Monday, April 24, 2017

The Apple Does Not Fall Far From The Orange-- Ivanka's and Jared's Fabulous Adventure


John Oliver's segment this weekend on Ivanka and Kushner-in-law was classic. You've got to watch it. This morning his analysis was examined by Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly and the New York Daily News. You don't need them; just watch it.

Stephen Walt's Jared Kushner Will Be Eaten By The Blob in Foreign Policy is not a prediction of how Chris Christie will eventually get his revenge on Kushner for getting his revenge on Christie (due to Kushner's father Charlie getting his revenge on someone else). "Kushner," he wrote, "may be unusually inexperienced, but he’s hardly the first person to achieve a position of political, and even diplomatic, prominence largely because of personal ties to a president." His role inside the Trumapnzee Regime "has provoked heated criticism from Democrats and skepticism from an array of pundits. It has also given late-night comics, satirists, and the Twitterati plenty of free material. And at one level their responses are understandable: Not only does Kushner’s role reek of good old-fashioned nepotism, but it is frankly absurd to think a young real estate developer can possibly perform all the miracles his loving father-in-law has asked him to produce. At last count, Kushner’s assignments include solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, leading a 'SWAT team' of private consultants that will reorganize and streamline the federal government, and serving as an informal presidential envoy to China, Iraq, and anywhere else Trump decides to send him. He also seems to have acquired the job of keeping Steve Bannon in check (or maybe getting rid of him entirely). Kushner hasn’t made his situation any easier by coming across like a spoiled rich kid who’d rather go skiing than govern. But he’d have his work cut out for him even if he combined the cunning of a Henry Kissinger and the political skills of a Lyndon Johnson... [T]he real issue is what his outsized position tells you about the president he serves and about the nature of political life in Washington, D.C."
Let’s start by remembering something important about Donald J. Trump: He’s old. A 70-year-old man is not going to learn a lot of new management tricks or adopt a new leadership style at this late stage of life. By most accounts, Trump’s management approach has long relied on promoting rivalries among subordinates and demanding intense loyalty from a circle of trusted insiders (such as his sons and now his son-in-law). Given the success of his highly unorthodox presidential campaign, why expect Trump to operate differently now?

...Kushner’s role in the White House actually reveals a deeper problem: Trump doesn’t actually care if his policies work or not. He doesn’t care if health care is ever fixed, if the climate warms up and millions of people die, if coal miners or autoworkers get new and better jobs, if the Islamic State is ever defeated, or if U.S. infrastructure is rebuilt. All he cares about is whether he can convince people that he’s responsible for anything good that happens and persuade them that adverse developments are someone else’s fault. It has been apparent from day one that Trump cares first and foremost about himself, his family, and his fortune. Full stop. Doing the people’s business-- that is, actually governing-- is hard work, and it really cuts into the time you can spend on the golf course.

Not caring about getting anything done is also liberating: It means you can hire whomever you want, give them a thousand impossible things to do before breakfast, and then get back to correcting your slice. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Jared Kushner has a job in the White House that no one could possibly perform.

It’s also why you don’t see him devoting much time or effort to trying to resist the Washington foreign-policy establishment his father-in-law once so vociferously maligned, as evidenced by the recent humanitarian intervention in Syria and discussion of sending tens of thousands of ground troops there. It is entirely predictable that Kushner, and Trump, would abdicate to the Blob, since their stated political beliefs, even when they contained a glimmer of insight, were never moored by practical knowledge. The Trump family’s essential interest in the jobs they’ve acquired is personal vanity; they’re happy-- indeed, obliged-- to outsource those jobs’ other aspects.

But the fault ultimately lies not with Kushner (though a smarter person might have turned down the offer and concentrated on saving his own family’s business). The fault lies in the man from Mar-a-Lago.
Oh... and let's not forget this... which, I'm guessing, is going to turn out to be even more important:

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Democratic Unity-- By Backing Anti-Choice Assholes For Elected Office? No Way


Nancy Pelosi was one of Chuck Todd's guests on Meet the Press yesterday and he asked her "what should unify the Democratic Party? What should make somebody a Democrat?... Can you be a Democrat and win the support of the Democratic Party if you're [an anti-Choice asshole]?" He wanted to know if it was OK for the party to support an anti-Choice candidate, in this case Heath Mello, who's running for mayor of Omaha. Bernie is backing Mello and many progressive women's groups are furious. Pelosi, said "Of course. I have served many years in Congress with members who have not shared my very positive-- my family would say aggressive-- position on promoting a woman's right to choose... Our values unify us." And then she elucidated mostly Berniecrat values-- "our commitment to America's working families," "job creation," "budget policies that invest in the future, good paying jobs..." But not Choice; when did that stop being a value that unifies Democratic elected officials. How doddering and senile has Pelosi become?

I wish Todd would have asked her how she'd feel about some old Southern Democratic Party racists coming back into the party and running for office. Or someone spewing hatred towards the LGBT community. Where does she draw the line? Apparently women's Choice is on the other side of the line.

Being anti-Choice (or racist or anti-gay, etc) is an automatic instant disqualification for being endorsed by Blue America. But being anti-Choice doesn't disqualify you from being embraced by Pelosi's House Majority PAC or by her woefully failed and despised DCCC. Think about that the next time the DCCC hits you up with one of their wretched e-mails for a contribution. There's every chance in the world that some of whatever you give them will go to some anti-Choice asshole running for Congress as a "Democrat." The DCCC has been very aggressive for over a decade in undercutting and sabotaging progressive candidates and favoring conservatives from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, especially New Dems and Blue Dogs. Last cycle, for example the DCCC spent $2,680,676 and Pelosi's House Majority PAC spent $741,041 on former Republican Nebraska legislator Brad Ashford, now an arch-conservative Blue Dog. Similarly, the DCCC spent $2,547,108 and Pelosi spent $495,267 on Ami Bera's reelection campaign, not just for a right-wing New Dem, but for one of Congress' most overtly corrupt members who allowed his elderly father to take the fall for his own criminal activities and get locked up in prison. This is a horrible disgusting man who pollutes the Democratic Party brand every time he shows up on the floor of the House. Both Ashford, who lost, and Bera who won (barely) have grades of "F" from ProgressivePunch. This cycle-- so since Pelosi spent over $3 million saving his worthless hide-- Bera has wracked up, in a strong Democratic district, a 14.29 crucial vote score, second worst among House Democrats other than Kyrsten Sinema's 7.14 and tied with Garbagecrat Dan Lipinski (Blue Dog-IL), a virulently anti-Choice fake Democrat.

Goal Thermometer If the DCCC begs you for money to save Choice from the horrible Republicans, it is impossible that some of that money won't go to fake Democrats who vote with the Republicans to outlaw Choice. Solution: never give to the DCCC; only contribute directly to carefully vetted candidates who really do embody progressive values (including Choice), like the ones at the 2018 ActBlue congressional thermometer on the right. You're not going to find anyone like Heath Mello, Dan Lipinski, Ami Bera, Kyrsten Sinema or Brad Ashford on any Blue America pages, just actual progressives. In fact, we back primary candidates against Democrats like that-- and we already have two for the 2108 cycle-- and expect more.

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You Think Trump And The GOP Have No Accomplishments So Far? You Are Wrong


Do you respect the 62,984,825 voters (46.1%) who were ultimately responsible-- no matter Putin's and Comey's interference or Clinton's unsuitability-- for putting Trump into the White House? Earlier this morning we looked at how proud they still are for having backed Trump; no buyers' remorse there. But there should be-- lots and lots of it... at there there should be if the support for Trump was rational and based on something beyond racism, xenophobia, anger and blind hatred. 62,984,825 of them. Jesus! The Economic Policy Institute makes the clear case that the Trump Regime in its first 100 days has been working to shift power away from working people and towards corporations and the 1%, more a traditional Republican agenda than a Bannon-like nationalist agenda. If the Regime has been accomplishing anything at all for the Trump voters to think about-- if they were capable of actual thought-- it would be how the Trumpists have undercut wages and embarked on the destruction of protections for working people and consumers. Below are Trump's and the GOP's 10 ten achievements; how many of the 62,984,825 voters wanted this agenda?
1- Protecting Wall Street profits that siphon billions of dollars from retirement savers. At President Trump’s behest, the Department of Labor has delayed a rule requiring that financial professionals recommend retirement investment products that serve their clients’ best interests. The “fiduciary rule” aims to stop the losses savers incur when steered into products that earn advisers commissions and fees. The rule was supposed to go into effect April 10. For every seven days that the rule is delayed, retirement savers lose $431 million over the next 30 years. The 60-day delay will cost workers saving for retirement $3.7 billion over 30 years.

