Browsing the blog archives for August, 2017.


Kushner Money Blues

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Big Bill, Trump Maladministration

There’s a must-read report at Bloomberg News about the Kushner family finances. Executive summary: You think you have money problems? Boy howdy, you do not want to be them.

Here’s the story: Back in 2007, the Kushners bought a big ugly building on Fifth Avenue, Manhattan — 666 Fifth Avenue, in fact — that they couldn’t afford.

A kingmaker in New Jersey Democratic politics, Kushner had been out of prison just three months for making illegal campaign contributions and, in a bizarre episode that the tabloids couldn’t get enough of, hiring a prostitute to entrap his brother-in-law. He wanted a prestige Manhattan property to mark a fresh start for the family business, which would now be led, if mostly in appearance, by his eldest child, Jared Kushner, who frequently consulted his father. Charlie had recently been turned down for towers including the Seagram Building. He saw securing Tishman’s property as a way to plant his flag.

Over the weekend, the Kushners and their partners worked out a deal in which they would put down $50 million—a pittance. Barclays Bank Plc and UBS Group AG funded $1.75 billion of the purchase, $535 million of it in short-term, high-interest loans. The terms were demanding, bordering on untenable. Nevertheless, after the deal closed in January 2007, the group celebrated with a party at one of the most expensive restaurants in New York, Per Se. Everyone there was given a pair of silver cufflinks fashioned in the embossed look of the building’s exterior.

Note the date, 2007. Then came 2008. And the Kushners were stuck with this turkey.

At 1.5 million square feet, the 1950s building ranks nowhere near the largest of New York skyscrapers. Its low ceilings and closely built columns give it a dark, closed-off feel—anathema in the era of light-filled open-plan offices.

“If that building was beginning to look obsolete at the time of purchase, it is totally obsolete now,” says Jesse Keenan, a Harvard lecturer on architecture who wrote a 2013 report on the building for Kushner Cos. He notes that Manhattan is in the midst of its largest office-construction boom since the 1980s. The most prestigious occupants—hedge funds, private equity and law firms—are moving west to new buildings, shifting the center of gravity away from the Kushners.

Since the purchase there’s been some refinancing and some share selling, but the bottom line is that the Kushner company still holds half of a $1.2 billion mortgage, on which it hasn’t paid a cent, and the full amount is due in February 2019.  See, aren’t you glad you aren’t them?

And they’ve got this big turkey of a building that they probably couldn’t sell for that much. One guy they approached to help bail them out more or less said that the lot was worth more than the building.

Among other plans, the Kushners thought they might gut and renovate the building, turning it into luxury condominiums and high-end retail space. People who were asked to invest in this idea turned it down, saying that the potential return didn’t justify the cost. The New York luxury-retail market is already close to being saturated, apparently.

No American financiers would work with them, so the Kushners have been shopping abroad for someone to take some of the financial load off their hands. This was going nowhere, either, until Trump won the election. Suddenly, people would at least take meetings. The problem is that the thing is such an obvious money-loser that no honest investor wants to have anything to do with it. And those entities that might have other motives for dumping a ton of cash into a building owned by the president’s son-in-law have been frightened off by the scrutiny surrounding Kushner. Chinese and Saudi companies that nearly bought in earlier this year have backed out already.

On top of that, a lot of the Kushner family’s other projects aren’t doing much better, as CNN reported recently. Remember the time they got caught selling visas in China? That was to prop up another project, One Journal Square in Jersey City. Recently a Kushner family request for a 30-year tax abatement and $30 million in city-issued bonds to keep the project alive was turned down by Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.

Fulop is a Democrat, and his political rival says the mayor didn’t support the tax break because of the political risk he faced for aligning himself with the Kushners in the past.

“This pivot away was clearly based upon Fulop’s identification of a shift in the political winds and recognition that Trump and Kushner are toxic in Jersey City,” said Bill Matsikoudis, a Democrat, who is running against Fulop in the city’s mayoral race.

I haven’t heard that the One Journal Square building project is now dead, but I suspect it is.

No one seems to be asking the obvious question — why isn’t the allegedly wealthy Trump family bailing out the Kushners? One suspects that the answer is that the Trumps are leveraged up to their eyeballs already. I trust Mr. Mueller will sort that out eventually.

The other part of this touches on Jared’s many meetings with people he shouldn’t have met with. Keep in mind that Kushner has kept 90 percent of his real estate holdings. How nervous is he getting, do you think?

Josh Marshall writes,

It was almost unquestionably this money hunt that led Kushner to meet with that chief of a Russian owned state bank during the transition – a source of many of his current troubles.

What all of this amounts to is that while Kushner has been given oversight of numerous key foreign policy issues and problems, his ‘family’ is simultaneously in a desperate hunt for money which basically has to come from abroad – from a lot of the people he meets with in his White House job. It’s like having a Secretary of State desperate for help getting money from every foreign potentate he meets with. In fact, it’s not ‘like’ that. It sort of is that.

This is, um, not good. All I’m going to say further, for now, is that we seriously need a Constitutional amendment that says presidents and their White House advisers must make complete tax returns public before general elections and also sell or place in a genuine blind trust all businesses and investments before taking office. But that’s not going to help us now.

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Will Trump Avoid Bush’s Katrina Mistakes?

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Trump Maladministration

Everything I’m reading about Trump vis à vis Harvey keeps saying he’s avoiding making Dubya’s Katrina mistakes. For example, he insisted on scheduling a trip to Texas even as the rains were still falling

Mr. Trump, his aides say, is eager to avoid the mistakes made by President George W. Bush in 2005, when he took a relatively hands-off approach to the federal response to Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana.

Even though Vice President Mike Pence and federal officials from the Department of Homeland Security have taken the lead on negotiating many of the details of the response, Mr. Trump has taken pains to emphasize his personal involvement in the crisis.

He’s even trying to improve on the optics

Trump likely will avoid replicating a George W. Bush moment — the former president deeply regretted the images taken of him flying over New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, as the optics made him look detached from the victims. Sanders told reporters she was unsure as to whether the president would fly over Houston but said due to scattered showers, there are no plans to helicopter while in Texas.

As I remember, the problem Bush had wasn’t with the photos; it was that he was photographed looking at Katrina damage from a plane window, and then he went back to Washington and did nothing until his aides started screaming at him about it.

