Saturday, March 24, 2018

Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

What could go wrong? Of course, to Trump, wrong is right.

Larry Kudlow has a proven track record of being an economic imbecile. Just like the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, Scott Pruitt as head of the E.P.A, Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Interior, and so many others, the appointment of an idiot like Larry Kudlow to make decisions that will influence the U.S. economy, is just one more step in our Manchurian president's plans to create and aim a perfect storm of destruction at the United States of America. No one is rejoicing over the appointment more than the leaders of Russia and China. There can be no other explanation for the appointment of Kudlow. Stupidity? Nope, even a total imbecile gets it right once in a while. But, a deliberate traitor does not. Meanwhile, Trump's accomplices in Congress, lead by $enate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House $peaker Paul Ryan continue and continue serve the enemies of the state and join in as eager accomplices.

In my dreamworld, I could give you this solid economic prediction: Buy stock in companies that make nice strong rope, but be sure to sell the stock before it dives like everything else will.

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Friday, March 23, 2018

A Petulant And Crazy Trumpanzee Wants A Trade War With China-- Stock Market Crashes


Crazy news from Trump World yesterday-- all chaos all the time: his lead lawyer quit or was fired; National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster was fired, to be replaced by war-monger John Bolton (who wants to start wars with North Korea and Iran); more prostitutes were telling their stories about Trump; Trump is ready to start a trade war with China... and in response to all this-- and more-- the Dow dropped 742 points (2.9%).

My financial advisor sent her clients a note blaming the crash on "concern raised by proposed tariffs and the threat of future trade issues with China that could affect global growth... The potential for rising interest rates coupled with increased tariffs has generated concern among some investors despite strength in the underlying domestic economy and labor markets... [I]nvestors are concerned that the proposed tariffs could lead to retaliatory tariffs or broader trade disruptions. For the financial markets, it’s been a back-and-forth between unfavorable trade policy moves (e.g., the steel and aluminum tariffs) and the partial walking-back of those moves (e.g., exempting Canada, Mexico and other nations from those tariffs)... Thursday’s announcement to impose tariffs on Chinese goods creates uncertainty for domestic and global economies... As the United States and China open up trade negotiations, Mills believes the most likely outcome is that the market will start to recover if China takes a measured response to mitigate the impact of the proposed tariffs."

Trumpanzee, in an executive memo, instructed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to levy tariffs on at least $50 billion of Chinese imports, citing allegations China violates U.S. intellectual property. China's Ambassador, Cui Tiankai, wrote that "We don't want a trade war but we are not afraid of it. [China] "will certainly fight back and retaliate. If people want to play tough, we will play tough with them and see who will last longer." He said Trumpanzee's rush into a trade war with China make "no economic sense" because it "will affect the daily life of American middle-class people, the balance sheet of American companies and the indexes of the financial market." The first American products targeted by China are pork and aluminum products.

Mike Snider, writing for USAToday reported that Trump's foolish bull in a china shop attitude towards China will make our phones and laptops cost more. If Trump follows through with his bluster we're looking at slower U.S. growth output-- something like $332 billion over the decade.
Apple's iPhones and other smartphones, computers, washing machines and other goods could all have higher price tags.

And that, in turn, could lead to lower productivity and U.S. growth, which could also hit consumers' pocketbooks, experts say.

"Consumers will pay more, but the more important hit is there’s less consumption by business and organizations who use these technologies to become more productive," said Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation. "Therefore, productivity grows more slowly, the economy grows less and wages grow less. Overall (gross domestic product) grows less."

...[T]he president's willingness to seek guidance from U.S. industry groups is a "welcomed first step," said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, in a statement.

“Unfair trade practices must be addressed, but the solution is not to put a new tax on U.S. businesses and force consumers to pay dramatically more to access the technology products they need," Shapiro said. "Increased tariffs and trade wars risk the nearly 2.5 million American jobs associated with trade involving technology products. Such a move threatens U.S. economic growth and wipes out the benefits of our recent tax reform."

...The Telecommunications Industry Association agreed that even though China had engaged in unfair trade practices, tariffs on tech products may be short-sighted. “The proposed tariffs of 25% on information communications technology goods would make it more expensive to expand and upgrade American communication networks," said Cinnamon Rogers, TIA’s senior vice president of government affairs, in a statement. "Companies, governments and individuals would find it harder to access an essential productivity tool."

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Another Judge Rules That Scott Walker Can't Steal Elections-- And She Was His Appointment


The Wisconsin Republican Party has worked damn hard to gerrymander the state in such a way as to take a 50/50 purple state and produce a state Assembly with 64 Republicans and 35 Democrats and a state Senate with 18 Republicans and 14 Democrats. And Governor Scott Walker-- and his backers-- have no intention of anything-- elections and voters-- rain of their parade. Keep in mind, the Republican Party took control of both houses in 2011. They immediately gerrymandered the state top to prevent Democrats from ever regaining control. So, in 2012 when Democrats won a majority of the vote, Republicans still retained control of both houses of the legislature. On November 21, 2016, U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled that the Republicans' 2011 redistricting was unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering, finding that the 2011 redistricting plan violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of one man, one vote. Walker is nervous about what could happen next. And he should be.

On January 16 there were 3 special elections. In Senate District 10-- in the far west of the state where Trump had dominated-- Republican Sheila Harsdorf had resigned to take over as Walker's Secretary of Agriculture. She had just been reelected with 63.2% of the vote and the Republicans had no fear they could lose a seat that had held for 2 decades. But they did. Democrat Patty Schachtner beat Republican Assemblyman Adam Jarchow 54.6% to 44.2%. The swing away from Trump was around 26 points. The 2 other specials that day were for Assembly seats and the Democratic seat when to a Democrat and the Republican seat went to a Republican, although the swing away from the Republicans was massive (25 points) but not quite massive enough.

Nevertheless, Walker decided the best way to deal with the GOP setbacks would be to cancel all special elections and just leave the seats empty. Voters in the districts impacted sued-- and won yesterday. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Dane County Circuit Judge Josann Reynolds-- whom Walker appointed to the bench in 2014-- determined Walker had a duty under state law to hold special elections so voters could have representation in the Legislature. She said failing to hold special elections infringed on the voting rights of people who lived in the two districts." The two seat have been empty since December, 2017. Senate District 1 (Polk and Burnett counties northeast of Green Bay on the Door Peninsula) was won by Trump by 18 points. Romney beat Obama there by 5 points. The 42nd Assembly District (parts of Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Marquette, Green Lake and Fond Du Lac counties) also went strongly for Trump (by 13 points) although Obama took it by 3 points in 2012.
"To state the obvious, if the plaintiffs have a right to vote for their representatives, they must have an election to do so," said Reynolds.