2- Letting employers hide fatal injuries that happen on their watch. The Senate approved a resolution making it harder to hold employers accountable when they subject workers to dangerous conditions. The March 22 resolution blocks a rule requiring that employers keep accurate logs of workplace injuries and illnesses for five years. This time frame captures not just individual injuries but track records of unsafe conditions. President Trump said he would sign the resolution. If he does, employers can fail to maintain-- or falsify-- their injury and illness logs, making them less likely to suffer the consequences when workers are injured or killed. Blocking this rule also means that employers, OSHA, and workers cannot use what they learn from past mistakes to prevent future tragedies. If the rule is overturned, more workers will be injured, and responsible employers will be penalized.

3- Allowing potentially billions of taxpayer dollars to go to private contractors who violate health and safety protections or fail to pay workers. The federal government pays contractors hundreds of billions of dollars every year to do everything from manufacturing military aircraft to serving food in our national parks. The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule required that companies vying for these lucrative contracts disclose previous workplace violations, and that those violations be considered when awarding federal contracts. The rule was needed, as major federal contractors were found to be regularly engaging in illegal practices that harm workers financially and endanger their health and safety. On March 27, President Trump killed this rule by signing a congressional resolution blocking it. This will hurt workers and contractors who play by the rules, while benefitting only those contractors with records of cutting corners.

4- Undermining important regulations that protect workers and consumers. On January 30, President Trump issued an executive order mandating that for every new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination. This “2-for-1” executive order requires federal agencies to assess whether a regulation is worthwhile based solely on costs-- regardless of the benefits of the regulation. For example, an EPA regulation issued in 2015 that prevents dumping toxic pollutants into streams and wetlands could certainly represent a higher cost to companies that will need to take additional steps to properly dispose of their waste. But the obvious benefits-- keeping toxic waste out of our major water resources-- far outweighs the costs to businesses. (The Trump administration has already ordered the EPA to rescind or revise this rule.) This emphasis on costs threatens regulations that protect workers, consumers, and the environment.

5- Allowing employers to penalize employees who don’t want to reveal their private medical information. In March, the Republican chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce introduced a bill that would allow employers to penalize employees who opt not to share private genetic or medical information with their bosses. North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx’s pleasantly named Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act (H.R. 1313) claims to promote innovative employee wellness programs and a healthy workforce. But it actually takes aim at the Equal Opportunity Commission’s efforts to ensure that “employers can only obtain or request protected genetic and medical information when the employee voluntarily provides it.” The bill would allow penalties of up to thousands of dollars a year for employees who choose not to share this information through employee wellness programs, clearly coercing them into divulging. Nearly 70 consumer, health, and medical advocacy organizations signed a recent letter opposing this invasive bill.

6- Gutting the strength of labor organizing by forcing unions to represent and protect non-dues-paying workers. In February, Reps. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) and Steve King (R-Iowa) introduced a bill to bar unions from requiring the workers they represent to pay the equivalent of union dues. The bill would establish a federal “right-to-work” law, which is a deceptive name for legislation that forces unions to drain their resources representing non-dues-paying workers. The law would not make life better for hard-working Americans. “Right to work” laws are already on the books in 27 states and the results are clear: lower wages and less bargaining power for working people. Wages are 3.1 percent lower in so-called “right-to-work” states, for union and nonunion workers alike, even after accounting for differences in cost of living, demographics, and workforce characteristics. Rather than further degrading the power of working-class Americans to bargain for decent wages and benefits, Congress and the president should be addressing wage stagnation and inequality.

7- Cutting pay for construction workers on federally funded infrastructure projects. On January 30, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced the Davis-Bacon Repeal Act. The Davis-Bacon act requires that construction workers engaged in federally funded construction projects be paid no less than the local prevailing wage. Careful research has shown that the act protects both the living standards of construction workers and the competitiveness of local construction firms bidding against transient contractors who might win federal contracts by using less-skilled workers. Repealing Davis-Bacon would save taxpayers money purely by taking a chunk of construction workers’ wages. It would not actually make projects to build roads and schools and other public goods more efficient.

8- Putting the brakes on overtime pay for the middle class. The administration has made no move to support a 2016 rule that would extend overtime pay protections to millions of workers. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, most salaried workers making less than a given annual salary are automatically entitled to overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours per week. The threshold aims to protect low- and moderate-earning salaried workers from being required to work excessive hours without compensation. Over the years, the threshold has been eroded by inflation, and the current threshold of $23,660 is below the poverty line for a family of four. In 2016, the Department of Labor raised the threshold to $47,476. While this rule is on hold under a court order, the administration has made its priorities clear. President Trump’s first nominee for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, opposed the rule. And after Puzder withdrew from consideration for the post, in his confirmation hearing the new nominee, Alexander Acosta, declined to assert support for the rule or even the department’s authority to raise the threshold. Raising the overtime salary threshold would directly benefit a broad range of working people, including 4.2 million parents and 7.3 million children.

9- Slashing the budget for the Department of Labor, hindering its ability to enforce wage theft and worker safety laws or provide job training programs. The “skinny budget” released by the White House on March 16 includes a 21 percent cut to the Department of Labor’s budget. Indifference or worse about the plight of U.S. workers is the message sent by cutting a fifth of the budget of the key agency that protects workers from being killed or injured on the job, safeguards workers’ pay and benefits, and provides displaced workers with job training and unemployment benefits.

10- Declining to raise the minimum wage and lift pay for low-wage workers. As of January 1, 29 states and the District of Columbia have a minimum wage that is higher than the federal minimum wage. In 2017 alone, minimum wage increases in 19 states will provide over $4.2 billion in additional wages to nearly 4.3 million affected workers in 2017 and will make a real, although modest, difference in the lives of workers and their families. But the federal minimum wage of $7.25 has not been raised since 2009 and is worth 25 percent less than its peak value in 1968. This decline in purchasing power means low-wage workers have to work longer hours just to achieve the standard of living that was considered the bare minimum almost half a century ago. On the campaign trail, President Trump spoke favorably of raising the federal minimum wage. It’s time to see bold action on this sentiment that could lift pay for the bottom quarter or more of the workforce.

Hillary Clinton Explains Our North Korea, South Korea, China Policy


by Gaius Publius

"We don't want a unified Korean peninsula ... We [also] don't want the North Koreans to cause more trouble than the system can absorb."
—Hillary Clinton, 2013, speech to Goldman Sachs

Our policy toward North Korea is not what most people think it is. We don't want the North Koreans to go away. In fact, we like them doing what they're doing; we just want less of it than they've been doing lately. If this sounds confusing, it's because this policy is unlike what the public has been led to assume. Thanks to something uncovered by WikiLeaks, the American public has a chance to be unconfused about what's really going on with respect to our policies in Korea.

This piece isn't intended to criticize that policy; it may be an excellent one. I just want to help us understand it better. 

Our source for the U.S. government's actual Korean policy — going back decades really — is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She resigned that position in February 2013, and on June 4, 2013 she gave a speech at Goldman Sachs with Lloyd Blankfein present (perhaps on stage with her) in which she discussed in what sounds like a very frank manner, among many other things, the U.S. policy toward the two Korea and the relationship of that policy to China.