So Trump wants to be seen doing something about Texas. The problem is, that strutting around in front of cameras is not the same thing as doing something. People ultimately will judge Trump by results, not by optics.

People will cut their politicians some slack for a couple of days. They’re relieved to be alive. But after a few days of being confined to a shelter with clogged toilets, not enough food and no changes of clothes, they start to get irritated. Right now the Houston Convention Center may be turning into the New Orleans Super Bowl II. Let’s hope not.

Trump is fortunate that his director of FEMA, Brock Long, has a background in emergency management, unlike the unfortunate Michael Brown. But Trump has already made one Bush mistake by praising the “great job” his people were doing before they’d done enough to be graded.  If relief efforts get bogged down somewhere, that could come back and bite Trump.

Further, the Trumps have already made one optical mistake. Here they are getting ready to fly to Corpus Christi this morning —

Melania is getting slammed for the stiletto heels. She changed into white tennies on the plane — white, Melania? Not expecting to go anywhere muddy? Some have pointed out that Trump’s off-white chinos probably weren’t a smart choice, either. But I’m looking forward to his showing up in Houston wearing a tool belt in a few months.

The real test isn’t going to be how the Trumps are photographed. The real test is if people can see that work is being done to relieve their immediate suffering and rebuild what was destroyed. The latter will take years, yes. But will the rebuilding effort under a Trump administration avoid the waste, fraud, political favoritism and general boondoggling that marked the federal government’s Katrina efforts? Will Trump be able to pass up using Harvey to make a buck for his own businesses? This is Trump we’re talking about, remember.

Houston, you have a problem …

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How Both Major Parties Lost Control

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Trump Maladministration

Former Republican Senator John Danforth complained recently that Donald Trump is not a Republican.

He stands in opposition to the founding principle of our party — that of a united country.

We are the party of Abraham Lincoln, and our founding principle is our commitment to holding the nation together. …

… To my fellow Republicans: We cannot allow Donald Trump to redefine the Republican Party.

I don’t know if you remember John Danforth, who left the Senate in 1995. He’s what I’d call a standard old-school Republican — white, patrician, traditionally conservative, financially comfortable; not a bad sort but oblivious about some things. He probably fervently believes that the Republican Party stood for unity right up until the moment Trump was installed in the White House.

But of course, it’s been the party of division for a long time. Its candidates win elections through wedge issues and dog whistles. You can trace the politics of appeals to racism and scapegoating of “liberal elites” backward from the Tea Party and birthers to Karl Rove, Lee Atwater, Reagan’s welfare queen, Nixon’s Southern strategy, etc.

The Republican base, well trained to respond to the toxic stew of propaganda that replaced any semblance of a governing philosophy, grew crazier and crazier and finally voted in the candidate who seemed to fulfill what Republicans had promised for years but never delivered — Donald Bleeping Trump.

See Max Boot, of all people, “How the ‘Stupid Party’ Created Donald Trump” (July 2016; note that Boot still hadn’t figured out that Paul Ryan is dumber than a box of rocks); John Nichols, “The Republican Party Created This Monster” (October 2016); and Dan Balz, “How the Republican Party Created Donald Trump” (March 2016)  — Balz wrote,

The sight of establishment Republicans recoiling at Trump strikes some analysts, particularly on the left, as ironic. These GOP critics see Trump’s appeal as the logical result of decades of efforts by the GOP to discredit government and more recently of the party leadership’s passive acceptance of virulent and in some cases racially tinged opposition to President Obama. Having sown the wind, the argument goes, the party now reaps the whirlwind.

Others, however, say that Trumpism, no matter how much it threatens the existence of the modern-day Republican Party, is a broader manifestation of the uneven impact of globalization on a significant segment of the population, a rejection by these voters of institutions and elites in both parties, whom they see as having failed to listen to or respond to their plight.

In reality, it is both, a problem that has had implications for both major parties over a period of years but that has become particularly acute for the Republicans at this moment because the party so badly needs those voters to win in November.

Globalization had become a more acute problem for Democrats than Balz realized. We’ll come back to this.

Anyway, the Max Boot article linked above is particularly interesting, with the caveat that it’s written from Boot’s hard-right perspective. Boot admits that a lot of what Republicans were selling was a con —

William F. Buckley Jr. famously said, “I should sooner live in a society governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the 2,000 faculty members of Harvard University.” … Here’s the thing, though: The Republican embrace of anti-intellectualism was, to a large extent, a put-on. At least until now.

The Republican embrace of “small government” was a put-on; it was always about disconnecting government from the people so that it could better serve special interests. Ordinary Americans clearly got the message, don’t expect government to do anything for you. Republican embrace of “freedom” was a put-on, since “freedom” to a Republican is divorced from civil liberty and is more about national defense and the protection of privilege. We could go on.

The thing is, though, that a lot of those folks disadvantaged by globalism didn’t know it was a con. By now, even a lot of people being elected to office, especially to state government and the U.S. House, didn’t know it was a con. They internalized the message that government, gays and racial minorities are the source of all your problems. They’d been electing politicians for years who told them that, yet nothing changed. So here comes Donald Trump, who promised them that he and he alone could charge into Washington, knock heads, and set things right. And they believed him.

In short, Trump isn’t redefining the Republican Party; he’s the logical consequence of its own messaging going back many decades.

Basically, the Republican establishment lost control of its own party because the base internalized the GOP’s own messaging all too well. And Trump, the ultimate con man, played the GOP’s own game and beat them at it. Trump won’t be able to deliver on the promise, either, but he’ll tear the government apart as he thrashes about trying to accomplish something.

The Democrats have an equal but opposite problem. Matt Stoller has a nice piece at The Atlantic (published October 2016; I’m just now seeing it) called “How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul” that takes us back to the post-Watergate era. Very briefly, way back then there was a struggle within the Democratic party between the remaining New Deal Dems who wanted to keep banks and corporate power in check, and another group that simply didn’t have a problem with banks and corporations doing whatever they wanted. The latter group won.

Indeed, a revolution had occurred. But the contours of that revolution would not be clear for decades. In 1974, young liberals did not perceive financial power as a threat, having grown up in a world where banks and big business were largely kept under control. It was the government—through Vietnam, Nixon, and executive power—that organized the political spectrum. By 1975, liberalism meant, as Carr put it, “where you were on issues like civil rights and the war in Vietnam.” With the exception of a few new members, like Miller and Waxman, suspicion of finance as a part of liberalism had vanished.

