Hot Enough for You?

environment, Trump Maladministration

Glacier National Park is on fire. It caught fire on Saturday, a day on which the temperature in the park reached 100 degrees F. That was the hottest day in recorded history for the park. It was partly evacuated and closed.

It’s clear that Montana is already becoming a vastly different place. In recent decades, warmer winters have helped mountain pine beetles thrive, turning mountains red with dead pines. In 1850, there were 150 glaciers in the area now known as Glacier National Park. Today there are 26. They’ve been there for 7,000 years — but in just a few decades, the glaciers of Glacier National Park will almost surely be gone. By then the park will need a new name. Glacier Memorial Park doesn’t have the same ring to it.

And, of course, the maladministration is in denial about it.

After a tour of wildfire-ravaged California on Sunday, Montana-born Ryan Zinke, President Trump’s Secretary of the Interior, proposed a more controversial cause: The reason there are too many fires is because there are too many trees.

“It doesn’t matter whether you believe or don’t believe in climate change. What is important is we manage our forests,” Zinke said, adding a shot against environmental groups that have curtailed logging on public lands. While forest management is important, Zinke’s comments made some worry that the Trump administration was hoping to use fires as an excuse to open more public lands for logging.

I suppose it’s true that if one cuts down all the forests there will be fewer wildfires. You might still have prairie fires and grass fires, however, until the dry conditions turn the entire West into a desert. So much winning!

In other environmental news, do enjoy the sight of migratory birds while you can.

 For the past 100 years, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) has, among other things, incentivized industries to avoid the intentional or unintentional slaughter of North America’s native birds, primarily using fines. But now, President Trump’s Interior Department has announced that it will no longer enforce prohibitions on “incidental takes” — the unintended, though still perhaps foreseen, killing of birds, as in open waste pits, uncovered oil spills, lit communication towers and low-visibility power lines.

It’s a bizarre, novel interpretation of the law, as the Audubon Society has pointed out, but it was well-received only by those who stand to benefit financially. The American Petroleum Institute, for instance, praised the decision for providing regulatory “certainty,” which it no doubt does for those eager for one less troublesome chore per toxic waste pit. Where companies would have previously been expected to place nets over poisonous waste pits to discourage birds from landing in their deadly waters, the Trump administration’s decision removes any penalties for failure to do so. Some firms might still bother; others probably won’t.

Whooping cranes, Texas

This is what happens when you allow industry, rather than science, to make environmental law.  Keep in mind that industry doesn’t need a lot of extra poor people around, either.

Share Button
11 Comments

Just Read This

Trump Maladministration

Trump struggles to grasp the concept of “times zones.” And “maps.”

Share Button
11 Comments

This Made Me Laugh

Trump Maladministration

Share Button
10 Comments

Building Trust to Win Votes

Trump Maladministration

There’s a mostly good article at Washington Monthly about the problems Democrats have with white working class voters. Andrew Levison writes that if Democrats are going to win WWC votes, they have to earn WWC trust.

WWC voters see three interest-group blocks that they say they don’t trust. One is politicians, who are seen as utterly corrupt parasites. This may account why they don’t learn from voting for Republicans.

Two is “Wall Street financial elite that makes decisions in faraway office towers that destroy local community jobs and mom-and-pop businesses.” And three is the “liberal elite.”

The third group is the “liberal” elite—the heterogeneous group of college professors and students, Hollywood actors and producers, music and fashion producers, and TV, newspaper, and magazine columnists and commentators. They are not seen as a financial ruling class but rather a social group that dominates and controls the culture …. This power to impose their “liberal” agenda on ordinary Americans is obtained through a cynical alliance with minorities who are bribed to vote for Democrats by various kinds of “handouts,” special government programs, or preferential treatment.

There is a big urban versus rural component this, also. If you live in a city, you are more likely to accept diversity because you can’t very well avoid it. Small towns and suburbs are more homogenous.