That speech and two others were sent by Tony Carrk of the Clinton campaign to a number of others in the campaign, including John Podesta. WikiLeaks subsequently released that email as part of its release of other Podesta emails (source email with attachments here). In that speech, Clinton spoke confidentially and, I believe, honestly. What she said in that speech, I take her as meaning truthfully. There's certainly no reason for her to lie to her peers, and in some cases her betters, at Goldman Sachs. The entire speech reads like elites talking with elites in a space reserved just for them.

I'm not trying to impugn Clinton or WikiLeaks by writing this — that's not my intention at all. I just want to learn from what she has to say — from a position of knowledge — about the real U.S. policy toward North Korea. After all, if Goldman Sachs executives can be told this, it can't be that big a secret. We should be able to know it as well.

What Clinton's Speech Tells Us about U.S. Korea Policy

The WikiLeaks tweet is above. The entire speech, contained in the attachment to the email, is here. I've reprinted some of the relevant portions below, first quoting Ms. Clinton with some interspersed comments from me. Then, adding some thoughts about what this seems to imply about our approach to and relations with South Korea.

The Korea section of the Goldman Sachs speech starts with a discussion of China, and then Blankfein pivots to Korea. Blankfein's whole question that leads to the Clinton quote tweeted by WikiLeaks above (my emphasis throughout):
MR. BLANKFEIN: The Japanese -- I was more surprised that it wasn't like that when you think of -- all these different things. It's such a part of who they are, their response to Japan. If you bump into the Filipino fishing boats, then I think you really -- while we're in the neighborhood [i.e., discussing Asia], the Chinese is going to help us or help themselves -- what is helping themselves? North Korea? On the one hand they [the Chinese] wouldn't want -- they don't want to unify Korea, but they can't really like a nutty nuclear power on their border. What is their interests and what are they going to help us do?
Clinton's whole answer is reprinted in the WikiLeaks tweet attachment (click through to the tweet and expand the embedded image to read it all). The relevant portions, for my purposes, are printed below. From the rest of her remarks, the context of Blankfein's question and Clinton's answer is the threat posed by a North Korean ICBM, not unlike the situation our government faces today.
MS. CLINTON: Well, I think [Chinese] traditional policy has been close to what you've described. We don't want a unified Korean peninsula, because if there were one South Korea would be dominant for the obvious economic and political reasons.

We [also] don't want the North Koreans to cause more trouble than the system can absorb. So we've got a pretty good thing going with the previous North Korean leaders [Kim Il-sung and Kim Jung-il]. And then along comes the new young leader [Kim Jung-un], and he proceeds to insult the Chinese. He refuses to accept delegations coming from them. He engages in all kinds of both public and private rhetoric, which seems to suggest that he is preparing himself to stand against not only the South Koreans and the Japanese and the Americans, but also the Chinese.
Translation — three points:
  • The U.S. prefers that Korea stay divided. If Korea were to unite, South Korea would be in charge, and we don't want South Korea to become any more powerful than it already is.
  • We also don't want the trouble North Korea causes South Korea to extend beyond the region. We want it to stay within previously defined bounds.
  • Our arrangement with the two previous North Korean leaders met both of those objectives. North Korea's new leader, Kim Jung-un, is threatening that arrangement.
It appears that China has the same interest in keeping this situation as-is that we do. That is, they want South Korea (and us) to have a Korean adversary, but they don't want the adversary acting out of acceptable bounds — coloring outside the lines laid down by the Chinese (and the U.S.), as it were. Clinton:
So the new [Chinese] leadership basically calls him [Kim Jung-un] on the carpet. And a high ranking North Korean military official has just finished a visit in Beijing and basically told [him, as a message from the Chinese]: Cut it out. Just stop it. Who do you think you are? And you are dependent on us [the Chinese], and you know it. And we expect you to demonstrate the respect that your father and your grandfather [Kim Jung-il, Kim Il-sung] showed toward us, and there will be a price to pay if you do not.

Now, that looks back to an important connection of what I said before. The biggest supporters of a provocative North Korea has been the PLA [the Chinese People's Liberation Army]. The deep connections between the military leadership in China and in North Korea has really been the mainstay of the relationship. So now all of a sudden new leadership with Xi and his team, and they're saying to the North Koreans -- and by extension to the PLA -- no. It is not acceptable. We don't need this [trouble] right now. We've got other things going on. So you're going to have to pull back from your provocative actions, start talking to South Koreans again about the free trade zones, the business zones on the border, and get back to regular order and do it quickly.

Now, we don't care if you occasionally shoot off a missile. That's good. That upsets the Americans and causes them heartburn, but you can't keep going down a path that is unpredictable. We don't like that. That is not acceptable to us.

So I think they're trying to reign Kim Jong in. I think they're trying to send a clear message to the North Korean military. They also have a very significant trade relationship with Seoul and they're trying to reassure Seoul that, you know, we're now on the case. 
Clinton ends with a fourth point:
  • From the U.S. standpoint, the current problem is now on the Chinese to fix.
So they want to keep North Korea within their orbit. They want to keep it predictable in their view. They have made some rather significant statements recently that they would very much like to see the North Koreans pull back from their nuclear program. Because I and everybody else -- and I know you had Leon Panetta here this morning. You know, we all have told the Chinese if they continue to develop this missile program and they get an ICBM that has the capacity to carry a small nuclear weapon on it, which is what they're aiming to do, we cannot abide that. Because they could not only do damage to our treaty allies, namely Japan and South Korea, but they could actually reach Hawaii and the west coast theoretically, and we're going to ring China with missile defense. We're going to put more of our fleet in the area.

So China, come on. You either control them or we're going to have to defend against them.
The four bullets above (three, and then one) give a very clear definition of longstanding U.S. policy toward the two Koreas. I think the only surprise in this, for us civilians, is that the U.S. doesn't want the Korean peninsula unified. So two questions: Why not? And, do the South Koreans know this? I'll offer brief answers below.

The "Great Game" In East Asia — Keeping the Korean "Tiger" in Check

South Korea is one of the great emerging nations in East Asia, one of the "Asian tigers," a manufacturing and economic powerhouse that's lately been turning into a technological and innovative powerhouse as well.

For example, one of just many, from Forbes:
Why South Korea Will Be The Next Global Hub For Tech Startups

American business has long led the way in high tech density or the proportion of businesses that engage in activities such as Internet software and services, hardware and semiconductors. The US is fertile ground for tech start-ups with access to capital and a culture that celebrates risk taking. Other countries have made their mark on the world stage, competing to be prominent tech and innovation hubs. Israel has been lauded as a start-up nation with several hundred companies getting funded by venture capital each year. A number of these companies are now being acquired by the likes of Apple, Facebook and Google. Finland and Sweden have attracted notice by bringing us Angry Birds and Spotify among others. But a new start-up powerhouse is on the horizon – South Korea. [...]
In other words, South Korea has leaped beyond being a country that keeps U.S. tech CEOs wealthy — it's now taking steps that threaten that wealth itself. And not just in electronics; the biological research field — think cloning — is an area the South Koreans are trying to take a lead in as well.

It's easy to understand Ms. Clinton's — and the business-captured American government's — interest in making sure that the U.S. CEO class isn't further threatened by a potential doubling of the capacity of the South Korean government and economy. Let them (the Koreans) manufacture to their heart's content, our policy seems to say; but to threaten our lead in billionaire-producing entrepreneurship ... that's a bridge too far.

Again, this is Clinton speaking, I'm absolutely certain, on behalf of U.S. government policy makers and the elites they serve: We don't want a unified Korean peninsula, because if there were one, an already-strong South Korea would be dominant for obvious economic reasons.

As to whether the South Koreans know that this is our policy, I'd have to say, very likely yes. After all, if Clinton is saying this to meetings of Goldman Sachs executives, it can't be that big a secret. It's just that the South Korea leadership knows better than the North Korean leader how to handle it.