To be fair, suspicion of finance as a part of liberalism was always peculiar to American-style liberalism, and in particular that part of liberalism headed by the two Roosevelts, Teddy and Franklin. It’s not an intrinsic feature of liberalism per se. But let’s go on …

Over the next 40 years, this Democratic generation fundamentally altered American politics. They restructured “campaign finance, party nominations, government transparency, and congressional organization.” They took on domestic violence, homophobia, discrimination against the disabled, and sexual harassment. They jettisoned many racially and culturally authoritarian traditions. They produced Bill Clinton’s presidency directly, and in many ways, they shaped President Barack Obama’s.

The result today is a paradox. At the same time that the nation has achieved perhaps the most tolerant culture in U.S. history, the destruction of the anti-monopoly and anti-bank tradition in the Democratic Party has also cleared the way for the greatest concentration of economic power in a century. This is not what the Watergate Babies intended when they dethroned Patman as chairman of the Banking Committee. But it helped lead them down that path. The story of Patman’s ousting is part of the larger story of how the Democratic Party helped to create today’s shockingly disillusioned and sullen public, a large chunk of whom is now marching for Donald Trump.

At close to the same time Democratic Party leaders began to be distrustful of the judgments of its own voters. As the presidential nomination process was taken out of smoke-filled rooms and given to the people, via primary elections, Dems began to see landslide defeats — first McGovern in 1972, then Carter in 1980. Of course, it hadn’t helped that the party establishment itself gave those two men only lukewarm support. But to cover its ass in the future, the party created the superdelegate system to be sure party elders could put a thumb on the scale in case an “undesirable” candidate got too popular.

And then, seems to me, by the 2000s the party establishment had come to be pretty much dominated by Clinton loyalists, and Barack Obama did nothing to change that.

Thus it was that by the time we got to 2016, the leaders of the Democratic Party establishment plus its network of big-ticket donors (many of whom would end up working with the Trump Administration) saw nothing wrong with presenting the voters with its own preselected, prepackaged presidential candidate before primaries even began, and it cleared the path for her nomination. And then they were confounded and outraged that a large part of its base refused to play along.

But the Democratic Party, like the Republicans, also had lost sight of the “uneven impact of globalization” on its base, and didn’t see how a lot of young people in particular were done with being patted on the head and told that what they wanted from government just isn’t practical. Don’t expect government to do anything for you, my dears.

At least the Republicans still pay lip service to being the party of Lincoln. When was the last time an establishment Democrat paid homage to FDR? Never mind.

This is how both parties came to have big problems with their own bases; just not exactly the same problem. Republicans are in trouble because they’ve been running a con and got out-maneuvered by a con man. After years of thumping their chests and promising they had a better plan, they got put on the spot to produce, and couldn’t. And now to get their party back from Trump they’re going to have to disavow their own con, which is likely going to piss off a lot of the voters who were taken it by it.

Democrats are in trouble because, after years of promising a Democratic majority as the population grew more racially diverse and liberal, they managed to alienate the very people they need for a better future by being out of touch with their concerns. Their aging leaders have over-managed and controlled political processes to the point that many voters and activists just plain feel shut out.  And as we approach the midterm elections, the DNC itself is nearly shut out as donors send their money elsewhere and activists work outside the party to support candidates.

IMO over the next couple of election cycles we’re going to see some major shifts in the political landscape in the U.S. I just hope it’s all for the better.

George Caleb Bingham, “Stump Speaking”

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Trump Hides Behind Hurricane Harvey

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Trump Maladministration

It may be a couple more days before we know how much death and damage Harvey is causing in Texas. And it may be much longer before we can fully assess how much death and damage Trump is causing around the globe. But yesterday, we got a glimpse.

Taking advantage of the weekend plus Harvey, the Trump White House made three significant moves. Ones, it flushed Sebastian Gorka. This is a good thing, of course, and I don’t believe for a minute that Gorka voluntarily resigned.

But it’s all downhill from there. Trump issued an executive order that formally bans transgendered people from serving in the military. Details for how this is going to be implemented have yet to be worked out; Trump doesn’t do details. A lot of good servicepeople must be wondering what’s next.

And, of course, he pardoned sleazebag Joe Arpaio. Law professor Andrew Rudalevige writes,

It is hard to gauge the political fallout of the president’s decision — announced as it was late on a Friday night during an impending hurricane. Normally, though, as political scientist Jeffrey Crouch’s book on the pardon power makes clear, pardons are granted for two reasons: either to provide mercy or correct a miscarriage of justice, in an individual case; or on more general grounds based on public policy.

Arpaio’s pardon hardly fits that description.

As a procedural matter, the guidelines of the Justice Department’s office of the pardon attorney — not binding on the president, of course, and not consulted in this instance — state that petitions for clemency are normally considered only after five years have passed after a conviction. (Further, in considering such petitions, “The extent to which a petitioner has accepted responsibility for his or her criminal conduct and made restitution to its victims are important considerations.”)

Pardons also serve as a check against the judicial branch, when the president feels a grave miscarriage of justice has occurred. At his Phoenix rally, Trump seemed to make this claim, saying that “Sheriff Joe was convicted for doing his job.”

The problem with that, though, is that Arpaio was convicted for doing the opposite of his job. As a sworn officer of law enforcement, he violated the law and then ignored court orders designed to bring his policies in line with statutory and constitutional mandates. Two different federal judges found, respectively, that the “constitutional violations” committed by Arpaio’s office were “broad in scope, involve its highest ranking command staff, and flow into its management of internal affairs investigations” and that he “willfully violated” directives to correct those violations.

But Trump thinks he’s a good guy, so the laws don’t have to apply to him.

Philip Bump brings up another point.

The broader question raised by the pardon, then, is where Trump would draw the line. If he’s willing to pardon Joe Arpaio for ignoring a court order in service of a political goal Trump embraces, why wouldn’t he pardon another individual he respects for similarly ignoring a demand from the court. Say, a former employee or a family member who, say, was issued a subpoena to testify before a special prosecutor?

