch ending up killing himself but taking out a few people with him at the W.H."

Later he clarified: "Of course my Viking ancestors cry out for the Blood Eagle treatment for all of these lowlifes." And he added this "PS":
According to a new Vanity Fair article, Buffy and Biffy Kushner are very depressed in Washington and feel their self esteem is under assault. I feel soooooo bad for them. It just makes me cry, I tell ya.
Now that's a note I feel utterly comfortable leaving on.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Conservatives' Biggest Contribution To Mankind: Climate Change, Planetary Destruction


Anytime you put profit over people in ANYTHING, you risk disaster.
-Dayna Steele, candidate Texas CD-36

30,000 Texans may wind up in shelters. Ten have already been confirmed dead from Hurricane Harvey. Flooding is getting worse, damaged refineries could be spewing toxic fumes, and the public health consequences of the storm are still beginning to make themselves felt. Is it fair to blame the storm on the bribed politicians-- primarily but not exclusively-- who have found it convenient to deny and denigrate the science around Climate Change? You bet it is. And they all need to lose their comfy jobs next year-- starting with House Science Committee chair Lamar Smith. Tuesday morning, in his NY Times column, David Leonhardt wrote that Harvey is the storm that humans helped cause.
Even before the devastation from Harvey, southeastern Texas was enduring a year unlike any before.

The daily surface temperature of the Gulf of Mexico last winter never dropped below 73 degrees. You can probably guess how many previous times that had happened: Zero.

This sort of heat has a specific effect on storms: Warmer weather causes heavier rainfall. Why? When the seas warm, more moisture evaporates into the air, and when the air warms-- which has also been happening in Texas-- it can carry more moisture.

The severity of Harvey, in other words, is almost certainly related to climate change.

Yes, I know the sober warning that’s issued whenever an extreme weather disaster occurs: No individual storm can be definitively blamed on climate change. It’s true, too. Some version of Harvey probably would have happened without climate change, and we’ll never know the hypothetical truth.

But it’s time to shed some of the fussy over-precision about the relationship between climate change and weather. James Hansen, the eminent climate researcher, has used the term “scientific reticence” to describe this problem. Out of an abundance of academic caution-- a caution that is in many ways admirable-- scientists (and journalists) have obscured climate change’s true effects.

We don’t display the same fussiness in other important areas. No individual case of lung cancer can be definitively linked to smoking, as Heidi Cullen, the chief scientist at Climate Central, notes. Few vehicle accidents can be definitely linked to alcohol, and few saved lives can be definitively linked to seatbelts.

Yet smoking, drunken driving and seatbeltless riding each created a public health crisis. Once the link became clear and widely understood, people changed their behavior and prevented a whole lot of suffering.

Climate change is on its way to becoming a far worse public health crisis than any of those other problems. Already, it has aggravated droughts, famines and deadly heat waves. In the United States, global warming seems to be contributing to the spread of Lyme disease.

Now we have Harvey. It has brought yet another flood that’s being described as unprecedented. It is terrorizing thousands of Texans and submerged large parts of the nation’s fourth-largest city, Houston.

...“The heaviest rainfall events have become heavier and more frequent, and the amount of rain falling on the heaviest rain days has also increased,” as the National Climate Assessment, a federal report, found. “The mechanism driving these changes,” the report explained, is hotter air stemming from “human-caused warming.”

Heavier rain can then interact with higher sea levels to increase flooding, as seems to have happened with Harvey. In Houston’s particular case, a lack of zoning laws has led to an explosion of building, which further worsens flooding. The city added 24 percent more pavement between 1996 and 2011, according to Samuel Brody of Texas A&M, and Houston wasn’t exactly light on pavement in 1996. Pavement, unlike soil, fails to absorb water.

Add up the evidence, and it overwhelmingly suggests that human activity has helped create the ferocity of Harvey. That message may be hard to hear-- harder to hear, certainly, than stories of human kindness that is now mitigating the storm’s toll. But it’s the truth.

Beyond Harvey, the potential damage from climate change is terrifying. Disease, famine and flooding of biblical proportions are within the realm of possibility. Unfortunately, stories of potential misery have not been enough to stir this country to action. They haven’t led to a Manhattan Project for alternative energy or a national effort to reduce carbon emissions.
The progressive Democrat running to replace House Science Committee chair-- and notorious Science denier-- Lamar Smith (R-TX-21), is Derrick Crowe. This morning Derrick told us that "some 30% of the precipitation from Hurricane Harvey could be attributed to human-caused global warming dynamics. But this was hardly the first experience this congressional district has had with climate change. In 2015, Texas lost 15 people and left 12 others missing in devastating floods, and our state climatologist said those floods were some of the best evidence yet that climate change is hitting Texas. And it’s not limited to floods. The 2016/2017 winter was the warmest on record in the Austin area. Peach trees need a certain number of chilling hours to bear fruit. They didn’t get that in this warm winter. That hurt the peach crop in the Hill Country. Some orchards had no crop to bring to market at all. If Lamar Smith were more committed to serving his constituents instead of his corporate donors, he would know this. The chairman of the House Science Committee is not only denying the science of climate change, but he's denying his constituents the benefits of science-based policies that could be mitigating life-threatening challenges here in Central Texas. That's an abject failure of leadership, and it's immoral."

MIT's Technology Review tried shedding some actual light on the problem, asking How Much Is Climate Change to Blame for Tropical Storm Harvey? "The consensus so far: we can’t say climate change caused Harvey, but it certainly made it worse than it could have been."
Writing for the Guardian, Michael E. Mann, a professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University, points out that sea levels have risen by over six inches around Houston during the last few decades as a result of human action. That means that the water surge forced inland by the storm was six inches taller than it would have been in the past.

But, as Hal Needham, from research firm Marine Weather and Climate in Galveston, Texas, says to the New York Times: “A two- or three-foot storm surge alone would not have been catastrophic.” Indeed, it’s the quantity of rain on top of the surge that appears to have made it such a disaster. The storm has already deposited at least 20 inches of rain, and some estimates suggest that the figure could climb to 50 inches in some areas.

That, too, is likely to have been exacerbated by humans. Mann points out that average temperatures in the area where Harvey developed were over 1 °C higher than they would have been several decades ago. The elevated temperatures will have caused between 3 and 5 percent more moisture to evaporate into the atmosphere than would have been the case in the past, meaning that there was more water to fall as rain when the storm hit.

Kevin Trenberth, from the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, agrees. He tells the Atlantic that “the human contribution can be up to 30 percent or so of the total rainfall coming out of the storm.”

Mann also speculates that the way Harvey has hung over Houston, offering no respite, could also be our fault. He points to his own research, which suggests that stationary weather anomalies appear to be linked to human-caused global warming.

So, how much blame can we lay at our own feet for Harvey? By no means all: it’s a natural disaster, the result of a series of complex systems that happened to act together in a deeply undesirable way. But we definitely made things worse.

Labels: , , , , , ,