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Most Americans Think Trump Sucks-- But The Moron Voters Who Put Him In The White House Are Happily Sticking With Him


We're not quite at the 100 days of Trump mark yet but all the polls show him increasingly unpopular with the general public, The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll show that 54% disapprove of the job he's doing, compared with 40% who approve, a 14-point gap that is significantly wider than February's 4-point difference. 64% of the public view his first 100 days as fair or poor-- mostly (45%) poor. Qualities like temperament and honesty are still major problems for him, respectively 21% and 25% of people seeing him as strong on those characteristics. Only 27% see him as knowledgeable. Only 14% say he's off to a great start. And he's dragging his party down with him-- or perhaps his party is dragging him down with them:

When the poll looks at white with college degrees and whites without college degrees, there's a very marked split in feelings about Trump. He knew what he was saying when, during the campaign, he said he loved the poorly educated. They love him too. Only 34% of whites with degrees approve of Trump (57% disapprove) but that statistic flips on it's head when you look at whites without degrees. 56% approve of Trump and just 38% disapprove.

A poll from the Washington Post had even worse news. Just 4% of Trump voters would ditch him in a redo of the 2016 election and only 2% of Trump voters say he's been worse than expected. 62% of Trump voters say he's been better than they expected. Think about that. Gary Langer explained the poll he did for ABC News:
His challenges are considerable. Majorities say Trump lacks the judgment and the temperament it takes to serve effectively. Six in 10 doubt his honesty and trustworthiness, see him as out of touch and don't think he understands the problems of people like them. Fifty-six percent say he hasn't accomplished much in his first 100 days. And 55 percent say he doesn't follow a consistent set of principles in setting policy (though fewer see this as a problem, 48 percent).

All told, 42 percent of Americans approve of Trump's performance as president, while 53 percent disapprove. That compares to an average of 69-19 percent for past presidents at or near 100 days in office-- for example, 69-26 percent for Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama.

Still, the national survey also finds some brighter spots for the president-- chiefly in pushing for jobs and in foreign policy-- as well as deep popularity problems for the opposition party. Sixty-seven percent say the Democratic Party is out of touch with the concerns of most Americans, even more than say the same about Trump, and similar to the Republican Party (62 percent). That's a steeply negative turn for the Democrats, 19 percentage points more critical than when last asked three years ago, including especially steep losses in their own base.

Trump's better grades include broad 73 percent approval of his pressuring companies to keep jobs in the United States-- even most Democrats, liberals and nonwhites approve, three groups that are broadly critical of Trump more generally. And more than half, 53 percent, see him as a strong leader, although that compares with 77 percent for Obama at this stage.

On one specific issue, a plurality, 46 percent, says he's handling the situation with North Korea "about right," as opposed to being too aggressive (37 percent) or too cautious (just 7 percent). Similarly, a recent ABC/Post poll found 51 percent support for Trump's missile strikes on Syria; together these results make his foreign policy a comparative bright spot. They're also a contrast with Obama, seen by 53 percent as too cautious in his foreign policy in fall 2014, as he dealt with Syria and Russian intervention in Ukraine.

As noted, this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds no evidence of buyer's remorse among Trump supporters. Among those who report having voted for him in November, 96 percent today say it was the right thing to do; a mere 2 percent regret it. And if a rerun of the election were held today, the poll indicates even the possibility of a Trump victory in the popular vote among 2016 voters.

...Among Americans who say they voted in the 2016 election, 46 percent say they voted for Hillary Clinton and 43 percent for Trump, very close to the 2-point margin in the actual popular vote results. However, while Trump would retain almost all of his support if the election were held again today (96 percent), fewer of Clinton's supporters say they’d stick with her (85 percent), producing a 40-43 percent Clinton-Trump result in this hypothetical re-do among self-reported 2016 voters.

That's not because former Clinton supporters would now back Trump; only 2 percent of them say they'd do so, similar to the 1 percent of Trump voters who say they'd switch to Clinton. Instead, they're more apt to say they'd vote for a third-party candidate or wouldn’t vote.

In a cautionary note to her party, Clinton's 6-point drop in a hypothetical mulligan election relates to views of whether the Democratic Party is in touch with peoples' concerns. Although the sample sizes are small, those who say the party is out of touch are less likely to say they'd support Clinton again, compared with those who see it as in touch.

Still, there's no strong evidence that defectors primarily come from groups that favored Bernie Sanders in the primary. There are no broad differences by age, and liberals are 9 points more likely than moderates and conservatives to stick with Clinton. Similarly, nonwhites are 10 points more likely than whites to say they would not support Clinton again, with more than a third of them heading to the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson.

I hear a lot of fury and hatred expressed towards Trump. Although I have a brother-in-law who voted for him, I don't know anyone else who did. I suspect most everyone I know would like to see him dropped into a tank filled with hungry sharks-- even the ones who oppose capital punishment. But what few people ever want to express out loud is the rage they feel towards the Trump voters-- our fellow countrymen. [UPDATE: This morning the mayor of a French town that voted for Le Pen yesterday says he's thinking of resigning because he doesn't want to "serve assholes."] Do you want to kill them? No? How about take away their right to vote? They suck. But you know who else sucks? Here's who-- look at these numbers closely-- and the Democratic number is so jarringly high because almost half of Democratic voters agree that the corrupt party elites-- overwhelmingly careerists-- are out of touch, which they clearly are:

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Little Nuts The Way We All Are? Or Is Trump Dangerously Insane?


Yesterday, writing for New York, Gail Sheehy looked at psychiatrists willing to break tradition and do their duty to warn people about how mentally unfit Trump is to be president. I don't know anyone who thinks he's sane. Do you? But how insane and how dangerous?

A few minutes ago a friend of mine, a psychologist, e-mailed me a note about a sign she had seen at the Science March: "How are Trump and atoms alike? They make up everything." Delusional is pretty crazy but pretty crazy isn't what Sheehy had in mind. "Psychiatrists and psychologists," she wrote, "operate under a norm-- the so-called Goldwater Rule-- that their professional organizations made up in 1973, forbidding them from evaluating public figures they haven’t been able to question in person. In the face of minimal trust at home and abroad in President Donald Trump’s stability and his tenuous grasp of reality, a group of eminent professionals are daring to depart from the party line." They're worried about what harm "this abnormal president" could do to 300 million Americans. They're increasingly calling him "mentally ill."
This moment (which itself is “unprecedented”) led to an open town-hall meeting on Thursday, at Yale Medical School, to discuss the elephant in the room. Dr. Bandy X. Lee, a diminutive Yale psychiatry professor who along with Dr. [John] Gartner called the meeting, puts it this way: “We have a ‘Duty to Warn,’ about a leader who is dangerous to the health and security of our patients.” She has formed a coalition by that name, and it now comprises almost 800 mental-health professionals who are “sufficiently alarmed that they feel the need to speak up about the mental-health status of the president.” Gartner has posted a similar petition on the web, and it has attracted 41,000 signatures, a high proportion of them from mental-health practitioners. Anyone can look it up and sign it.

“Duty to Warn” is a term with some history. In 1974, a trial known as the Tarasoff case established the law-- now in force in 38 states-- saying that if a patient is in imminent danger of physically hurting someone, his or her doctor may break confidentiality and alert the likely victim or call the police. As for the Goldwater Rule itself, it is essentially a gag order, part of the code of ethics of the American Psychiatric Association. It was created in the years after the 1964 presidential election, when the fiery conservative Barry Goldwater won the Republican nomination. (Goldwater ran on anti-communist rhetoric suggesting that he just might start a nuclear war, on the slogan “In Your Heart You Know He’s Right”; Lyndon Johnson’s counter-slogan was “In Your Guts You Know He’s Nuts.”) Press outlets, notably a magazine called Fact, asked psychiatrists and psychologists to diagnose Goldwater, and they did, enthusiastically and damningly. Goldwater sued Fact and won. The APA set down its rule a few years later.
One of the speakers was Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, former Yale professor of psychiatry and author of the ur-text about the ways Nazi doctors were perverted into killers.
He told the tiny audience he had an important concept to discuss: “malignant normality.” Lifton defines it as “arrangements put forward as being normal when in fact they are dangerous and destructive.” An extreme example on which he has done studies is that of German doctors who were assigned to Auschwitz. Their job was to be active in the mass killing. They were given perverted training to defeat their fears and shame and brainwash them into believing it was normal to gas Jews to death. (As, it’s worth noting, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad must do something similar to “normalize” the gassing of babies and women by their countrymen in his army.)