One message from the Arpaio pardon is precisely that Trump sees his evaluation of the boundaries of legality as superior to the boundaries set by the legal system. The Constitution gives him that power. As we’ve noted before the presidential pardon is absolute. He can pardon anyone for any federal crime at any time — even before the person actually faces any charges and even if no crime actually took place. There’s nothing anyone can do about it, except to impeach Trump and remove him from office to prevent him from doing it again. (The president who replaces him might be able to revoke a recent pardon, one expert told us, but it’s far from certain.)

And he’ll do it, too. Trump has no moral compass and no scruples. None whatsoever.

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Is the Democratic Party Establishment Irrelevant?

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Trump Maladministration

In spite of the continuing series of atrocities known as the “Trump Administration,” the Democrats are failing to capitalize on what ought to be a sure-fire fundraising strategy — defeat Trump. The DNC is lagging far behind in fundraising, as usual.

Over the first six months of 2017, the Republican National Committee pulled in $75 million—nearly twice as much money as the Democratic National Committee, which raised $38 million. The predicament isn’t simply that there is a funding gap between the parties; it’s what kind of money they attract. Republicans have quietly taken a decisive edge over Democrats when it comes to small-dollar fundraising.

During that same six-month time span, the RNC raised $33 million in small contributions—money from people who donate $200 or less over an election cycle—while that same class of donors gave the DNC just $21 million.

See also Grassroots Democrats are more energized than ever — but DNC fundraising is a massive fail and The Democratic National Committee’s abysmal fundraising.

However, this seems primarily to be a DNC problem. People are giving lots of money to Democratic candidates.

At the state level, anti-Trump enthusiasm has certainly been made manifest. In a study released last month by the Brookings Institution, researchers found record numbers of Democratic candidates running for seats in the House of Representatives. No cycle has had anywhere near the number of aspiring candidates from one party in recent history. …

… Among party committees established to raise money for candidates, Democrats are ahead of their GOP rivals as well, although not by such a lopsided margin. According to Federal Election Commission data, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s fundraising apparatus for House candidates, has brought in slightly more money so far than its Republican equivalent. Ditto for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. ActBlue, a third-party fundraising site, raised $27.6 million in July, compared to $13.7 million in the same month in 2015, and $5.9 million in 2013. Jon Ossoff, the losing Democratic nominee in a recent Georgia special election, brought in a record-breaking $30 million all by himself.

Of course, Ossoff lost, and a lot of people grumbled that there were other special elections the Dems might have won if the DCCC had lavished half the resources and attention they gave to the safe, centist Ossoff. So that’s not necessarily a reassuring example.

But note that it says ActBlue raised $27.6 million in July. Compare and contrast:

The DNC raised just $3.8 million in July, compared to the $10.2 million raised by the RNC in the same month. While the GOP has no debt, the DNC added slightly to its debt in July, which now sits at $3.4 million.

ActBlue, of course, is a website that makes it easy for people to give money to particular candidates. So people really do care about Democratic candidates; they just don’t care about the DNC.

It doesn’t help that the DNC does stupid fundraising, such as sending out a mailer that looks like a bill, stamped “final notice.”

The DNC, taking a page from the dark mirror universe version of How To Do Politics, is sending out mail that looks nothing like student debt collectors shaking down graduates for their spare change. Surely, this will win the hearts of millennials.

At the same time, the DNC was emailing people complaining about Trump’s “empty promise” to build the wall. Um, DNC — we don’t want the wall.

I’ve long tuned out the DNC’s incessant promises to “fight” for me, since they don’t. I get multiple emails every week from them about how awful Trump is and how we have to elect Democrats to “fight back.” But sending money to the DNC seems about as stupid as burying it in the backyard with a bag of Miracle-Gro.

The real energy right now is with grassroots activists working outside the Democratic Party.

The Indivisible movement – which now counts more than 6,000 chapters nationwide – is the centerpiece of a robust new grassroots machinery that has arisen to confront the crisis of the Trump presidency. Rivaling anything accomplished by the Tea Party, the passionate activism of hundreds of thousands of progressives has already achieved the impossible in Washington, D.C. – overwhelming Republican control of Congress and the presidency to stymie the repeal of Obamacare.

However,

Looking ahead, Democratic Party leaders are determined to ride this political uprising to victory in the House in 2018. But neither the DNC nor the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have shown the technological savvy or comfort with grassroots engagement to create a platform for this activism within the party itself. Indeed, for many of the activists on the ground, the current Democratic Party appears less a vehicle for change than an obstacle to it.

The Dems’ fundraising problem is being blamed on the rift between the establishment-Clinton wing of the party and the Sanders-activist voter base, and people are being called on to “unify.” But the establishment is still in charge of the Democratic Party itself, and they’ve demonstrated time and time again they don’t want to unify. They want the activists to shut up and be docile little ATM machines from which the DNC can extract money but otherwise ignore. Even so, the activists are working to elect Democrats, and some might be willing to work with the party establishment if the party establishment could be worked with. But it isn’t.

One would think their fundraising problem would be a flashing warning sign to the Dem establishment that, just maybe, they need to change. But I’m not holding my breath.

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Trump Recycles Nixon’s “Peace With Honor”

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Trump Maladministration

I couldn’t bring myself to watch Trump’s speech last night. I probably wasn’t the only one. But I read some reviews and a transcript.

Most people are dismissing this speech as Trump’s attempt to change the subject. One argument for this is that Trump made a big bleeping deal about a new course in Afghanistan, yet managed to get through the whole speech without revealing a new course in Afghanistan. Chris Cillizza claimed the whole speech really was about Charlottesville.

Maybe, but I think Trump believes he said something significant.  Unlike those past loser presidents who were in charge of the war in Afghanistan, Trump has committed to winning.  Wow, why didn’t anyone think of that before?

Lines that stood out:

I arrived at three fundamental conclusion about America’s core interests in Afghanistan. First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives.

Holy shit, we’re back to “peace with honor.” Trump is echoing Gen. McMaster, the National Security Adviser, from a recent interview with right-wing radio tool Hugh Hewitt:

When Hewitt asked McMaster how best to communicate with Americans about the Afghan war, the general replied they needed answers to two questions: what is at stake in Afghanistan and what is “the strategy that secures an outcome consistent with the vital interests of the American people.” To McMaster the outcome in Afghanistan had to be “worthy of the sacrifices that our servicemen and women are making.”