Under her ruling, by next week Walker must call two special elections to fill the seats that belonged to former Sen. Frank Lasee of De Pere and former Rep. Keith Ripp of Lodi. The two Republicans stepped down in December to join Walker's administration.

Reynolds did not say when the elections would be held, though they could be as late as May. The winners would stand for election again in November.

...The ruling came on what Assembly leaders contended was likely their last session day of 2018. But Reynolds noted lawmakers could come in for a special session in the coming months, particularly if the U.S. Supreme Court sides with a panel of three federal judges that new congressional and legislative maps must be drawn. 

The case hinged on a state law that says Walker must promptly call a special election to fill any legislative seat that becomes vacant "before the second Tuesday in May in the year in which a regular election is held."

Walker aides contended Walker didn't need to hold special elections because the vacancies occurred not in 2018-- the election year-- but in 2017.

The judge called that interpretation absurd because a seat that becomes vacant in 2017 remains empty longer than one that begins in 2018.

The judge took a shot at Walker for contending he didn't have to hold the election when the statutes are clear and he so often talks about the need for judges and others to follow the plain meaning of laws.

"I cannot reconcile the incongruity between Governor Walker's administration's very vocal and consistent policy advocating for strict constructionism and the position taken by the attorney general in this case involving the most basic constitutional guarantee," Reynolds said.

Democrats cheered the ruling.

"Governor Walker is clearly intimidated by the thought of losing more power when voters go to the polls," Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) said in a statement. "His refusal to call special elections is depriving thousands of Wisconsin families equal representation in the Legislature.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) ripped the judge as an "activist Dane County judge" who had injected her "own personal opinion into how we conduct elections."

He said he wasn't aware Walker had appointed the judge but said her approach was endemic to judges in liberal Madison.

"It’s something about the water in Dane County," Vos said. "That’s why I try to stay here as little as I can."
State Senator Chris Larson, probably the most progressive Democrat in the legislature, was happy to see the court ruling yesterday. This is what he told us this morning about it: "From cutting early voting hours to instituting restrictive ID requirements, Scott Walker has a long history of working to prevent citizens from voting in Wisconsin. His latest tantrum of refusing to call special elections for vacant seats is based entirely out of his fear of losing power. Political observers looking for a preview of what will happen in the forthcoming special elections (not to mention this fall's general election) should watch closely to what happens in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race on April 3rd where a Walker appointee is about to be taken down by a strong, anti-NRA woman. The Republicans time in power is quickly coming to a close."

Chris also alerted us to a new trick the Republicans in the state Senate are trying to get around the Court's ruling.
One day after a judge dealt Republicans a setback on special elections, the top GOP leader in the state Senate said if needed he wants legislation to block that election.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) made his comments to reporters Friday after a Dane County judge ruled the day before that GOP Gov. Scott Walker must call special elections to fill two vacant seats in the Legislature.

Walker declined to call those elections after two GOP lawmakers stepped down to join his administration in December.Fitzgerald said he's looking at legislation to halt the special election if the courts don't stay the judge's order.

"We are very concerned where this whole thing is headed,” Fitzgerald said.
You bet they're concerned. When people can vote in fair elections, Republicans can't win.

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The Senate Nearly Ended The War In Yemen... But 10 Democrats Decided To Stick With Trump


Tuesday evening 5 Republicans joined the Democrats to end the US role in Yemen-- so it could have passed-- but 10 Democrats crossed the aisle in the other direction and killed Bernie's joint resolution, 55-44. These were the Republicans who voted to end the war:
Susan Collins (ME)
Steve Daines (MT)
Mike Lee (UT)
Jerry Moran (KS)
Rand Paul (KY)
And these were the Democrats who voted with Trump to keep the resolution locked up in committee:
Chris Coons (DE)
Catherine Cortez Masto (NV)
Joe Donnelly (IN)
Heidi Heitkamp (ND)
Doug Jones (AL)
Joe Manchin (WV)
Robert Menendez (NJ)
Bill Nelson (FL)
Jack Reed (RI)
Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)
At least every senator was forced to take an on-the-record vote so that their constituents will know, beyond the bullshit, where they stand on this catastrophic war. The Washington Post noted that the vote came just as Trump was feting the Saudi dictator, architect of the devastation in Yemen.

Jared Golden joined the Marine Corps in response to 9/11 and combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now he's running for Congress in the sprawling Maine district (ME-02) where he was born and raised. "Senator Sanders," he told us this morning, "is right: Congress doesn’t take its responsibility to authorize war seriously, and members of Congress fail the country and our service members when they don’t do their duty and take responsibility for putting troops into combat or getting our country involved in conflicts like Yemen, and so many others. As a congressman I will demand that my colleagues show just a modicum of the courage that our service members have and take the vote to authorize war, instead of looking the other way and leaving it to the President and the Pentagon."

Goal ThermometerLevi Tillemann is the progressive Democrat running in the suburban Denver congressional district seat (CO-06) held by conservative Republican Mike Coffman, a GOPer who tends to make a lot of noise and then go along with Trump and Ryan on everything anyway. We reached Levi on the campaign trail and he didn't seem any happier about the Senate Yemen vote than Jared Golden.

"A few nights ago Bernie Sanders spoke on the floor of the Senate about the continued unconstitutional presence of U.S. forces in Yemen. Our military is currently involved in supporting the war efforts of the Saudi government. Sen. Sanders stated that both chambers of Congress over the past 2 decades have abrogated their constitutional role to declare war and have yielded that authority to a string of presidential administrations. That's dangerous and unconstitutional. The people's representatives in the House and Senate must reassert their authority over American military intervention in Yemen (and elsewhere). Unless and until Congress reasserts this sacred authority, I'll oppose further U.S. military involvement overseas. I oppose the human toll borne by enlisted men and women and the financial toll borne by our citizens. Here at home, combat veterans aren’t getting the medical care they need when they return home. And as Sen. Sanders said during the his 2016 presidential campaign, 'a nation that cannot afford to care for its veterans when they return home... cannot afford to send them to war.' Senate Democrats had the opportunity to stand up and vote against the continuing U.S. military involvement in Yemen and to reassert Congress’ authority to declare war. I am disappointed that many of my fellow Democrats sided with the administration and the Saudi government by not supporting Sen. Sanders’ joint resolution."