This “class consciousness” and “class resentment” is a complex perspective that cannot be easily tracked by standard opinion polls. For this reason, it is often overlooked in the discussion of Democratic political strategy. But it is vividly evident in focus groups with white working-class Americans, in the discussions that occur during progressive campaigns of door to door canvassing in white working-class neighborhoods, and in the interviews conducted during ethnographic field studies. Its centrality is revealed in the very titles of the major sociological studies of white working-class Americans that have appeared in the last several years: Katherine Cramer’s The Politics of Resentment, Arlie Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land, and Justin Gest’s The New Minority.

Essentially, a decades-long campaign by conservatives has succeeded in creating among the broad majority of white working class and small town/red state Americans a deeply embedded view of Democrats as the party of the educated urban elite who impose their liberal agenda through a cynical alliance with minorities.

Further, in “red” states most voters simply never hear Democratic messages. Levison describes a “three-level conservative ideological cocoon” that shuts out everything but right-wing messages. The Fox News and similar national media; “local” media, often dominated by Sinclair TV stations and regional talk radio; and personal relationships. What’s happened in vast parts of the United States is that these three levels have formed a perfect echo chamber/feedback loop exclusively for right-wing messages. Nothing else can get through. I’ve been pretty much saying the same thing for years.

Levison does a good job describing the problem. The question is, what’s to be done about it? Levison’s prescriptions are weak, seems to me. Yeah, okay, be Jon Tester and go out and fix a tractor now and then.  But I disagree with Levison that campaigning on issues is not the way to win back voters.

Part of the problem with Democrats is that they believe they campaign on issues when they really don’t.  This was my gripe with Hillary Clinton’s campaign. She did not campaign on issues. Clinton supporters disagree with that and complain up and down that she did too; she had a whole website full of policy proposals. Yeah, and the only way to find out about them was to go to her website. By watching her television ads and seeing her on the teevee news, you wouldn’t have had a clue what she was running on other than her resume.

The recent right-to-work vote in Missouri proves that voters can turn out for issues. The Washington Post had a fascinating vote analysis that showed some of the same areas that went big for Trump in 2016 also went big against right-to-work this week.

From Washington Post

The two highlighted counties are the ones with the biggest difference in votes. By some coincidence, where I am living now is adjacent to those counties. The Washington County line is about a twenty-minute walk from here. It is rural, white, poor as dirt. The biggest employers, I’m guessing, are county government and WalMart.

Right-to-work is a signature Republican issue in these parts, and it failed with Republican voters.

Of course, the opposition didn’t run oppo ads saying that right-to-work is a corrupt politician who is friends with Nancy Pelosi.

Josh Hawley, who is running against Claire McCaskill for senator, says in his ads that he represents Missouri values, but McCaskill doesn’t. What values would those be? The value of busting unions and underpaying workers? Of closing rural hospitals to force laboring women to travel for two hours to a hospital? Of laying off workers because of Trump’s tariffs? Which values, exactly? There is an unspoken assumption that Democrats are off-the-charts amoral and corrupt, but what the bleep? Republicans aren’t?

McCaskill is running on how she is going to take on the drug companies to lower prices. Okay, but too small bore. We’re going to fix health care, dammit. Don’t be afraid to make big promises. But then, of course, you can’t just disappear into a government office building, not to be heard from until the next campaign. Levison says,

[If] Democrats can regain a majority in the House of Representatives this November, it will provide them with the opportunity to show white working-class Americans the real sources of their economic problems and who is their genuine advocate. .. Revealing the hidden history of deindustrialization and the impoverishment of large sectors of small town and rural America can indeed contribute significantly to showing these voters that Democrats are actually “on their side” and “understand their problems”

The “hidden history” is how people and communities who have been left behind by the global economy were tossed aside by corporations and the local business communities. Levison provides examples. But Democrats have to be aggressive, and as nasty as they need to be. No more gentility.

Anyway, do read the whole Levison article. He does make some good points.