Col. Gregory A. Daddis, U.S. Army (Ret.) continues,

These same words easily could have been spoken by General Creighton Abrams at any point between 1968 and 1972 while in charge of the U.S. Military Assistance Command in Vietnam (MACV). Over the course of those four years, Abrams debated with the Nixon White House — often in private, sometimes in public — over a vast array of tense strategic questions concerning how the United States could achieve “peace with honor” as it withdrew from Vietnam.

This is the second point from Trump’s speech:

A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum for terrorists, including ISIS and Al Qaeda, would instantly fill just as happened before Sept. 11. And as we know, in 2011, America hastily and mistakenly withdrew from Iraq. As a result, our hard-won gains slipped back into the hands of terrorist enemies. Our soldiers watched as cities they had fought for and bled to liberate, and won, were occupied by a terrorist group called ISIS. The vacuum we created by leaving too soon gave safe haven for ISIS to spread, to grow, recruit and launch attacks. We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.

I would hardly call what happened in 2011 a “hasty withdrawal,” nor would I blame the withdrawal from Iraq on the spread of ISIS. It was invading Iraq at all, plus Bush’s ham-handed “policies” that amounted to one blunder after another, that encouraged the spread of ISIS. Once that pooch was screwed, no “withdrawal” strategy, gradual or otherwise, was going to unscrew it.

Third, and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense. Today, 20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world.

Of course, we face a more immediate security threat from domestic terrorism at home, but let’s go on … Nobody denies that this is a terrible situation, and it’s a situation that has festered and worsened for a long time. Further, it’s a situation with multinational and bipartisan causes. But what’s Trump’s grand plan for solving this problem? And how does it differ from all the other grand plans announced by the past couple of presidents?

The answer to the second question is, it doesn’t. It’s basically the same old strategy, albeit with more chest thumping than President Obama tended to engage in. Joshua Geltzer writes for The Atlantic,

President Donald Trump’s speech on Afghanistan on Monday night wasn’t remarkable for it’s new ideas—there wasn’t much new to be found. There wasn’t, as administration officials had led many to expect, a new number for the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan, or a new approach to Pakistan, or a new regional strategy for South Asia.

Instead, Trump’s speech was remarkable for what was old. It represented a return to themes of the campaign trail for a candidate who insisted that he could and would carry out foreign policy better than his predecessors—George W. Bush and Barack Obama, alike—without actually grappling with how.

Geltzer goes on to describe all the ways Trump’s ideas were not new, in spite of his insistence they were.

What Trump insisted was “new” about his approach to Afghanistan—“the integration of all instruments of American power—diplomatic, economic, and military—toward a successful outcome”; the refusal to “be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat”; and so on—could be ripped from the pages of Obama-era strategy documents. Indeed, not only does the blatant conceptual continuity belie any claim to novelty, but the unanswered question of how again undercuts Trump’s claim to be able to deliver on these elements of his approach. How, for example, does he intend to integrate all instruments of American power when he also appears personally responsible for shattering any attempt by his team to produce a coordinated, interagency approach to foreign policy? Likewise, how does Trump intend to generate new leverage vis-à-vis Pakistan to demand greater counterterrorism cooperation, when he is reported to have unabashedly gushed in his first post-Election Day call with Pakistan’s prime minister about his “amazing work which is visible in every way”?

Fourth, Trump avowed that he would deliver victory by defining it more clearly at the outset: “From now on, victory will have a clear definition.” Now read carefully the very next words of Trump’s speech: “Attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge.” Whatever one’s view of the proper scope of America’s mission in Afghanistan, it is hard to view this seemingly boundless list—especially “attacking our enemies”—as “a clear definition” of victory.

Seriously, this is just replaying the same basic mistake that we’ve made going back to Vietnam — blundering into a war with no clear sense of what “winning” looks like, and with objectives that can only be realized by endless war and occupation. Geltzer continues,

And, underneath all of the campaign trail rhetoric, that lack of a definition of victory may be the most concerning aspect of Trump’s speech. The president who claimed to have “studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle” seemed still not to have grappled with—or perhaps even grasped—the truly big questions that face the United States at its current and critical juncture in Afghanistan. What are U.S. objectives there—countering terrorists who threaten Americans, or defeating the Taliban, or promoting regional stability, or something else entirely? And how much is America willing to invest to achieve those objectives—how many troops, for how long, at what cost, and with what opportunity cost? And, finally, once it has defined ends and means, how will it connect them—in other words, what’s the strategy?

The one thing that I wish everyone would get through his or her thick skull is that “achieving objectives” doesn’t always look like “winning.” If you long for a big, cathartic resolution to conflict that you can celebrate with parades and awards, host a postseason college football game and call it the Victory Bowl.

But especially when dealing with asymmetric warfare or the use of military force to deal with stateless radical movements, there is no “winning.” Maybe in some circumstances military force can achieve some specific objectives that work to support diplomatic, economic and other efforts to reduce the level of threat. But there is no “winning.” No treaties will be signed; no terms of armistice will be agreed on. There will be no one moment that people can call the end of the war so that they can run out into the streets and dance. Modern-day warfare doesn’t work that way.

But this takes us back to “peace with honor.” Nixon wanted a way to end the war that sorta kinda looked like victory, so the U.S. could save face. Just walking away and letting North Vietnam take the whole country was not acceptable, because it was defeat. Of course, that’s what happened, and American hawks were traumatized by the fall of Saigon. However, most of us just didn’t want to hear the name “Vietnam” again for a long time. Peace was honor enough.

Trump wants a resolution to terrorism in the Mideast region that makes him look like a hero. We’ll see how many people he gets killed as he tries, and fails, to achieve that.

See also:

Fred Kaplan, “Killing Terrorists Is Not a Strategy

Susan Glasser, “America Is Out of Ideas in Afghanistan

Charles Pierce, “We’re Addicted to Bad Choices

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Myths and Realities of Political Violence

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Trump Maladministration

Every now and then I run into right-wing rants about the prevalence of left-wing violence, in which the author genuinely believes that all Leftists (and minorities, who are presumed Leftists) are extremely violent people. It is a given on the Right that everyone but them is violent, which is why they have to be armed and prepared to shoot first.