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The DCCC Screwed Up A Primary In Houston But They Didn't Learn Their Lesson-- And Now They're Doing It In Dallas


Very much by design, the DCCC doesn't have a Regional Vice Chair for the area of the country that includes Texas rand Colorado. That gives the national headquarters and their incompetence staffers an opportunity to do whatever they want without adult supervision-- like the catastrophe they caused in Houston, a catastrophe they seem hellbent to repeat in Dallas now. TX-32 is a district held by a corrupt conservative Republican, Pete Sessions. The district, which has been gerrymandered again and again to keep it as white as it could be to make it "safe" to Sessions. Looks like demographics have finally caught top with the GOP on this one. This prosperous North Dallas area is surrounded by more diverse neighborhoods and even though the GOP cut out minority areas around Irving and Grand Prairie, dropping the Hispanic part of the population significantly, the district is just 50% white. The R+10 is now just R+5 and Romney's 57-41% win over Obama turned into a 2016 Hillary win over Trump (48.5% to 46.6%). Sessions is looked at as a vulnerable incumbent, especially in a wave cycle like the one we're experiencing.

Two Obama alumni, Colin Allred and Lillian Salerno came in at the top of the primary and will now face off in a May 22 primary. Yesterday the DCCC announced they were putting their fat fingers on the scale against Lillian-- the more progressive candidate-- and put Allred on their Red to Blue list. I might add that when the DCCC pulls shenanigans like this, they usually say the other candidate in not financially viable. In this case the two candidates are about even. As of the February 14 FEC reporting deadline Allred had raised $541,064 and had $74,821 in his war chest. Salerno had raised $430,783 and had $164,698 in her war chest.

Salerno responded with a press release that emphasized that "Folks here are sick and tired of a bunch of Washington insiders trying to make their decisions for them. But I’m not scared-- I’ve stood up to power and fought for what’s right my entire life. Our campaign is confident and remains focused on sharing our vision with voters: electing a fighter who will get results for working families. Texas hasn’t elected a new woman to Congress in twenty-two years, and we’re not taking it anymore. The DCCC would do well to remember: Don’t mess with Texas women."

Her campaign manager Jeanne Stuart, hit back at a DCCC on the rampage against progressives and against local democracy: "After the DCCC’s embarrassing stumble attacking candidate Laura Moser, they have not learned their lesson. Texas Democrats know better than some Washington D.C. committee that’s trying to tip the scales. 62% of primary voters did not vote for Colin, and we are confident we will win the run-off and that Lillian is the strongest candidate to beat Pete Sessions in November.

Progressive activist and former Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Jim Hightower went further yet: "The D-triple-C has gone d-triple-crazy, barging into local elections like clueless, antidemocratic potentates. Lillian is a strong Texas Democrat. She knows how to take-on Sessions and win-- despite what the party’s corporate establishment wants."

Two more powerful surrogates weighed in against the DCCC's interference. Betty Ritchie is the Chair of the DNC Rural Council and Secretary of the DNC Women’s Caucus. She knows the candidates and said that "Lillian is a fighter through and through. The voters of Congressional District 32 will see that Lillian has stood up for people her whole life. She’s the only candidate that can take on Pete Sessions, and is unafraid of going up against the powerful." Lenna Webb, President of North Dallas Texas Democratic Women, agreed wholeheartedly, "We’re witnessing an unprecedented surge of activism here in North Texas, with thousands of concerned citizens organizing in their communities to beat Pete Sessions. Voters are deeply engaged in evaluating Democratic candidates in CD-32, and deserve the opportunity to make this decision for themselves. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee should step back and let voters decide."

Goal ThermometerThis is what I can tell you as a person looking at this for over a decade: the DCCC has no idea how to win, especially in Texas. The harder Democrats run away from their failed machine, the better they do. Want to beat Pete Sessions? How about a hard-nosed, authentic, lifelong Texan who has battled big pharma, insurance companies, and big corporate Ag to help working families, nurses, and family farmers. That's Lillian Salerno. But the DCCC is so out-of-touch that they not only ignore Lillian, but they try to tip the scales to her opponent whose experience can be counted in months not years. It makes me want to scream, and Dallas Democrats shouldn't have to suffer two more years of Pete Sessions because of this stupidity. I got Lillian on the phone this morning and asked her directly what she thinks about the DCCC coming in and supporting her opponent? If you'd like to contribute to her campaign, please click on the Blue America 2018 congressional thermometer on the right. This is what she told me:
This move shows why we need new leadership in Congress. This is an attack on those of us in Texas who are trying to elect new leadership to Washington. Folks here are sick and tired of a bunch of DC insiders trying to make their decisions for them. Our campaign is confident and remains focused on sharing our vision with voters: electing a proven Texas Democrat who will get results for working families. Let the people of Texas decide."
Last night Abby Livingston wrote the controversy up for the Texas Tribune, noting that "In past cycles, the DCCC has named districts to its Red to Blue program, rather than specific candidates, to avoid these kinds of flare-ups." The DCCC also endorsed the less progressive candidate, retired Air Force Intelligence Officer Gina Ortiz Jones, over progressive Rick Treviño.

This morning Treviño told his supporters that "The DCCC has just announced they want to pick the winner of our primary-- and they don't want the progressive. They want to control our elections in West Texas because they want their consultant friends in Washington to get rich by running high-dollar candidates. They don't care what happens to us after they lose another race. It's disrespectful to the people who live here, and we don't have to take it. In today's Washington, the working class doesn't have a voice. That's just a fact. The Democratic Party has been losing up and down the ballot because the political establishment keeps forcing candidates on us that will pay big bucks to their consultants instead of fighting for the working class. If we want to win again, we can't let the DCCC keep derailing progressive change. When I travel around this district, from San Antonio to the colonias, I see the result of the DCCC's constant failure to win. People who live outside gated communities too often lack even the basic services that should be their right to expect in a rich country like the United States. Last year, they let Will Hurd get away with winning by one percent of the vote, and because of that, the one-percent keeps getting its way in Congress. It's time to win again for the working class. There are enough insiders on the ballot. We need a Member of Congress who has been fighting for the working folks here for their entire career, not another D.C. insider. The DCCC doesn't understand what life is like here, and they don't know how to win. But you and I do: we win by standing with working people and fighting for a progressive future."