Dr. Judith Herman spoke next. She’s a renowned professor of psychiatry trained at Harvard and Cambridge and, after Trump’s election, she wrote a letter to President Obama expressing alarm at the symptoms of mental instability she saw in the president-elect. Was there some way to insist on a neuropsychiatric evaluation, she wrote, “before this man assumes the terrifying power of a U.S. president?” Only two of her colleagues were willing to co-sign the letter, which went viral and was read at the Women’s March on Washington.

Dr. James F. Gilligan, a senior clinical professor of psychiatry at NYU Medical School, was on next and offered that Trump’s mental unfitness had multiple causes. And before the meeting was over, the following diagnoses had been brought up: narcissism combined with a sociopathic personality, pathological lying, and paranoia, which makes him vulnerable to conspiracy theories. Anyone who doesn’t flatter him extravagantly is meant to be destroyed. He engages in exploitation and violation of the rights of others, and sometimes goes as far as sadism, with no evidence of remorse. “When you add all these elements,” Gilligan observed, “this is a class of people of whom Hitler is a member.” Only at the end did Gartner introduce a note of gallows humor. Imagine tomorrow’s grandparents, he suggested, stuck in a refugee camp in icy Idaho, trying to warm their hands over a fire while asked to explain it all to the grandkids. “Grandpa, you knew there was a dangerous man running our country — why didn’t you say something?

“Well, you see, in 1967 there was a lawsuit brought by a candidate for president called Barry Goldwater — “

“Wait, Grandpa — what’s a lawsuit?”

Chagrined, the grandfather tries to explain that a magazine had warned that Goldwater was unstable and had been sued.

“Wait, Grandpa — what’s a magazine?”

After the session ended, Lifton spoke to me, and I asked whether he sees Trump as an abnormal personality. “Trump creates his own extreme manipulation of reality,” he explained. “He insists that his spokesmen defend his false reality as normal. He then expects the rest of society to accept it-- despite the lack of any evidence.”... I pressed him to interpret the angry meltdown that seized President Trump when he was told, after the fact, that his closest campaign cohort, Jeff Sessions, had recused himself from the Justice Department investigation of Trump’s Russian connections. “Trump’s version of reality did not include Sessions having done anything wrong,” he explained, “despite evidence of his reported contacts with the Russian ambassador.” Trump himself, he explained, cannot bear the humiliation of being exposed as wrong, and is “ultra-sensitive” about the Russian connection. “He’s more than a little threatened by the idea of a full independent inquiry. A sudden influx of new information about his business holdings could create an explosive situation.”

Can our institutions that guarantee a separation of powers survive such a manipulative presidency? “Open institutions are still in effect, but he’s doing his best to ignore them and break them down,” says Lifton. “Trump is a person bent on authoritarian behavior.” He continued with a sobering quote from the contemporary poet Craig Morgan Teicher: “In a dark time, the eye begins to see.”

And, oh, the stories Melania could tell about the psychotic whack-job she's been stuck with longer than anyone deserves to be! (Yeah, that Vanity Fair link is pretty scary.)

OK, he's a hustler, but does that make him insane?


When A Really Bad Democrat Sneaks Into Congress, It's Serious And It's Harmful-- Vicente González


Members of Congress don't call bloggers and apologize much. But just over a year ago Blue America was backing Sonny Palacios for an open south Texas seat, TX-15, a long narrow district that heads north from the Rio Grande through McAllen and Edinburg, up Route 281 and zigging and zagging up to Seguin east of San Antonio. It's a pretty safe Democratic district. Obama won it both times with 57% and Hillary beat Trump by about the same margin. My congressional friend though, was backing a very wealthy right-wing hustler, Vicente González. González, desperate to win the crowded primary pretended to be a progressive and put a million dollars of his own money into his campaign.

The run-off between Palocios and González was May 24. Sonny is a proud outspoken progressive, a proactive leader with valuable experience as a community leader, school board member, attorney and single father. González is hard to pin down. To one audience he'll claim to be progressive and to another he'll call himself a conservative Democrat. He told a students event that he had voted for Bernie Sanders and a few days later sent out a mailer saying he was a Hillary Clinton endorser. He's very much like Trump in that way... He says whatever pops into his mind based on who the immediate audience is. People in McAllen are calling him the "Trump of South Texas." And, like Trump, he talks a good game about women but his actions speaker louder since, like Trump, exploiting women is part of his business model. He swore in the McAllen Municipal Court (case number 2010-00096858) that he owned the Longhorn Saloon, a topless bar and strip club, which was eventually closed down due to illegal prostitution and drug trafficking on the premises. You cannot run for Congress and claim to be a champion of women’s rights when you're enriching yourself by prostituting vulnerable women.

González persuaded my friend to endorse him. By that time he had self-funded to the tune of $1,650,000 into his campaign and he swamped Palacios, burying him in dishonest advertising. Not long after my friend endorsed him, local radio hosts mentioned to González on the air that "You were endorsed by the Progressive Caucus... I've heard you say once before you see yourself as a conservative Democrat." He immediately responded, "I do in a lot of ways but I guess they agreed with some of my views... I'm not changing my principles... I appreciate the endorsement but my views are my views." Those views aren't remotely progressive, not even pro-Choice. And he's a 100% NRA shill. "I govern from the middle. You know I'm not for raising taxes... I believe we should have the strongest military in the world-- always-- and we should lead the world militarily." One of the interviewers, the more overtly Republican one, listened to him speaking and asked "Why are you running as a Democrat?" He said he's been a Democrat all his life and reiterated that he's a conservative and then said "There are a lot of great candidates on the Republican side as well. I'll reach across there aisle and work with them." Too bad they didn't ask him to name any. The only other congressional candidate he's ever contributed to is right-wing Blue Dog, Filemon Vela, who routinely votes against every progressive proposal... as González has been doing as well.

So, that apology... "You were right on this one. González took my campaign contribution, committed to progressive positions in the CPC questionnaire, and then reneged on joining the CPC and seems to be headed towards being even worse than you told me he would be when you warned me not to endorse him. Not too proud to acknowledge when I'm wrong. He and his team lied to us. It's as clear as that."

González joined the Blue Dogs and has begun running up a truly horrible voting record. ProgressivePunch has already given him an overall "F" rating. His crucial vote score is 57.14, slightly worse than Dan Lipinski. Alas, though, this isn't the kind of district where the idea of primaries is built into the collective DNA. America is going to be stuck with González for a long time-- unless or until he gets caught doing something illegal.

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It's Taken Forever, But Democrats Are Finally Starting To Boo Dianne Feinstein


You know who has a really big mailing list? AARP. For starters, they have over 37,000,0000 members. But they add people to their mailing list even before they become members. Yesterday I got a mailing from them. Inside the envelope were three petitions, one to each California senator and one to Adam Schiff, my congressman. Other than the names, they were identical:
As one of your constituents and as a member of AARP, I urge you to oppose any efforts to cut my Medicare benefits. Along with tens of millions of other Americans, I have paid into Medicare over my lifetime and I count on the benefits that have been promised to me.

I also urge you to take action to update and strengthen Social Security. If you fail to act, future retirees could lose more than 20% of their benefits. Social Security is the largest source of income for most older Americans, and many seniors already live near or below the poverty line. Substantial cuts will drive millions more into poverty.
I've never been a Feinstein fan; in fact, I've never voted for her for anything-- and that goes all the way back to the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco, when she was the representative from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. Harvey Milk was a close friend of mine back then and after Board of Sup meetings he used to tell me what an asshole she was even then. After he and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by a whacked out Republican politician, Dan White (dealt with extra-judicially when the wheels of justice misfired), Feinstein ran for mayor. I helped Jello Biafra's campaign against her.