In other words, the Right thinks it is entitled to use violence against the Left. The Right sees its own aggressive, intimidating violence as self-defense against whatever it is they think the Left might do.

For example, Dave Weigel wrote a few days ago that fears of the “violent left” preceded events in Charlottesville.  Citing some incidents of property damage at the Inauguration and at Berkeley, the Right prepared for war.

In a Feb. 24 speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre linked those events with incidents of people being attacked if they supported the president.

“Right now, we face a gathering of forces that are willing to use violence against us,” warned LaPierre. “If the violent left brings their terror to our communities, our neighborhoods, or into our homes, they will be met with the resolve and the strength and the full force of American freedom in the hands of the American people. Among them and behind them are some of the most radical political elements there are. Anarchists, Marxists, communists and the whole rest of the left-wing Socialist brigade.” …

…In reality, antifa actions were relatively isolated, focused on disrupting white nationalist rallies — which, in turn, fed off the idea that the violent left needed to be stopped in the streets. Several high-profile rallies transformed into brawls between black-clad antifa and conservatives who sometimes claimed membership in new anti-antifa organizations, such as the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights, a wing of the Proud Boys, itself a group founded by Rebel commentator Gavin McInnes.

If this leaves you perplexed, see history professor Yoav Fromer on why the American left gave up on political violence.

… despite what Trump has claimed, repeatedly, in his public statements since the tragic events there, the willingness to employ organized violence to achieve political goals remains a signature quality of only one side. And it’s not the left.

The professor says that while the American Left was never as given to revolutionary violence as in other parts of the planet, there have been times in U.S. history that leftist groups did attempt to achieve political ends through violent means. However, most of us realized some time back that this doesn’t work.  First, it backfires (see the Bigger Asshole Rule). Nonviolent means achieve better ends. Also,

Emerging out of the rubble of the 1960s, the modern left, which coalesced around George McGovern’s quixotic 1972 presidential run, effectively represented a gathering of fugitives. African Americans, Hispanics, women, gay men and lesbians, Native Americans, and workers: These long-ostracized groups, which came to replace the New Deal coalition anchored by the white working class, were the very peoples against whom violence had been done for so long. Their painful histories made them instinctively averse to, and intolerant of, political violence. Those who had survived lynchings, beatings, bombings, sexual violence, forced removals and economic exploitation were least disposed to employ them in return.

In other words, people long victimized by right-wing violence are less likely than others to romanticize violence as a tool of righteousness. Do read the whole piece.

There’s another reason that lefties in the West have been less likely than righties to foment violence, and that is that the Left on the whole has been punished far more harshly than the Right for acting up. There is a terrible history in the U.S. of government-supported and sometimes government-perpetrated violence against racial minorities who engage in demonstrations, and white demonstrators have sometimes been victimized also — see the Kent State shootings.

Dan Berger, an associate professor of comparative ethnic studies at the University of Washington / Bothell, writes:

Klansmen, neo-Nazis and other assorted white nationalists described their descent on Charlottesville as a gathering to “Unite the Right.” Its bloody end, when one of them drove his car into a cluster of counter-demonstrators, killing one and injuring 19, was no aberration. Rather, murderous violence has been the through-line connecting four decades of efforts at uniting America’s far right. And such efforts have had a shocking amount of support from sectors of the U.S. government committed to “law and order.” Whether from law enforcement officials or the president, such support legitimizes the otherwise fringe politics of white nationalism and facilitates more racist attacks.

Law enforcement has been at the heart of the government’s uneasy relationship with white supremacist groups since the 1960s. Alabama Sheriff Eugene “Bull” Connor is but the most infamous in a long line of blustery law enforcement officials who aided violent attacks on black communities and left-wing activists. While Connor incited segregationist mobs to act, other police officers merely turned away when they did.

It was not just Southern sheriffs, either. For years, J. Edgar Hoover refused to act to prevent attacks on civil rights activists when his informants warned him such assaults were imminent. Worse still: FBI informants participated in such attacks. Gary Thomas Rowe was a paid informant for the FBI when he rode along with the carload of people who shot and killed activist Viola Liuzzo, a white mother of five from Detroit who had traveled to Selma in support of the civil rights demonstrations there. After her death, the FBI director tried to discredit her by telling President Lyndon Johnson and Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach that Liuzzo had “indications of needle marks in her arms” and “was sitting very, very close to the Negro in the car” she was traveling in when the Klan attacked her.

In 1979, leftists organized a rally in North Carolina to protest right-wing paramilitary groups across the state:

Calling itself the United Racist Front, a caravan of Klansmen and neo-Nazi groups from throughout the state descended on the rally. The men parked their cars, calmly removed weapons from their vehicle trunks and opened fire.

Newscasters captured 88 seconds of carnage as armed racists gunned people down in the street. When they stopped firing, five leftists lay dead: Cesar Cauce, Michael Nathan, William Sampson, Sandra Smith and James Michael Waller. In their 20s and 30s, the dead were union organizers, doctors and committed antifascists. Another 12 people were wounded, some paralyzed for life.

Subsequent investigations revealed how thoroughly involved police agents were in what became known as the “Greensboro massacre.” Two paid police informants were involved in planning the attack, while others refused to intervene to stop the imminent bloodshed. One of the informants, Klansmen Eddie Dawson, played an instrumental role in partnering with the neo-Nazi National Socialist Party of America. Dawson also led the caravan that attacked the demonstrators.

The local police department knew of Dawson’s role and the likelihood for violence. Yet according to the 2006 report by the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission, police did not warn demonstrators that the white supremacists planned to attack them. Police officials directed their officers to stay away from the rally and not intervene before, during or after the attack. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the FBI had been monitoring the neo-Nazi groups but also declined to intervene. In fact, the ATF had their own informant in the neo-Nazi group who participated in planning the attack.

Although state and federal charges were brought against some of the shooters, all were acquitted. The New York Times reported in 1984:

”Praise the Lord,” said Jack W. Fowler Jr., an ex-Nazi Party member from Winston-Salem who hugged his wife after the verdict was announced in Federal court about 5:10 P.M. Other defendants wept, and one, Roland Wayne Wood, also an ex-party member, knelt on the courtroom carpet.