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Figuring Out What Will Happen In November, But Not 2019


Alexandria Ocasio is such an underdog in her primary challenge to Joe Crowley-- one of the biggest big shots inside the Beltway-- that none of the Inside the Beltway prognosticators ever even mention her race against the Pelosi heir-apparent, one of Congress' most corrupt members. That's not because the media is lazy; it's just that they're stupid and unimaginative... and lazy. Crowley, who lives in Virginia and has virtually no connection whatsoever to a district that has rapidly changed since 1998 when he first wormed his way into the seat, is extremely vulnerable to a primary challenge. We'll discuss this later today. Now I just want to point out that out of touch congressmen are vulnerable. If that wasn't the case young and vigorous California congressmen Ro Khanna and Eric Swalwell wouldn't have beaten, respectively, 18-year incumbent Mike Honda and 40-year incumbent Pete Stark in primaries that shocked a geriatric Democratic establishment. Neither Honda nor Stark were prepared to defend themselves from what hit them. Donna Edwards and Matt Cartwright had managed to pull off the same thing in Maryland and Pennsylvania against entrenched incumbents Al Wynn and Tim Holden, horrifying sclerotic party bosses in DC.

When the 2010 Republican wave hit the Democrats hard, the GOP gained 63 seats, the biggest House swing since 1948. Some of the worn and tired old-timers were smart enough to get out of the way before being swept away. Entrenched senior incumbents like Dave Obey (WI), Marion Berry (AR), Vic Snyder (AR), Brian Baird (WA), Bart Stupak (MI) and Dennis Moore all retired voluntarily, their districts falling to Republicans in November. 52 Democrats who fought for reelection were defeated, including some very senior members who had, basically, lost the skills to fight a competitive race in a bad environment-- John Spratt (SC), Gene Taylor (MS), Jim Marshall (GA), Jim Oberstar (MN), Rick Boucher (VA), Solomon Ortiz (TX), Paul Kanjorski (PA), Baron Hill (IN), Earl Pomeroy (ND), Allen Boyd (FL), Ciro Rodriguez (TX), Bob Etheridge (NC) and Ike Skelton (MO).

Old history? Sure... but, Politico sported an interesting headline yesterday: House leaders’ biggest 2018 fear: The lazy Republican. It could have been a mirror image of 2010: Ryan freaking ou: "GOP members who haven’t had a tough race in years are being warned to start running scared." Quite a few, including Ryan, have been rumored to start running for the exits instead. Rachael Bade happened to begin her report in TX-07: "On paper, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) appears to be a shoo-in for reelection. He‘s served nine terms in what’s been a GOP stronghold for decades, hasn’t had a serious challenger in years and sits on one of the most powerful committees in Congress. But Culberson‘s suburban-Houston district went for Hillary Clinton by 1 percentage point in 2016. And when GOP leaders found out last year that he was being outraised by Democrats and barely had a campaign staff, they were exasperated. Get your act together, they warned Culberson in so many words, according to sources familiar with the dressing-down. Culberson’s slow start to his reelection campaign is what GOP leaders fear most heading into the thick of the midterm elections: incumbents who haven’t seen a real race in years snoozing as a Democratic wave builds. Speaker Paul Ryan and the National Republican Congressional Committee are less concerned about their battle-tested swing-district members-- who face tough races every election cycle-- and more worried about complacent Republicans not prepared for a fight."

What Bade doesn't fit into her narrative it what the NRCC has been always able to count on when they're in a tough spot: the incompetence and corruption of the failed DCCC. There are two Democrats in the May 22 primary runoff-- Laura Moser, a progressive and Lizzie Fletcher, an EMILY's List creation. Fletcher, the establishment candidate, has an anti-union reputation that alienates and deflates a significant portion of the Democratic base. Meanwhile-- and for various reasons that have to do with DCCC staff corruption, anti-progressive mania and arrogance-- the DCCC has worked to make Moser unelectable against Culberson. Ironically, she probably wouldn't have even been in the runoff had the DCCC not attacked her! DCCC support is so toxic among a portion of the base that they are the same kind of kiss of death as Trump is on the GOP side. Immediately after the DCCC smear campaign began, small donors rushed to contribute over $100,000 to her campaign. And TX-07 primary voters decided to send the DCCC a lesson about not interfering in their primary. Back to Bade:
“This is a very tough environment for Republicans. If you’re getting outraised or if you haven’t started your campaign yet, you need to be scared and start today,” said Corry Bliss, executive director of the Ryan-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund. “Saying ‘I’ve never lost before, therefore I can never lose this time’ is not a campaign plan.”

It’s one of the reasons Ryan’s political team and NRCC officials have started holding a series of meetings with lawmakers from traditionally reliable GOP districts. Their message: Get ready for a roller coaster and begin your campaign in earnest now.

It’s too early to tell whether leadership’s message is registering. More than 40 GOP incumbents were outraised by Democratic challengers during the last three months of 2017, a staggering number that senior Republicans said is unacceptable and amounts to nothing short of laziness.
What the 2 establishment DC parties haven't learned from the past is that in wave election cycles money won't save the necks of incumbents. I studied ever single district outcome in the 2006 blue wave and the 2010 red wave. In 2006 Republicans who outspent Democratic challengers by five times were swept away anyone (as long as the challenger had enough money to get out his or her message). And the same thing was true in the 2010 midterms, when Democrats who outspent GOP challengers by massive amounts went down badly. Ryan and his team think 2018 will be all about money. It won't; it will be all about Trump and the congressional enablers.
“Many of our members have not been in Congress during a possible ‘wave’ election cycle, as happened in 2006 and 2010,” added a Republican campaign staffer. “Members in Republican-leaning districts should heed the warnings from House leadership and get ready for a fight.”

Rep. Glenn Grothman’s team is another office that’s received a talking-to. Ryan is personally helping campaign for the Wisconsin Republican, who hasn’t had a competitive race since he was elected in 2014. His sprawling district partly abutting Lake Michigan has been a Republican stronghold since the 1960s. But Grothman now faces a wealthy Democratic challenger who’s planning to spend hundreds of thousands of his own money on the race.

Grothman acknowledged in an interview the battle he’s in for and said he's doing "100 percent" what he can to prepare. The 62-year-old former attorney pulled up his schedule on his phone and read a list of constituent events: a fish fry, a bowl-a-thon, some St. Patrick’s Day parades and Lincoln Day dinners.

“Obviously, that’s a bigger problem than the typical year,” Grothman said of his Democratic challenger, Dan Kohl, the nephew of former Milwaukee Bucks owner and ex-Sen. Herb Kohl. “I’ll raise more money, I think, because there’s more a necessity… My opponent has a lot of money, and he’s telling people he’s going to spend a lot of money… so it’s concerning.”

Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) also hails from a solid Republican district but is facing a well-funded Democratic opponent who last quarter raked in over $100,000 more than the incumbent. His staff, like Grothman’s, has been warned to be ready-- particularly because Pittenger is still introducing himself to constituents after a recent redistricting changed his district’s borders.

Another North Carolinian on GOP leaders’ radar is freshman Rep. Ted Budd. His well-connected Democratic opponent, philanthropist Kathy Manning, raised $564,000 last quarter, compared to his $183,000 haul.