Share Button
11 Comments

The Contemptible Jeff Sessions

Trump Maladministration

This is disgusting:

A federal judge slammed the Trump administration on Thursday for trying to deport a mother and daughter to El Salvador while their case is still being heard in court and threatened to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt.

“This is pretty outrageous,” Judge Emmet Sullivan of Washington said on Thursday, according to the Washington Post. “That someone seeking justice in US court is spirited away while her attorneys are arguing for justice for her?” Sullivan issued an emergency stay from the bench preventing the deportation of the family and six other people. But the mother and daughter were already on a plane bound for El Salvador, prompting Sullivan to order the government to turn the plane around.

This comes from a lawsuit filed by  the ACLU that seeks to keep the Trump Administration from deporting people in danger of gang and domestic violence. The government had agreed to not deport the mother before Thursday midnight, but then they put the mother and daughter on a plane Thursday morning. The ACLU lawyers spent the day trying to find out what had happened to them, and then getting them back. The plane was turned around and returned to the U.S.

This is just out of control. See also ‘There Was No Crash’: ICE Lied About Crash Involving Van Full Of Detained Mothers.

Share Button
10 Comments

Election Results in Missouri (Unions Rule)

Trump Maladministration

First off, the right-to-work referendum didn’t just fail; it went down in flames. voters nixed right-to-work by 67.5 percent to 32.5 percent. Unions rules, righties drool.

Right-to-work was an issue dearly beloved by departed Gov. Eric Greitens and the right-wing extremist state  legislature, which passed a right-to-work law in February 2017. But unions gathered signatures and got a referendum on the ballot challenging the law, blocking it from going into effect. The referendum originally was going to be on the November ballot, but the legislature put it on the midterm ballot in hopes that a lower turnout would keep right to work alive.  But the voters said no, big time, and the right-to-work law is now dead.

The legislature had said that they will next try to pass a constitutional amendment putting right-to-work in the state constitution, but that would have to be ratified by voters also. I wonder if they’ll bother now.

As expected, Sen. Clair McCaskill won her primary (by 82 percent of the vote) and will be challenged in November by Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (who won by 58 percent of his vote, but he had more challengers).

The more interesting results were in St. Louis. Robert McCulloch, who had been St. Louis County prosecutor for 28 years, lost the Democratic primary to Wesley Bell, a Ferguson City Council member who ran on criminal justice reform. Bell will be unopposed in November, so this is effectively a general election win.

McColloch had earned noteriety for his “handling” of the Michael Brown killing in Ferguson in 2014. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

This was the first time McCulloch had faced a challenger since the Ferguson protests that erupted over the killing of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer in August 2014. Protesters criticized his office for its handling of the grand jury inquiry into the killing of Brown. The grand jury brought no charges against Officer Darren Wilson.

McCulloch, 67, of Kirkwood, faced challengers in just three prior primary and general races. …

… Political observers gave Bell little chance, saying that McCulloch’s 28 years in office and fundraising advantage made it nearly impossible for Bell to win.

“I’m in total disbelief,” St. Louis University political science professor Ken Warren said late Tuesday. Warren had predicted McCulloch would cruise to an eighth straight term, given his tenure.

“Obviously Ferguson defined this election,” Warren said. “Bell made his name through Ferguson, and (McCulloch) tarnished his name through his handling of Ferguson.”

And I’m pleased to say the vote wasn’t even that close; Bell won 56.6 percent to 43.4 percent.

Ferguson Council Member Wesley Bell, who will be St. Louis County’s next prosecutor.

The Riverfront Times:

There are plenty of people who are tired of McCulloch. Critics say his decision to conduct the investigation into Michael Brown’s fatal shooting using the grand jury was intentionally designed to produce a no-bill. McCulloch, 66, has also thrown the book at protesters, including those arrested as part of the recent demonstrations following the Jason Stockley “not guilty” verdict in St. Louis. Then there’s this: In his 27-year career in public office, McCulloch has never prosecuted an officer-involved shooting to the point of an actual indictment.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger won a close primary challenge. This was an interesting race because the challenger, retired businessman Mark Mantovani, ran a slick and well-funded campaign in which he talked about jobs jobs jobs. Stenger’s ads tied Mantovani to Eric Greitens and Donald Trump; Stenger also framed himself as a defender of unions and an opponent of right-to-work. So an appeal to union support and flat-out partisanship carried the day.