Dale Sampson, 35 years old, the widow of William Sampson, who was shot to death at the Nov. 3, 1979, rally, also wept. ”This is a real go-ahead for the Klan and Nazis to kill people,” she said.

Dan Berger doesn’t mention abortion clinic violence, so I will. It has struck me for a long time that government generally hasn’t taken such violence as seriously as it might have if the target were something other than abortion clinics — banks, for example. Operation Rescue and other groups have operated way too long under the protection of right-wing politicians who encourage murder and bombings with winks and nods.

But what about the much-reviled antifa? Paul Waldman wrote,

Yes, there are a small number of antifa counterprotesters who show up to scuffle with white supremacists when the latter mount a protest (if you’re unfamiliar, historian Mark Bray explains what antifa is). And yes, there have been other incidents, such as at Trump’s inaugural, in which antifa activists committed acts of vandalism. But the far right is 1) large; 2) highly organized; and most importantly, 3) directly tied to the president of the United States and the Republican Party.

Antifa is none of those things. It is tiny, not organized on a broad scale, and has precisely zero ties to any prominent Democrat. The president of the United States and leader of the Republican Party is celebrated and endorsed by the white supremacist right (“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa,” tweeted David Duke Tuesday); the extreme left views Democrats as an enemy. Trump directly echoes and repeats the arguments and claims of the extreme right, as we saw him do on Tuesday; no elected Democrat shares the radical anti-capitalist ideas of the extreme left. Trump hired Stephen K. Bannon, who ran the white nationalist website Breitbart, which Bannon himself described as “the platform for the alt-right,” to run his campaign and then to be senior adviser in his White House.

Again, we see that the thugs on the Right have connections to government authority and power; perpetrators of violence associated with the Left do not. And, there is simply no equivalence between antifa and the Klan/Nazi extremists in the dangers they pose:

Still, their [Antifa’s] numbers are tiny in relation to the mainstream political left. And, say experts, it’s misleading for right-wing groups to suggest that the Antifa are more violent than right-wing extremists.

“The far left is very active in the United States, but it hasn’t been particularly violent for some time,” says Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.

He says the numbers between the groups don’t compare.

“In the past 10 years when you look at murders committed by domestic extremists in the United States of all types, right-wing extremists are responsible for about 74 percent of those murders,” Pitcavage says.

You have to go back to the 1970s to find the last big cycle of far-left extremism in the U.S. Both Pitcavage and McNabb say we have been in a predominantly far-right extremist cycle since the 1990s — the abortion clinic bombings and Oklahoma City, for example. And, more recently, racially motivated attacks such as the one at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, the mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, S.C., and last month’s stabbings on a commuter train in Portland.

Right-wing  terrorism in the U.S. has been around at least since the nativist Know Nothings engaged in anti-immigrant riots and torched Catholic churches in  the 1850s. The original Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1866 and was responsible for countless lynchings, shootings and deadly race riots. In a break from the usual pattern, President Ulysses S. Grant used federal troops to crush the Klan. But this outraged southern whites and many northern whites as well. After Grant, the government went back to averting its gaze from racial atrocities.

Historically, right-wing violence punches down. Left-wing violence punches up. Back to Yoav Fromer:

Labor unions battled constantly with railroad barons, industrial tycoons and mining bosses during the Gilded Age. Even while outnumbered and outgunned, usually by private armies that enjoyed the backing of law enforcement and state militias, workers fought in bloody clashes that left dozens dead on battlefields such as Chicago’s Haymarket Square (1886) and West Virginia’s Blair Mountain (1921).

More recently, some on the fringes of the 1960s New Left, such as the Weather Underground, were known for fomenting violence. But since the 1970s, as many have said, the Left generally has been committed to nonviolent protests.  James Hodgkinson, the shooter who opened fire on congressmen at a Virginia baseball field, was an anomaly who was not working with any other group. I’m not aware of any left-wing group condoning what he did.

Right-wing militias, on the other hand, are surging. They are organizing, recruiting, arming themselves and training for violence. “There are more than 500 militia groups in the U.S., more than double the number in 2008, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Most of them are right-wing and anti-government. Most of them harbor a toxic soup of shared delusions about how leftists and minorities are out to get them.

Lefties think they are demonstrating against oppression; righties think they are at war.

I am utterly opposed to matching right-wing violence with left-wing violence. It doesn’t settle anything, and history has taught us that the Left will suffer a disproportionate degree of punishment for it. That’s not a game we can win, frankly. I do think swamping them (nonviolently) with overwhelming numbers, such as what happened this weekend in Boston, is much more effective and might shake some of them out of their delusions.

Beyond that, I don’t have much advice except to stay strong and don’t get killed.

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Bannon’s Out!

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Trump Maladministration

Steve Bannon has been fired. This should create some interesting fallout, although Charles Pierce thinks it might not all be for the good.

While this is all entertaining as hell, and it is, and while it’s even more entertaining to speculate what vengeance Bannon and his army of angry gnomes could wreak on this presidency*, I am not going to be turning handsprings along the Charles over this development. First, it’s eight months overdue and both Stephen Miller and the ridiculous Dr. Sebastian Gorka, Ph.D. are still there. Second, I decline at the moment to believe that Bannon will be blocked entirely on the president*’s cell phone. And third, given that this is a president* who would require his paper boy to sign a non-disclosure agreement, I think it’s reasonable to speculate that Bannon’s silence will be handsomely remunerated. But there’s one more general reason that I am not popping corks over this.

Whatever else he was, Bannon was one of the few people in that operation who still at least was making mouth noises about economic populism after inauguration day. I have to think that the various corporate sublets in the Republican congressional leadership—Paul Ryan, chief among them—are looking at Bannon’s departure as an opportunity to lead a president* who knows nothing about anything right down the trail of corporate oligarchy. I’m glad he’s gone, but there’s still enough left to concern us all.

Josh Marshall has an interesting observation:

Here’s one thing to consider as Steve Bannon leaves the White House. There’s hardly anyone in the close Trump orbit who hasn’t been tripped up in some way by the Russia investigation. There’s one big exception: Steve Bannon.