Budd said he realizes “the environment is tough this year,” and he just hired a campaign manager who will start next month.

Ryan’s political executive director, Kevin Seifert, and deputy executive director, Jake Kastan, are handling many of the reality-check meetings with incumbent Republicans or their staffs. While Ryan’s team often helps incumbents, it's hosting more meetings than usual, and with a greater sense of urgency.

Ryan and NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers (R-OH) have also delivered the same message to lawmakers in conference gatherings in recent weeks: Raise money now, be active in your districts, find legislative issues that resonate with constituents and tout your accomplishments constantly. Also, define yourself and your opponent early, and label Democrats as obstructionists.

“When you have a million dollars spent attacking [GOP lawmakers] for the first time, a lot can change, and quickly,” Bliss said.

The warnings from leadership aides are also expected to extend to a handful of Freedom Caucus members who typically feel safe enough to vote with the far right of the House Republican Conference-- if they haven't already. Three Democratic opponents of caucus member Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.) outraised him in the last fundraising quarter, two of them by $100,000.

Garrett's district elected a Democrat to the House in 2008, before a Republican reclaimed the seat two years later. And Garrett’s conservative votes could make him more susceptible in a Democratic wave year, senior Republicans said.

Ditto, they said, for Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA), another Freedom Caucus member, who upset former Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a 2014 primary.

Brat declined to discuss his campaign with Politico; two Democratic opponents collected more than him in the final three months of 2017-- including one by nearly $150,000.

“Policy, policy, policy,” Brat said when asked about his reelection effort. “All I talk is policy.”

At least one Republican, Culberson, appears to have heeded the warnings from leadership, aides say. He has hired new staff and outraised his Democratic opponents in the last quarter of 2017, though in the first six weeks of this year, his top two competitors collected more money than him, according to campaign filings.

“I’m always ready,” Culberson in a brief interview this week, “and even more so this year.”
Yesterday, at The Atlantic, Ron Brownstein posited that Trump has already sealed the GOP's midterm fate. Brownstein focuses in on one aspect: Ryan and McConnell and their teams are "sending an unmistakable signal to voters: So long as Republicans hold the congressional majority, they will not act to meaningfully constrain, or even oversee" a moron and uncontrollable, self-centered, selfish Trumpanzee with an id run amuck. Brownstein calls it an "epic gamble... Their approach," he wrote, "threatens to persuade less partisan voters that they need a Democratic House (and perhaps Senate) to impose any limits on a president who daily redefines the words 'mercurial,' 'belligerent,' and 'volatile.' ... Some GOP strategists believe the imperative of energizing the GOP base-- which preponderantly supports Trump-- justifies the risk of alienating less partisan voters inclined to restrain him. And in some Republican-leaning places, that calculation may compute. But in almost all swing House districts, 'you can’t get to 50 percent [of the vote] with just base voters,' noted Meredith Kelly, the communications director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. That threshold requires 'crossover support and independents'-- the sort of voters that may prefer some constraints on Trump, even if they don’t entirely reject his direction."

Every time Donald Trump breaks a window, congressional Republicans obediently sweep up the glass. That’s become one of the most predictable patterns of his turbulent presidency-- and a defining dynamic of the approaching midterm elections. Each time they overtly defend his behavior, or implicitly excuse him by failing to object, they bind themselves to him more tightly.

It happened again last weekend when Trump fired off a volley of tweets that, for the first time, attacked Special Counsel Robert Mueller by name. A handful of GOP senators responded with warnings against dismissing Mueller. More congressional Republicans said nothing. Party leaders, such as House Speaker Paul Ryan, tried to downplay the attacks by insisting that Trump would not act on them and fire Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Most important, and regardless of their rhetorical posture, Republicans almost universally locked arms to reject legislative action to protect the special counsel.

That reaction reflected a hardening pattern. Whatever the provocation-- reported payoffs to a porn star, a chaotic security-clearance process in the White House, the public belittling of Attorney General Jeff Sessions-- congressional Republicans have found ways to excuse or simply ignore behavior that would have launched a thousand subpoenas under a Democratic president.

...As American politics has grown more tribal since the 1990s, attitudes toward the president have become a decisive factor in congressional elections. In each midterm since 1994, 82 percent to 86 percent of the voters who disapproved of the incumbent president voted against his party’s House candidates, exit polls found.

That effect may be even more intense under Trump because such a high proportion of those who disapprove of him do so strongly: An Election Day poll in last week’s Pennsylvania special election, for instance, found that fully 93 percent of Trump disapprovers backed Democrat Conor Lamb, the victor. In this week’s NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 87 percent of Trump disapprovers said they intend to vote Democratic for Congress.

One group has emerged as especially alienated from the president: college-educated white women. The group ordinarily leans Democrat, but only slightly: Since 1992, Democrats have never carried more than 52 percent of their votes in House elections, and Hillary Clinton won 51 percent of them in 2016. However, this week’s NBC/WSJ poll found that 63 percent of them now disapprove of Trump and 62 percent intend to vote Democratic in November.

...For congressional Republicans, the choice to tie themselves to Trump now looks irreversible. The question remains whether they have fashioned a lifeline or a noose.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

A 2-fer tonight! And why not? These two memes just go together. Even this partial list of Trump's many failures, some tremendous failures, some the best failures, doesn't cover all the information that was readily available to anyone who didn't restrict themselves to just getting what they thought was news from the Rupert Murdoch's conspiracy channel and crackpot internet sites. 60+ million fools voted for a psychopathic, lying, known con artist and now the whole country is paying and will continue to pay for their hate, their gullibility and their stupidity. None of that mattered to Republican voters then and none of it matters now. During the election, all you heard from Republicans was that "He has business experience." Well, yes, if you count failing at everything you touch. Even his yacht was repossessed by a bank but, hey, at least he wasn't, you know, "like Obama."

When all is said and done; whenever that is, we will probably hear that Trumpanzee doesn't even own any controlling interests in his own businesses, having probably been forced to turn them over to banks and Russian oligarchs. Rest assured, though: When Trump said he would run America like his businesses and make America as great as his businesses, for once he wasn't lying.

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Economic Inequality And Economics Theory-- Stiglitz To The Rescue


I used to be in the music business. Like in many businesses, there was always a tension between executives who put all their energy and resources into the current quarter and executives who felt a responsibility towards creating long-term (future) shareholder value. Bonuses-- which could be 6 or 7 figure amounts-- tended to be based on the short-term approach. That's, at least in part, why so many music companies have gone under.