Share Button
9 Comments

Today’s Atrocities

Trump Maladministration

While we’re waiting on primary returns —

Julia Ainsley of NBC News reports,

The Trump administration is expected to issue a proposal in coming weeks that would make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens or get green cards if they have ever used a range of popular public welfare programs, including Obamacare, four sources with knowledge of the plan told NBC News.

The move, which would not need congressional approval, is part of White House senior adviser Stephen Miller’s plan to limit the number of migrants who obtain legal status in the U.S. each year.

Stephen Miller is an evil little Nazi toad. He’s also only a third generation Jewish American evil little Nazi toad. WTF?

At the Daily Beast, Sam Stein writes that 43% of Republicans Want to Give Trump the Power to Shut Down Media. Because freedom, I’m sure. Watch them show up at the Shut Down Media rallies wearing their Minuteman costumes.

Forbes has a staff-written expose of Wilbur Ross that you must read.

Here in Missouri, people are going to the polls to vote on Prop A, a right-to-work referendum. A “no” vote is a vote against right-to-work. The unions have run some effective (seems to me) television ads, and about every other lawn has a “Note NO on Prop A” sign out in front. Word is there is high turnout in the state, although there are thunderstorm hereabouts. I’ve got my fingers crossed that Prop A goes down in flames. Even if it does, the whackadoodle state legislature has vowed to pass right-to-work anyway. But that would give state Democrats a damn good issue to run on, seems to me.

Share Button
8 Comments

What the Sign Says

big picture stuff

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Frank Rich column, but this is a pretty good  one — “In 2008, America Stopped Believing in the American Dream.”

That loose civic concept known as the American Dream — initially popularized during the Great Depression by the historian James Truslow Adams in his Epic of America — has been shattered. No longer is lip service paid to the credo, however sentimental, that a vast country, for all its racial and sectarian divides, might somewhere in its DNA have a shared core of values that could pull it out of any mess. Dead and buried as well is the companion assumption that over the long term a rising economic tide would lift all Americans in equal measure. When that tide pulled back in 2008 to reveal the ruins underneath, the country got an indelible picture of just how much inequality had been banked by the top one percent over decades, how many false promises to the other 99 percent had been broken, and how many central American institutions, whether governmental, financial, or corporate, had betrayed the trust the public had placed in them. And when we went down, we took much of the West with us. The American Kool-Aid we’d exported since the Marshall Plan, that limitless faith in progress and profits, had been exposed as a cruel illusion.

Unlike 9/11, which prompted an orgy of recriminations and investigations, the Great Recession never yielded a reckoning that might have helped restore that faith. The Wall Street bandits escaped punishment, as did most of the banking houses where they thrived. Everyone else was stuck with the bill. Millennials, crippled by debt and bereft of Horatio Alger paths out of it, mock the traditional American tenet that each generation will be better off than the one before. At the other end of the actuarial spectrum, boomers have little confidence that they can scrape together the wherewithal needed to negotiate old age. The American workers in the middle have seen their wages remain stagnant as necessities like health care become unaffordable.

It wasn’t just the financial crisis, and a lot of people had seen through the sham a long time before 2008. It’s also the case that a lot of people still haven’t seen it, but I’ll come back to that.