Over the years it's always saddened me that my state had such a corrupt and conservative senator representing us. But conservatives and even Republicans love her and she's been seen as a virtual fixture for life. I was happy to see her roundly boo-ed and heckled last week at the first town hall she's done in San Francisco in the 25 years she's been in the Senate. These town-halls mostly seem to target Republicans but it's really great when they target Democrats from the Republican wing of the party-- like her. The video up top will show you what happened. And it was covered by the L.A. Times as well.
Progressive activists who have sought to address Sen. Dianne Feinstein face-to-face for months got what they wanted Monday as Feinstein held a town hall meeting in her hometown of San Francisco.

The most tense moment of the hourlong forum came when she answered an audience member's question about healthcare by saying she doesn't support efforts to move to a single-payer system.

Faced with boos, Feinstein said when it comes to a "total takeover" of healthcare by the government, "I'm not there."

One audience member called Feinstein a "sellout" as others joined in chants of "Single-payer now!"

But the event was mostly calm. One heckler who yelled at Feinstein repeatedly was quickly shouted down by other town hall participants. Questioners pushed Feinstein to make public statements condemning "fascists in the White House" and calling Trump "corrupt" and "incompetent."

"All of this takes a plan," Feinstein responded. "I'd be surprised if you found too many senators, if any, that have gotten more done.... I don't get there by making statements I can't deliver. I get there through some caution, some discussion, some smart help, good lawyers and we generally get where we're going."

At least several audience members held up signs reading "Retire Feinstein" as protesters outside urged her not to seek reelection.

Feinstein, who will turn 84 in June, has hinted that she will seek reelection. Asked about whether she'll run as she left the town hall, Feinstein told reporters, "You'll find out soon enough," according to the Sacramento Bee.

It was Feinstein's first hometown public town hall meeting since being elected to the Senate 25 years ago.
ProgressivePunch rates her an "F" and finds her the 11th worst Democrat in the Senate with a lifetime crucial vote score of 78.24. This is California; we want someone to lead the way Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Jeff Merkley lead, not drag the country and the party backward. Democratic voters are finally starting to catch on. People want her to retire when her term ends in 2018. She's given contradictory signals about whether or not she's running again, although, mostly recently, she's said she would. There's no one remotely plausible who would oppose her either. Sickening. And even if she retires, those most eager to replace her aren't an improvement at all: Loretta Sanchez, Brad Sherman, Adam Schiff-- all conservatives. I keep forgetting to ask Ted Lieu if he'd run.

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Steve Bannon Has Big Plans For Next Weekend-- A 100th Day Government Shut Down


Ryan held a conference call with his members yesterday to assure them that he has no intention of shutting down the government despite what the White House appears to be angling for. He promised not to let his failed TrumpCare bill get in the way. Some Republicans in Congress are worried they'll be blamed by next year's midterm voters if there's a government shutdown. Those worries are not part of Steve Bannon's calculus. He's fighting for his political life. What happens to Martha McSally, John Culberson, John Katko, Brian Fitzpatrick, Leonard Lance or Ed Royce isn't remotely on his radar. Making something BIG happen for the obsessed and mentally unbalanced boss on his 100th day in office is. Yesterday Ryan Lizza penned a piece in the New Yorker suggesting "the White House" wants a shut down. That's Bannon.
“For weeks, the House and Senate Democrats and Republicans have been working well together,” a Democratic aide said. “Then, all of a sudden, the White House is looking at next week and they have nothing to show for the first one hundred days, and they either want a health-care bill to pass next week, which seems like a heavy lift, or to get more on immigration from this process. Even Republicans don’t want this fight, and they don’t want a shutdown on Day One Hundred of the Trump Administration.”

The White House, which is trying to force another vote on an Obamacare repeal, seems desperate to either win some of Trump’s priorities in a deal next week, or force a government shutdown that it can blame on Democrats. That might energize Trump’s supporters, who don’t have much to celebrate yet.

But it’s not just the Democrats who oppose several Trump priorities. Congressional Republicans, who are generally united in support for the increase in defense spending, are divided on the border wall, which is not popular among border-state Republicans, and the deep domestic-spending cuts.

So far, it does not look like a bridgeable gap. “This is going to be high-stakes poker,” the White House official said. When I asked if a shutdown was likely, the official paused for several seconds. “I don’t know,” the official said. The official added, “I just want my wall and my ice agents.”
Bannon-- always the Hollywood drama queen. And Señor Trumpanzee can relate. After all what did those fuckers in Congress do for him anyway. They wouldn't even vote on TrumpCare, denying him targets for his wrath and vengeance. So late Friday night El Señor surprises everyone by announcing his powerful Armanda is steaming up the Potomac with submarines. Oops, sorry, he didn't do that yet. No, he announced that he would unveil a "massive" tax cut for Americans next week, vowing a "big announcement on Wednesday," but he revealed no details about what is certain to be an enormously complicated effort to overhaul the nation’s tax code, except, as a Trump-watcher might expect that it would be "bigger, I believe, than any tax cut ever." You almost feel sorry for Ryan and Miss McConnell. Almost. I bet they would have preferred the Armanda steaming past Point Lookout.

Trump's showy-- albeit crackpot-- announcement Friday surprised Capitol Hill and left El Señor’s own Treasury officials speechless as he arrived at the Treasury offices to sign directives to roll back Obama-era tax rules and financial regulations that protected consumers from bankster predators. "Earlier in the day," reported the Times' Alan Rappeport, "when reporters asked Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, how far away a tax overhaul proposal was, he said he could not give an answer. 'Tax reform is way too complicated,' he said." Nothing's too complicated for El Señor-- nothing as in everything-- same/same. He doesn't comprehend a word of any of it and depends on Kushner-in-law, who's mentally slow and something of a remedial student-- I know his tutor who told me he's incapable of critical thinking-- to explain it all to him over dinner.
Starting that fight next week is further complicated by Mr. Trump’s hopes to revive the Republican health care plan that collapsed last month. And it would mean trying a tax overhaul as his White House faces the prospect of a government shutdown if lawmakers cannot agree on a funding bill by April 28.

The details of Mr. Trump’s tax plans remain the subject of intense speculation, with stock markets regularly gyrating when White House officials discuss the subject. Since taking office, the president has suggested that he wants to enact the deepest cuts to individual and corporate tax rates in history.

But despite Mr. Trump’s statement on Friday that his tax overhaul “really formally begins on Wednesday,” White House officials quickly cautioned against high expectations that Mr. Trump would provide the legislative text of a detailed tax plan next week.

Instead, a senior administration official said the president would release only the “parameters” that Mr. Trump expected a tax plan to follow in the long congressional debate that would surely follow. Another official said the information released next week would be more like a “broad” outline. Wall Street, which tends to celebrate tax cuts, barely reacted; the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index was down 0.3 percent Friday.

The administration has maintained that middle-income tax cuts, a simplification of personal income taxes, and making business taxes more competitive with other countries are the top priorities. Mr. Trump insisted that his plans were on track and that his strategy to remake the economy would change history.

“This is really the beginning of a whole new way of life that this country hasn’t seen in many, many years,” Mr. Trump said as he sat at the desk of Mr. Mnuchin, near a portrait of Alexander Hamilton, the first Treasury secretary.

He said, “We’ve lifted one terrible regulation after another at a record clip from the energy sector to the auto sector.”

Despite Mr. Trump’s enthusiasm, the directives he signed at the Treasury Department on Friday to review measures put in place by the Obama administration were largely preliminary. As business groups cheered the moves, some skeptics were left questioning whether Mr. Trump was keeping his campaign promises to give working-class Americans a higher priority than Wall Street bankers.

“From our perspective, it is a direction that is dramatically backwards on financial stability,” said Lisa Donner, executive director of Americans for Financial Reform.