Recently Business Insider ran a piece about Davos that deals with the problems around economic inequality, which stems, at least in part from 1970s stagnation, where chasing quarterly profits has resulted in a toxic short-termism. The piece is primarily about how Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz views this short-termism. Short version: "I want to emphasize that it was, in this period, not only activist shareholders but Milton Friedman," the late economist and fellow Nobel laureate, who was to blame for this prevailing ideology. "And he was wrong." Reporter Richard Feloni noted that "In his highly influential 1962 collection of essays, Capitalism and Freedom, Friedman proclaimed that in a free economy, 'there is one and only one social responsibility of business-- to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition, without deception or fraud.'"
We followed up with Stiglitz after the Davos panel, and he told us that Friedman's assertion "was not based on any economic theory." He then gave some background on the origins of this debate.

Friedman made his assertion as a natural extension of a defining passage in Adam Smith's definitive The Wealth of Nations from 1776, that of the "invisible hand." Smith wrote that an individual laboring in his own interest is "led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest, he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good."

Stiglitz pointed out that indeed the invisible hand's existence was "proven" in 1954 by the economists Kenneth J. Arrow and Gerard Debreu. Arrow and Debreu were able to show the existence of an equilibrium between supply and demand in a free, competitive economy-- but they also made clear that this could only exist if a given set of assumptions about the economy and consumer behavior were true.

And the latter part is essential, said Stiglitz.

"Then some of us, beginning in the late '60s, asked the question, 'Well what happens if those conditions aren't satisfied?'" he told Business Insider.

Stiglitz said that he and the economist Sandy Grossman investigated this question throughout the '70s. In 1980, they published a paper that declared that while market equilibrium can exist in theory, it was "impossible" for it to exist in a competitive economy in reality. Following this line of thinking, then, Friedman's argument falls apart. And therefore, existing solely to please shareholders will not-- as Friedman argued-- benefit other stakeholders, such as employees, consumers, and society as a whole.

Stiglitz respected Friedman (who died in 2006) for his work on consumption that won him a Nobel prize, he wrote in his 2012 book The Price of Inequality, but the two had several arguments about this idea of the free market. "I remember long discussions with him on the consequences of imperfect information or incomplete risk markets; my own work and that of numerous colleagues had shown that in these conditions, markets typically didn't work well. Friedman simply couldn't or wouldn't grasp these results."

Friedman's ideas, however, would take hold in the US for the next few decades.

When Stiglitz cites what he considers to be the problem of Friedman, he explained, he's using him as the figurehead for a movement that took advantage of the societal trends [Henry] Blodget mentioned. This movement was led by the Chicago school of economics, the free market ideology developed at the University of Chicago in the mid-20th century.

As Stiglitz sees it, Americans, particularly on the right, embraced the Chicago school's way of thinking because it appeared to be the efficient solution to stimulating a stagnant economy.

Within this free market ideology, pursuing short-term value is simultaneously a pursuit of long-term value. If you accept this, prioritizing short-term gains comes through the optimization of management and spending, which allows the company to grow, in turn supplying higher returns, more jobs and other benefits to society, and better products.

It is a rejection of a fundamental Keynesian belief, Stiglitz noted.

British economist John Maynard Keynes published his revolutionary book The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money in 1936, in the wake of the Great Depression. In it, he differentiated between short-term and long-term value, and expressed his frustration with the way the American stock market encouraged public companies to prioritize short-term gains, better for the majority of contemporary investors, over long-term gains, better for society as a whole. The basic premise of the argument Keynes had with his peers is the same as the one today.

"The social object of skilled investment should be to defeat the dark forces of time and ignorance which envelop our future," Keynes warned.

More Americans in positions of power began gravitating toward the Chicago school's ideas in the '70s, and Friedman became an adviser to President Ronald Reagan.

Not only did Friedman have the ear of the leader of the free world, but the Chicago school's theories around lawmaking for the intended purpose of market efficiency also came to fruition.

In his 2015 book Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy, Stiglitz said that the normalization of shareholder primacy was solidified under the Reagan administration through changes to federal income tax law and securities law, including relaxed antitrust laws. This fostered the rise of activist investors.

"If all of this had led to more efficient and innovative corporations, that would have been one thing," Stiglitz wrote. "But in fact, the new 'activist' investors pushed for seats on boards and pressured management into policies that were viewed as more 'shareholder-friendly'-- meaning friendlier to short-term investors-- including increasing dividends and buyouts."

The Securities and Exchange Commission continued this trend through the early 1990s.

And while the increasingly linked nature of CEO pay and stock performance was ostensibly to keep CEOs accountable to their shareholders, Stiglitz argued, it instead materialized as "an incentive to manipulate stock prices by using company money to buy back shares in order to drive prices higher." That's how you got from the average ratio of CEO-to-median-level-employee pay from 20-to-1 in 1965 to 295-to-1 today.

For Stiglitz, the outrage isn't that individuals making that much is a moral outrage by itself, it's that it's happening at the expense of the entire economy.

Stiglitz told us that this decades-old debate about how to balance the creation of short-term and long-term value is recently gaining new life in the US because of the venomous class class tensions and ugly politics arising out of income inequality, and because people in positions of power are looking at the big picture and realizing that something has to change.

And regardless of the performance of the stock market this year, the economy overall is not doing too well, Stiglitz argued, when you look at it from the perspective of GDP growth.

"When we were growing at 4% we might have been able to grow even faster," he said. "But we took the 4% and enjoyed it. But when we're growing at 2-2.5%, and we had been growing at 3.5%, the natural question is, 'What's happened? Is there something wrong?'"

What we're seeing today is largely the result of the ideas championed by the likes of Friedman that seemed so promising to those in power in the '80s, Stiglitz argued. It's contributed greatly to this combination of inequality and low growth in America.

Stiglitz said that while CEOs aren't going to solve inequality on their own, the reason they exist in society is to grow the economy, and more are realizing they need to make changes.

It's why, for example, someone like BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, as the head of the largest asset manager in the world, has felt compelled to take a stand against short-termism. In a letter to CEOs this year, Fink announced that BlackRock will only do business with companies that have clearly defined long-term strategies that benefit in society in some way.

"Without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential," Fink wrote. "It will ultimately lose the license to operate from key stakeholders. It will succumb to short-term pressures to distribute earnings, and, in the process, sacrifice investments in employee development, innovation, and capital expenditures that are necessary for long-term growth. It will remain exposed to activist campaigns that articulate a clearer goal, even if that goal serves only the shortest and narrowest of objectives."

For Stiglitz, Fink's letter and similar declarations from large companies like Unilever aren't calls to feel good and congratulate each other, but are arising out of a sense of urgency. It's an urgency to shed the Friedman doctrine.