Obviously I don’t know all the ins and out of the Russia probe. The Mueller operation has been extraordinarily tight. But I keep pretty close tabs. Look at all the stories. Bannon’s name basically never comes up. As far as I know he hasn’t even hired a lawyer in the probe. Why is this? My best guess is the most obvious one: for whatever reason he just wasn’t involved. …

… Bannon probably knows a lot that could be big trouble for Trump. But would he hurt Trump like that? Who knows? Initial reports suggest otherwise: What we’re hearing is that he and Breitbart want to go to war with the ‘globalists’ – some mix of the Jews, the former Democrats, the generals and perhaps basically everyone who’s still left.

But here’s the last part of the puzzle and it’s a key one. Back in early summer, Bannon seemed to have the idea that Kushner could and would take the fall for Russia. He was dirty and, if he could be jettisoned, the White House and Trump could be walled off from the damage.

That always struck me as zany.

Zany, because blood comes before anything else with Trump. Come to think of it, other than Chief of Staff Kelly is there anyone left in Trump’s inner White House circle he is not related to?

Jonathan Chait writes that Bannon simply had nothing to offer the White House any more:

Steve Bannon, the most recent loser in the White House game of thrones, leaves the White House best known as the chief ideologist of a new right-wing synthesis, which he used to call “alt-right” and now calls “nationalism.” Those ideas, though, have been followed only intermittently. President Trump has followed Bannon’s xenophobia and barely disguised racism, but ignored his anti-Semitism and fascination with fomenting trade war with China, a trillion dollar infrastructure bill, and a higher tax rate on the rich. Bannon’s true contribution to Trump is less widely understood. “Devil’s Bargain,” Josh Green’s fine history of Bannon’s role in the campaign, makes clear that the chief strategist’s essential work lay in his attacks on Hillary Clinton. That was what won the presidency for Trump. And that, of course, is a skill made obsolete through Trump’s victory.

In other news

The remaining members of a presidential arts and humanities panel resigned on Friday in yet another sign of growing national protest of President Trump’s recent comments on the violence in Charlottesville.

He really does seem to be coming apart at the seams.

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Donald Trump, Patron of Art

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Trump Maladministration

Trump this week, on Confederate monuments:

Trump should know about art that can’t be replaced.

Dust swirled and jackhammers pounded outside the Bonwit Teller building in Manhattan as undocumented immigrants tore apart the façade. It was June 5, 1980, and a sense of bitterness hung over the work site that afternoon; paychecks were often weeks late, but since the Poles didn’t have legal status in the United States, there was little they could do about it.

The exterior they were destroying was an architectural masterpiece—bronze, platinum, hammered aluminum, glazed ceramic and tinted glass that shimmered like jewelry. Many New Yorkers had hoped the grandest portion would survive; curators from the Metropolitan Museum of Art had asked the developer to carefully remove the two bas-relief sculpture panels so they could be restored and put on public display. But that afternoon, the laborers, acting on orders from the developer, smashed the 50-year-old art deco panels into a rubble of stone, pebble and dirt.

The desecration horrified Manhattan’s art community, but the developer, a brash 34-year-old named Donald Trump, dismissed the criticism—pretending to be his own spokesman, “John Barron,” as he talked to reporters by phone. Saving the panels would have cost him $32,000 each, he said, and delayed work for a few days on his $100 million project, Trump Tower. Besides, he declared, he knew more than the curators—the panels had no artistic merit and little financial value.

Also:

Trump discovered that taking out the sculptures would delay demolition by two weeks. He wasn’t willing to wait. “On his orders, the demolition workers cut up the grillwork with acetylene torches,” Hurt wrote. “Then they jackhammered the friezes, dislodged them with crowbars, and pushed the remains inside the building, where they fell to the floor and shattered in a million pieces.”

The art world was shocked. “Architectural sculpture of this quality is rare and would have made definite sense in our collections,” Ashton Hawkins, the vice president and secretary of the Met’s board of trustees, told the New York Times. Robert Miller, a gallery owner who had agreed to assess the friezes, told the paper that “the reliefs are as important as the sculptures on the Rockefeller building. They’ll never be made again.”

The Times reported that Trump also lost a large bronze grillwork, measuring 25 feet in length, from the building that the museum had hoped to save.

So much for irreplaceable art. But we should also be concerned about the promise he made concerning infrastructure.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday rolled back rules regarding environmental reviews and restrictions on government-funded building projects in flood-prone areas as part of his proposal to spend $1 trillion to fix aging U.S. infrastructure.

Trump’s latest executive order would speed approvals of permits for highways, bridges, pipelines and other major building efforts. It revokes an Obama-era executive order aimed at reducing exposure to flooding, sea level rise and other consequences of climate change.

“It’s going to be quick. It’s going to be a very streamlined process. And by the way, if it doesn’t meet environmental safeguards, we’re not going to approve it – very simple,” Trump said at a press conference at Trump Tower in New York.

Well, unless it costs somebody money or slows down construction by a few days. I mean, who needs spotted owls, right? No artistic merit.

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The Alt Right and the Bigger Asshole Rule

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Trump Maladministration

The fallout from Charlottesville and yesterday’s unhinged remarks from Trump has certainly been gratifying.  For example, I have never seen such a broad consensus for taking down Confederate monuments. Even the bleeping National Review is running an op ed calling for moving all Confederate monuments to cemeteries or museums. So many CEOs resigned from Trump’s manufacturing council the last couple of days that Trump disbanded it.  Congressional Republicans are lining up to declare their opposition to white supremacy in all its forms without falling back on “but both sides do it” rationalizations. Yes, there are some exceptions, they they are a minority.

I see this as validation of my “Bigger Asshole” rule. In brief, all public demonstrations should be viewed as public relations. Their purpose is to win the public’s sympathy and support for you and your cause. If, however, the demonstrators come across as bigger assholes than whatever they are protesting, this will backfire, and the public will side with the protestee and not the protesters. Likewise, if the institution or group being protested comes across as the bigger asshole, the public will side with the demonstrators. In brief, whoever is the bigger asshole loses.

And the Alt Right plus Trump definitely are the bigger assholes. I understand some of the counter-demonstrators did punch back and did swing some bats, but I’ve heard relatively little about that (although I don’t watch Fox News). Usually if a thousand lefties march peacefully for something and one guy breaks a window, it gets reported as a riot. But this time the focus and blame have fallen entirely on the righties.

This is why nonviolence wins in the long run. Let’s hope we can keep this up.

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