The presidential order asks Mr. Mnuchin to review the tax regulations imposed by President Barack Obama in 2016. Those include efforts to clamp down on “corporate inversions”-- in which American companies merge with foreign companies to take advantage of lower tax rates abroad.

Viewed alone, undoing the rules would appear to be at odds with Mr. Trump’s campaign pledge to reduce incentives for companies to move overseas to minimize taxes.

Last year Mr. Obama’s Treasury Department, concerned about Pfizer’s $152 billion bid to acquire Allergan, which makes Botox, issued rules to thwart the practice. Among those efforts were regulations to prevent moves like “earnings-stripping,” in which an American subsidiary borrows from a parent company and uses the interest payments on the loans to offset its earnings. It was intended to make the financial relocations less attractive.

The uproar over inversions dogged a number of transactions over the last five years including Burger King’s takeover of the Canadian chain Tim Hortons and the drug maker AbbVie’s planned acquisition of an Irish rival, Shire.

But the major target of the outrage was the Pfizer-Allergan deal, by far the biggest effort by a company to give up its American citizenship to cut its taxes. Pfizer executives braced themselves for opposition from the Obama administration-- but were surprised by how aggressively the White House fought the deal. Within a few months, Pfizer and Allergan surrendered and ended their agreement.

Robert Willens, an independent tax consultant, said reversing these rules would be a gift to Wall Street bankers and lawyers who have complained that they have hampered international deal making.

“They’ll be dancing in the streets and jumping for joy,” Mr. Willens said.

...Democrats warned that Mr. Trump was putting vulnerable middle-class Americans in danger. “Simply eliminating these regulations and putting nothing in their place leaves a hole in the tax system that sophisticated corporations will continue to take advantage of, to the detriment of the country,” said David Kamin, a New York University law professor who worked on the Obama administration’s National Economic Council.

Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, assailed Mr. Trump for trying to undermine rules that were put in place to protect the economy. “Any actions to undermine these protections encourage Wall Street’s risky behavior and leave taxpayers and our economy exposed to another catastrophe,” he said.

Mr. Brown said that Mr. Trump appeared to be breaking a campaign promise by making it easier for companies to use inversions. “We should be working to lower taxes for hardworking families and workers across Ohio, not helping multimillion-dollar corporations cheat the system to avoid paying their fair share,” he said.

Mr. Mnuchin insisted that would not be the case and argued the tax overhaul legislation plan that they would propose will address the problem of companies moving overseas.

Mr. Trump has shown an affinity for tariffs. He proposed a “reciprocal” tax this month that matches the import taxes other countries impose on American goods.

It remains unclear if Mr. Trump is on board with the “border adjustment” tax that is central to the plan being promoted by Speaker Paul D. Ryan and House Republicans. The concept would allow Republicans to raise more than $1 trillion of revenue, making it possible for them pass legislation without adding to the deficit.

Mr. Trump has been cool to that plan in interviews, and recently his advisers have been making the case that a surging economy, rather than Mr. Ryan’s border adjustment tax, will pay for deep rate cuts.

“The plan will pay for itself with growth,” Mr. Mnuchin said an Institute for International Finance conference on Thursday.

Mr. Trump’s economic team had initially set an August deadline to get tax legislation passed, but that target was delayed to the end of the year after Republicans expended time on their failed health plan.

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If The Democratic Party Doesn't Stand For Something, It'll Just Turn Into A Clintonian Mush In A Big Pointless Tent


As I've been explaining over the last couple of weeks, when Blue America tries to get to know candidates as part of our vetting process, we basically try to understand where they are on the issues involving economic opportunity. Where do they stand on living wage vs minimum wage? How do we achieve universal healthcare? How do we come up with a fair taxation system? But we never even get to those questions if the candidate is anti-Choice, anti-LGBT or unsupportive of racism equality. I hate identity politics but and the reality of divisiveness used for political purposes isn't something you can wish away by burying your head in the sand.

Egged on by a fully corrupt Democratic establishment and donor class fearful of losing ground to the increasingly popular Bernie Sanders and his movement, the media has been trying hard to drum up an internal Democratic Party conflict over "unity." Scratch the surface and who do you find inciting the disunity? The Hillary dead-enders so aptly described in Jonathan Allen's and Amie Parnes' new book Shattered. If you don't want to read the whole book-- I don't blame you-- read Matt Taibbi's review in Rolling Stone. These are the people whose arrogance and incompetence helped pave the way for the worst thing that's happened to America since the Civil War.
What Allen and Parnes captured in Shattered was a far more revealing portrait of the Democratic Party intelligentsia than, say, the WikiLeaks dumps. And while the book is profoundly unflattering to Hillary Clinton, the problem it describes really has nothing to do with Secretary Clinton.

The real protagonist of this book is a Washington political establishment that has lost the ability to explain itself or its motives to people outside the Beltway.

In fact, it shines through in the book that the voters' need to understand why this or that person is running for office is viewed in Washington as little more than an annoying problem.

In the Clinton run, that problem became such a millstone around the neck of the campaign that staffers began to flirt with the idea of sharing the uninspiring truth with voters. Stumped for months by how to explain why their candidate wanted to be president, Clinton staffers began toying with the idea of seeing how "Because it's her turn" might fly as a public rallying cry.

...Most don't see elections as organic movements within populations of millions, but as dueling contests of "whip-smart" organizers who know how to get the cattle to vote the right way. If someone wins an election, the inevitable Beltway conclusion is that the winner had better puppeteers.

The Clinton campaign in 2016, for instance, never saw the Bernie Sanders campaign as being driven by millions of people who over the course of decades had become dissatisfied with the party. They instead saw one cheap stunt pulled by an illegitimate back-bencher, foolishness that would be ended if Sanders himself could somehow be removed.

"Bill and Hillary had wanted to put [Sanders] down like a junkyard dog early on," Allen and Parnes wrote. The only reason they didn't, they explained, was an irritating chance problem: Sanders "was liked," which meant going negative would backfire.

Hillary had had the same problem with Barack Obama, with whom she and her husband had elected to go heavily negative in 2008, only to see that strategy go very wrong. "It boomeranged," as it's put in Shattered.

The Clinton campaign was convinced that Obama won in 2008 not because he was a better candidate, or buoyed by an electorate that was disgusted with the Iraq War. Obama won, they believed, because he had a better campaign operation-- i.e., better Washingtonian puppeteers. In The Right Stuff terms, Obama's Germans were better than Hillary's Germans.

They were determined not to make the same mistake in 2016. Here, the thought process of campaign chief Robby Mook is described:

"Mook knew that Hillary viewed almost every early decision through a 2008 lens: she thought almost everything her own campaign had done was flawed and everything Obama's had done was pristine."

Since Obama had spent efficiently and Hillary in 2008 had not, this led to spending cutbacks in the 2016 race in crucial areas, including the hiring of outreach staff in states like Michigan. This led to a string of similarly insane self-defeating decisions. As the book puts it, the "obsession with efficiency had come at the cost of broad voter contact in states that would become important battlegrounds."

If the ending to this story were anything other than Donald Trump being elected president, Shattered would be an awesome comedy, like a Kafka novel-- a lunatic bureaucracy devouring itself. But since the ending is the opposite of funny, it will likely be consumed as a cautionary tale.

Shattered is what happens when political parties become too disconnected from their voters. Even if you think the election was stolen, any Democrat who reads this book will come away believing he or she belongs to a party stuck in a profound identity crisis. Trump or no Trump, the Democrats need therapy-- and soon.
These people are petrified that Bernie's revolution is taking over the Democratic Party and they're using their one and only weapon (aside from the corporate cash that keeps them afloat and motivates their existence)-- identity politics-- to fight back. The NY Times' Jonathan Martin, thrilled to emphasize that Bernie "is not even a Democrat," was their stenographer yesterday:
“This is very raw,” said Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, conceding that “after the presidential election, there is still this ongoing debate about identity politics versus economic opportunity.”