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Pete Peterson Is Dead-- Guest Post By Jonathan Tasini


Author and labor activist-- former president of the National Writers Union-- Jonathan Tasini has been doing a phenomenal series of informative candidate interviews on his podcast, The Working Life, like the one above with Kaniela Ing. He manages to get all the candidates with the cutting edge ideas. Today he did the definitive obituary for Pete Peterson, the billionaire Wall Street crook who died Tuesday, age 91.
The Pete Peterson myth the media ignores
-by Jonathan Tasini

Should I be surprised by a fawning, embarrassing obituary for Pete Peterson? No. But, it ignores some very important truths about Pete Peterson and it is instructive about how other elites are treated in the traditional press.

1- The man made his fortune from piling up DEBT (more on that in a moment) to realize profits from buying and selling companies-- which cost tens of thousands of people good-paying jobs. His fortune came at great cost and pain to a lot of people and communities. NO MENTION OF THIS IN THE Times OBIT. Instead, he's treated like some genius and great pillar of the community

2- Despite having made a massive fortune piling up DEBT, Peterson spent years running around screaming about government DEBTS, and funding and promoting the entirely false narrative of a deficit/debt "crisis." Which simply does not exist. Which I wrote a book about here. He was singularly responsible for managing to convince an uncritical media and way too many Democrats that a crisis existed, leading to, among other things, the dangerous/lunatic Obama-appointed deficit commission-- better remembered as the "Catfood Commission" because if its recommendations had been implemented, calling for cuts in Social Security and Medicare, millions of seniors and others would be eating just that for 3 meals a day. As an aside: one reason I am skeptical about the drumbeat to depose Nancy Pelosi is that she, opposing her own president (Obama), said, at the time, there would be no cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

3- But this is how elites are treated in this country-- with amnesia or blatant disregard/ignorance of the truth. We just marked the 15th anniversary of the Iraq War-- yet neither George Bush nor Dick Cheney have been held accountable for their war crimes and lies to the public. The man sitting in the Oval Office today benefitted from years of fawning media coverage about his business "acumen," despite years of cheating thousands of people and bankruptcies-- not to mention blatant bigotry and despicable behavior towards women…and, yet, little of that was covered regularly, and, thus, we live with the hand-held-to-the-mouth shock coverage about each day's tweets when the character, behavior and record of this lowlife was abundantly clear years ago. If only one could hope that reading Peterson's obit critically would change perspectives…but, alas…

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What Do You Do About Maine?


Angus King, an Independent and popular Senate incumbent, caucuses and generally votes with the Democrats. He's up for reelection in November. His ProgressivePunch lifetime crucial vote score is pretty miserable, closest to Missouri conservaDem Claire McCaskill, but slightly better than 3 Democrats, Joe Donnelly (IN), Heidi Heitkamp (ND) and Joe Manchin (WV). Still, his 67.71 score is considerably better than the least horrible Republican, Susan Collins (also from Maine), whose score is 26.24. The state's PVI is D+3-- but the Democratic Party is not exactly thriving there. Not exactly.

Maine has one of the worst governors in the country, Paul LePage. In fact, one of the worst governors in American history. How is that possible? Here's how. The foul mouthed and uneducated pig became governor with just 37.6% (218,065 votes) in 2010. Eliot Cutler, an independent came in second with 208,270 votes (35.9%) and a weak and uninspiring Democrat, Elizabeth Mitchell, was crushed with just 109,387 votes (18.8%). LePage also won his reelection battle in 2014 with less than 50%. This time it was Cutler, again running as an Independent, who was the spoiler:
Paul LePage (R)- 294,519 (48.2%)
Mike Michaud (D- 265,114 (43.4%)
Eliot Cutler (I- 51,515 (8.4%)
That same year, Democrats ran an awful EMILY's List corporate Democrat, Emily Cain, in the second district to hold onto Michaud's then open congressional seat (ME-02). Horrible candidate, albeit not as horrible as the monster the GOP ran, Bruce Poliquin. But Poliquin beat her-- not necessarily because she was such as wretched and uninspiring candidate but because an indecent, Blaine Richardson, took 10.6% of the vote. Poliquin won with 45.2% to Cain's 40.2%. Again, the Independent was the spoiler who threw the election to the Republican.

Hillary beat Trump in Maine but very narrowly-- 357,735 (47.83) to 335,593 (44.87). But in the state caucuses, Democratic voters were not looking for a status quo candidate. Bernie beat her 64.3% to 35.5%. In fact, Bernie beat her in every single county. She didn't win one. Bernie was an inspiring candidate. In the general, a plurality of Maine voters held their noses and picked her-- the lesser of two evils, although she lost one of Maine's 4 electoral votes by losing ME-02. She ws such a shitty, uninspiring candidate that she put a state in play that Obama had won 401,306 (56%) to 292,276 (41%) against Romney.

This morning a very politically powerful friend of mine asked me if I thought she should get behind the Democrat, Zak Ringelstein, in this year's Maine Senate race. She knows Angus King well enough to detest him. But she is also aware that backing Ringelstein, could help throw the race to Republican Eric Brakey, a state Senator from Auburn with Libertarian leanings; (the guy in the red speedos). Brakey, for example, wrote the bill that eliminated the requirement to obtain a permit to carry a concealed firearm in the state.

So it's the old conundrum about deciding who's the spoiler and then backing the lesser of two evils candidate. In Ringelstein's case, though, he's a really good candidate. Without a doubt the DSCC and Schumer would fully back King. Ringelstein is the kind of Berniecrat they fear (and loathe). Just look at his campaign site issues page: Medicare-For-All; corporate money out of politics; fair taxation; and here's his 20 steps to reduce income inequality:
Getting big money's influence out of politics
Cutting taxes for the working class and small businesses, and making the rich pay their fair share
Ending tax loopholes for big corporations
Increasing the federal minimum wage to $15/hour and creating a rule that allows minimum wage to rise with inflation
Getting tough on federal antitrust laws
Encouraging investment in entrepreneurship, innovation, and research and development
Giving American workers more vacation time, more sick leave, and better pay standards
Empowering communities to create tougher local laws against multinational corporations
Rewriting international trade agreements to favor American workers over multinational corporations
Investing in better public schools for all American children
Investing in research-backed early childhood and in-home/community education programs
Making college affordable and ending the era of crippling college debt
Creating an effective single-payer healthcare system
Making financial literacy a public school course that bears equal importance with traditional classes like math and English
Investing in adult education and career counseling programs for Americans who want or need to switch careers
Creating a federal law protecting net neutrality
Restoring Glass-Steagall to break up large banks
Giving all workers the right to organize and collectively negotiate in the workplace
Creating a participatory budgeting framework on the local, national and state levels of government
Ending agricultural monopolies to benefit local farms and give consumers healthier native crop options
You won't be hearing anything like that -- especially not the cutting edge stuff-- from Angus King... or Chuck Schumer, at least not in a serious way.

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Whacking Self-Sown Weeds


by Gaius Publius

In a nice piece at TomGram ("On Seeing America’s Wars Whole: Six Questions for A.G. Sulzberger," h/t Naked Capitalism) Andrew Bacevich takes the new editor of the New York Times to task for not adequately covering America's endless war in the Muslim (and increasingly, the African) world:
I ... want to suggest that obsessing about this administration’s stupefying tomfoolery finds the Times overlooking one particular issue that predates and transcends the Trump Moment. That issue is the normalization of armed conflict, with your writers, editors, and editorial board having tacitly accepted that, for the United States, war has become a permanent condition.
Bacevich doesn't fault the Times for not covering these events, but for failing to connect the dots, something it never fails to do when covering Russian adventures abroad.

The Shape of the Forever War

What struck me most about the piece, however, were the dots themselves. Displayed as he displays them, they seem to connect themselves:
* Over 6,000 days after it began, America’s war in Afghanistan continues, with Times correspondents providing regular and regularly repetitive updates;

* In the seven-year-long civil war that has engulfed Syria, the ever-shifting cast of belligerents now includes at least 2,000 (some sources say 4,000) U.S. special operators, the rationale for their presence changing from week to week, even as plans to keep U.S. troops in Syria indefinitely take shape;

* In Iraq, now liberated from ISIS, itself a byproduct of U.S. invasion and occupation, U.S. troops are now poised to stay on, more or less as they did in West Germany in 1945 and in South Korea after 1953;

* On the Arabian Peninsula, U.S. forces have partnered with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud in brutalizing Yemen, thereby creating a vast humanitarian disaster despite the absence of discernible U.S. interests at stake;

* In the military equivalent of whacking self-sown weeds, American drones routinely attack Libyan militant groups that owe their existence to the chaos created in 2011 when the United States impulsively participated in the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi;

* More than a quarter-century after American troops entered Somalia to feed the starving, the U.S. military mission continues, presently in the form of recurring airstrikes;

* Elsewhere in Africa, the latest theater to offer opportunities for road-testing the most recent counterterrorism techniques, the U.S. military footprint is rapidly expanding, all but devoid of congressional (or possibly any other kind of) oversight;

* From the Levant to South Asia, a flood of American-manufactured weaponry continues to flow unabated, to the delight of the military-industrial complex, but with little evidence that the arms we sell or give away are contributing to regional peace and stability;

* Amid this endless spiral of undeclared American wars and conflicts, Congress stands by passively, only rousing itself as needed to appropriate money that ensures the unimpeded continuation of all of the above;

* Meanwhile, President Trump, though assessing all of this military hyperactivity as misbegotten -- “Seven trillion dollars. What a mistake.” -- is effectively perpetuating and even ramping up the policies pioneered by his predecessors.
Emphasizing Bacevich's main point, Tom Engelhardt asks us in his introduction to "imagine what kind of coverage [Russia] would be getting if, almost 17 years after it had launched a 'Global War on Terrorism,' Russian troops, special operations forces, airplanes, and drones were still in action in at least eight countries across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Niger, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen".

I can't get past that list, however. It's stunning in its scope. From it I draw a different set of conclusions.

Liking What Trump Is Doing; Wishing Someone Else Were Doing It

As Bacevich points out, we're "whacking self-sown weeds." The implications are frightening. My takeaways:

• The entire Establishment is waging this global war. With bipartisan consent we'll be at war forever unless a truly peace-minded, anti-Establishment candidate is elected president, and even then he risks being brought back down by the government that answers to him, elected or not. With respect to war policy, Sanders is such a candidate, perhaps, and there may be others. Yet no one else of his popular stature and appeal, with his authenticity and viability, has yet emerged.

• The Washington elites are crazy if we view them through the lens of their own words. To decry Trump as in the pocket of Russia one minute...
and increase his domestic spying powers in the next...
is crazy by that measure.

For another, simpler explanation, consider this: It isn't crazy logic that drives them, but calculated hypocrisy. Why hypocrisy? Because...

• Leaders of the ruling bipartisan consensus like most of what Trump is doing; they just want someone else doing it. Perhaps Pence, to choose just one.

Enough Democrats were ambivalent about the Trump tax cuts, for example, that they campaigned softly (and ineffectively) against it, unlike their vigorous (and effective) campaign to protect their president's signature achievement, Obamacare.

Enough Democrats voted for former Eli Lilly president Alex Azar to run HHS to get him confirmed.

And enough Democrats will vote for torturer Gina Haspel as CIA director to make the confirmation bipartisan. After all, 14 Senate Democrats (plus Angus King) voted to confirm pro-torture Mike Pompeo as CIA chief, and Pompeo almost immediately appointed Haspel as his deputy. No one in DC wants to piss off the CIA. As Chuck Schumer noted, it would take a fool to do it. (Trump, at one time, was such a fool. Now, not so much.)

Will the next round of power-holding Democrats keep us out of war and take the CIA out of the torture business? It's fair to be extremely doubtful.

It's therefore fair to conclude this war will last forever, will be waged at our will, where and as long as we choose. It's also fair to ask: Is forever war, fought forever abroad, a stable new world order? Or failing to be reduced, will it expand and come home?

The Weeds Whack Back

A prediction: This war will come back to bite us. It will come back home to the shopping malls, airports, schools and hospitals of America. Not just the large, big-city ones, but the regional ones as well, those in the "heartland" where live the solid citizens who blissfully rubber-stamp everything the bipartisan war-making leaders want to do.

After all, with a volunteer (undrafted) army deployed abroad and just "lone gunmen" at home to be troubled about, why should heartlanders care about foreign deaths, so long as their fossil fuel–iPhone lifestyle is provided for? When the combatants stop looking like lone gunmen, however, and start looking more like the organized terrorizing warriors we've become overseas, perhaps they'll care then.

But caring, if it comes, will come too late. A non-military government, in substance already lost, will be lost in form as well. The next new American state will be born, a naked military one, but c'est la guerre as they say: It can't be helped.

The implications of that next change, including the implications for climate change mitigation, have a world-historical shape. Life in the "homeland" will be very much different from this one, if or when the U.S. military starts to fight the forever war here like it's fighting it abroad. Teasing out the shape of that new American state is beyond the scope of this piece, but your imagination may suffice to paint the picture.


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