Mr. Sanders and the new leadership of the Democratic National Committee touched a party sore spot this week when they took their “Unity Tour” to Omaha to rally for a mayoral candidate who opposes abortion rights. Mr. Sanders, repurposing the themes of his presidential bid, told a crowd of about 6,000 on Thursday night that the candidate, Heath Mello, 37, would be a future star in the Democratic Party who could help break the grip of big money on the nation’s politics.

Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a prominent abortion rights advocacy group, called it a betrayal, especially of the women who have fueled the “resistance” that has energized Democrats since Mr. Trump’s unexpected triumph.

“It tells your most active political base that we’re just negotiable political property,” Ms. Hogue said of the statement sent by Mr. Sanders and Representative Keith Ellison, the Democratic National Committee’s new deputy chairman, who appeared with Mr. Mello. “Since the election, women have been engaged on the front lines of every progressive fight. So what message does it send for the party to start this tour with an anti-choice candidate?”

Mr. Mello, a practicing Catholic, supported a Nebraska State Senate bill requiring that women be informed of their right to request a fetal ultrasound before an abortion. The anger over that position reflects a long-running argument among Democrats over whether, or how much, to support candidates who depart from party orthodoxy on abortion.

But the ferocity of the dispute this time reveals a much deeper debate on the left: Should a commitment to economic justice be the party’s central and dominant appeal, or do candidates also have to display fealty to the Democrats’ cultural catechism?

An Omaha mayoral election on May 9 may seem an unlikely place for this fight to play out, but a collision was inevitable. Despite being the most sought-after Democrat in the country today, Mr. Sanders is actually an independent and self-described democratic socialist animated chiefly by class uplift. But the clamor for his attention comes as the party is increasingly defined by its positions on issues related to race, gender and sexuality.

The wounds from his clash with Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary clearly have yet to heal, in large part because the overarching debate between them has yet to be reconciled.

Mr. Sanders has emerged as the most popular active politician in America, according to a new survey by Harvard University and Harris Insights and Analytics, and his presence is demanded in Democratic campaigns no matter the political tint of the region. Yet his recent moves have infuriated some progressives.

First, Mr. Sanders campaigned with Tom Perriello, the Virginia Democratic candidate for governor who supported some anti-abortion measures during a single term in Congress (though Mr. Perriello has apologized for doing so).

Then Mr. Sanders pointedly declined to campaign for Jon Ossoff, a Democrat running for an open House seat outside Atlanta, deeming him insufficiently populist. (Mr. Sanders issued a statement on Friday offering his support for Mr. Ossoff.) Not only is the Ossoff race the highest-profile campaign of the moment, but the Republican nominee, Karen Handel, is loathed by the abortion rights movement for her role as an official at the Susan G. Komen foundation in separating that group, the nation’s largest breast cancer organization, from Planned Parenthood.

Then Mr. Sanders arrived in Omaha for Mr. Mello, after persuading the Democratic National Committee to make the rally a part of a party-sanctioned tour.

Coming against the backdrop of Mr. Trump’s election and the wave of new, female-led activism in opposition to a leader they believe is a repugnant misogynist, many female progressive leaders are adamant about keeping reproductive rights front and center. And they see the matter of Mr. Mello as an opportunity to send a statement to the party’s leadership.

“It is incredibly important that people within the progressive movement and Democratic Party realize that women are sick of this” stuff, said Erin Matson, a Virginia-based abortion rights activist, “and we’re not going to take it anymore.” (She used a more pungent word than “stuff.”) “What Bernie doesn’t seem to realize,” she added, “is that the abortion rights movement has really bucked up and gotten some tough ovaries in the last couple of years.”

Tom Perez, the party’s newly elected chairman, had been campaigning with Mr. Ossoff in Georgia when Mr. Sanders was in Nebraska. But in interviews leading up to the event, Mr. Perez was unapologetic about supporting Mr. Mello, who has recently said that although he personally opposed abortion, he would uphold abortion rights as mayor.
An aside here-- that's exactly what the dishonest and untrustworthy Perriello told me-- on tape-- to get a Blue America endorsement. And then he stabbed us in the back by voting generally with the Blue Dogs and specifically against Choice.
Yet after the backlash, Mr. Perez retreated. He conducted some quiet diplomacy, telephoning Ms. Hogue and Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, according to Democrats briefed on the calls. Casting aside their efforts at unity, Mr. Perez’s aides blamed Mr. Sanders for the event, putting out word that it had been the senator’s idea to include the rally on the tour and criticizing him for not vetting Mr. Mello.

By Friday afternoon, Mr. Perez had issued a far more strongly worded statement. “I fundamentally disagree with Heath Mello’s personal beliefs about women’s reproductive health,” Mr. Perez said. “It is a promising step that Mello now shares the Democratic Party’s position on women’s fundamental rights. Every candidate who runs as a Democrat should do the same because every woman should be able to make her own health choices. Period.”

In an interview on Friday, Mr. Perez further toughened his language, saying he respected those Democrats who “have personal beliefs” against abortion rights but warning them not to pursue such policies in office. “If they try to legislate or govern that way, we will take them on,” he said.

Not every liberal sees the issue as so clear-cut. Ms. Weingarten, who was a Clinton supporter, argued that the question of whether to focus on economic justice or social issues was “not an either-or” proposition. The red-and-blue-state tour that Mr. Sanders and the Democratic National Committee officials are on “conveys to the public that the Democratic Party is first and foremost a party of economic opportunity,” she said.
That back-and-forth is an extension of Democrats’ soul-searching after losing an election that they thought they would win. Many Democrats believe that Mrs. Clinton erred by not making economic populism more central to her campaign against Mr. Trump, relying instead on a mix of cultural liberalism and character attacks.

Just as the Republican establishment battled the nascent Tea Party over conservative purity after its 2008 loss, Democrats are enduring internecine strife over what it means to be a progressive.

“Anytime your party is out of power, you face a choice,” said Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist. “Do you want to hunt down heretics or seek out converts?”

Mr. Sanders and his supporters are the ones preaching inclusion, at least on social issues.

“Every single Democrat is not necessarily pro-choice,” said Nina Turner, a former Ohio state senator from Cleveland and an ally of Mr. Sanders. “And Democrats need to understand that, and not vilify people because of it.”
Absolutely-- and keeping them out of leadership positions is absolutely essential. They can be anti-Choice if they want to but if they are they can't be nominees of the Democratic Party. Is that so difficult to understand? As I explained the other day, the racists who once dominated the Democratic Party's congressional caucus are no longer welcome, nor should they be, as candidates. The party has to stand for something or it becomes irrelevant.

This morning, addressing this privately, author and native Nebraskan Mike Lux told a large group of activists why he wasn't withdrawing his support from Mello: "One of the hardest things about politics is the contradictions of it. Last year for me was the ultimate example. The issue I have spent more time on than any other in recent years is Wall St reform, because I think it is the financialization of the economy that is at the heart of the 1% having dominion over everyone else. There is no more core issue for me. I also care enormously about peace issues, which are so central to who lives and dies; and to fracking, which is poisoning the water for so many people in this country. Hillary sucked on all of those issues. But she was running against Donald Trump so I dropped everything to go help her in the general election.

"Politics is not pure, it is messy as hell. And progressives sometimes don't get to have completely progressive politicians to support. That is in absolutely no way to diminish the choice issue, it is so important and central. But the incumbent mayor in Omaha is a terrible person, worse than Heath on abortion, much worse on Planned Parenthood and family planning, and dreadful on everything else that matters to people on this list. I don't want to consign the people of Omaha to that awful mayor when there is someone much, much better on most things as the alternative to her."

Yep, "politics is not pure" and its a sign of maturity to deal with it from that perspective. I'm glad Blue America chose to not endorse Heath Mello for mayor (or Tom Perriello for governor) and I find Lux's argument acceptable-- even if it isn't one I'd adopt for myself or advocate for Blue America to adopt.

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