Trump’s genius has been to exploit and weaponize the discontent that has been brewing over decades of globalization and technological upheaval. He did so in part by discarding the bedrock axiom of post–World War II American politics that anyone running for president must sparkle with the FDR-patented, chin-jutting optimism that helped propel John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan to the White House. Trump ran instead on the idea that America was, as his lingo would have it, a shithole country in desperate need of being made great again. “Sadly, the American Dream is dead,” he declared, glowering, on that fateful day in 2015 when he came down the Trump Tower escalator to announce his candidacy. He saw a market in merchandising pessimism as patriotism and cornered it. His diagnosis that the system was “rigged” was not wrong, but his ruse of “fixing” it has been to enrich himself, his family, and his coterie of grifters with the full collaboration of his party’s cynical and avaricious Establishment.

By contrast, Hillary Clinton’s message was that everything was basically just fine and only needed a little tweaking, which didn’t exactly resonate with voters in 2016. But I’ll come back to that, too.

At the New York Times, Michael Tomasky has some advice for people alarmed at all the talk from the young folks about socialism.

You want fewer socialists? Easy. Stop creating them. …  As I noted recently in The Daily Beast, the kind of capitalism that has been practiced in this country over the last few decades has made socialism look far more appealing, especially to young people. Ask yourself: If you’re 28 like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York congressional candidate who describes herself as a democratic socialist, what have you seen during your sentient life?

Tomasky listed several things, such as growing inequality and the 2008 meltdown, profit hoarding and job losses. As we move toward a “gig economy” the kind of secure permanent job with benefits that used to be the foundation of a middle-class life has become more and more elusive for the young folks. Between insecure employment and student loans, a lot of people just feel exploited.

I could go on like this for 20 paragraphs. Many more, in fact. But you get the idea. Back in the days when our economy just grew and grew, we had a government and a capitalist class that invested in our people and their future — in the Interstate highways, the community colleges, the scientific research, the generous federal grants for transportation and regional development.

And, funny thing, during all this time, socialism didn’t have much appeal.

But those days are gone, and people who are young adults today don’t remember them. What they see is that the system isn’t working for them and ultimately isn’t sustainable for anybody.

And although this is a widespread problem, inequality is worse in the U.S. than in Europe.

Things aren’t necessarily working out for older folks, either.

For a rapidly growing share of older Americans, traditional ideas about life in retirement are being upended by a dismal reality: bankruptcy.

The signs of potential trouble — vanishing pensions, soaring medical expenses, inadequate savings — have been building for years. Now, new research sheds light on the scope of the problem: The rate of people 65 and older filing for bankruptcy is three times what it was in 1991, the study found, and the same group accounts for a far greater share of all filers.

Driving the surge, the study suggests, is a three-decade shift of financial risk from government and employers to individuals, who are bearing an ever-greater responsibility for their own financial well-being as the social safety net shrinks.

The transfer has come in the form of, among other things, longer waits for full Social Security benefits, the replacement of employer-provided pensions with 401(k) savings plans and more out-of-pocket spending on health care. Declining incomes, whether in retirement or leading up to it, compound the challenge.

Every bleeping idea the Powers That Be ever come up with ends up being great for the rich and bad for everybody else. Ever notice that?

Oh, my goodness, this just in:

Senator Marco Rubio unveiled a family leave plan Thursday that would require new parents to pay for time spent with their infant children by borrowing from their Social Security retirement benefits early.

The Economic Security for New Parents Act would allow parents to use their retirement benefits for up to 12 weeks, and would be paid back by delaying retirement for three to six months per child. In two-parent households, benefits are transferable among spouses.

What kind of asshole even thinks of something like that?

Back to Frank Rich:

It was during the Great Recession that it also became clear how oblivious — or complicit — both major parties’ Establishments were when it came to heists by those at the top. To take just one example of this culture at work: In 2011, with much fanfare, President Obama convened a new jobs council, which, in a bipartisan gesture, he put in the charge of a prominent Republican CEO, Jeffrey Immelt of GE. No one in the Obama White House seemed to know or care, as the New York Times would soon report, that GE had laid off a fifth of its American workers since 2002 and, in 2010, had paid almost no federal taxes on $14.2 billion of profit. Immelt remained in place at the jobs council nonetheless. Unlike such frauds as Enron and its current copycat, Theranos, or the robber-baron enterprises of the more distant past, GE was one of the most widely admired American corporations, if not the most widely admired, for decades. Founded by Thomas Edison, it was one of the original dozen components of the Dow Jones industrial average at its inception in 1896. In the 1950s and early ’60s, GE’s image and Reagan’s were burnished in tandem when the future president hosted General Electric Theater on CBS. In the 1980s and ’90s, Immelt’s immediate predecessor, Jack Welch, was lionized as America’s wisest economic guru. Today, GE’s shareholders have been financially shafted along with its workers, and in June it was booted off the Dow. The record Immelt left behind as Obama’s job czar, it should be noted, is no more impressive than that as GE’s CEO: He accomplished nothing, at one point going for a full year without convening the council at all. But there has been no accountability for his failures in either the private or public spheres, let alone reparations.

We have created a new entrenched aristocracy, a class of people who are too big to fail. And while I still like Barack Obama, and consider him to be a decent and intelligent man, a lot about his administration just plain fell short of its potential. And this is a good example.

I wrote a post in August 2016 about the fact that the Democrats were maddeningly oblivious to the national mood. That post linked to an Andrew O’Hehir column that said Democrats were whistling past the graveyard if they thought that Clinton’s presumed election would set the world back to normal. O’Hehir said,

But what kind of “normal” are you so happy about? The paralysis and dysfunction of the entire last decade? To pretend that such an outcome — the candidate who is widely disliked and mistrusted defeating the candidate who is widely feared and despised — does anything at all to address the structural and ideological crisis that is eating away at both parties and the bipartisan system represents an epic level of denial.

“Epic level of denial” pretty much describes Democratic Party centrists and the leadership that insisted Hillary Clinton had to be the nominee. And there’s a lot of denial out there still. O’Hehir wrote recently,

Essentially, Democrats of the Bill Clinton era cut a deal with finance capital and the national-security state: On one hand, an economic policy based on free trade, deregulation and open markets, interlocked with an expansionist, interventionist foreign policy, both ceded to the control of technocratic experts. On the other, a widening agenda of civil rights protection and modest social reform programs at home, coupled with continued funding of the welfare state, albeit in reduced and partially privatized form.

As I wrote last week, that combination seemed to work well for a while, or at least it helped elect two Democratic presidents to two terms apiece. It also hollowed out the party from within and led to a devastating series of defeats in midterm elections and state legislatures, leaving Democrats in their worst nationwide position since Herbert Hoover’s administration, despite the undeniable fact that their policy positions are far more popular than those of the Republicans. With the sudden shift in the political wind of 2016, the true nature of the grand bargain suddenly seemed unmentionable.

But Nancy Pelosi is out there even now soliciting donations with calls to “protect President Obama’s legacy,” and even those of us who are fond of Barack Obama don’t want to just go back to his legacy. We’ve got to do a lot better. See also another recent O’Hehir column, Democratic moderates fear the “socialist left” will wreck the party: They want to keep that gig.

The crazy thing is that I strongly suspect that white working-class voters might not be as averse to the progressive agenda as the centrists assume. Sitting here in Trump Country and watching campaign ads — the Missouri primaries are tomorrow — I see a lot of negative ads that basically make Democrats out to be something like cockroaches with especially loose morals. But that tends to work because the bleeping Democrats don’t seem to stand for anything. They’re like a blank slate waiting to be written on.

Share Button
21 Comments

The Midterms Will Be a Referendum on Trump

Trump Maladministration

At least, that’s what Trump seems to want — he wants the midterms to be all about him. I suspect Democrats agree. Republicans, maybe not so much.

President Donald Trump‘s strategy of becoming aggressively involved in the midterm elections is prompting concern among some Republicans who worry he’s complicating the political calculus for GOP candidates trying to outrun his popularity.

Those Republicans worry their statewide candidates may rise or fall based on Trump’s standing, muddling their path to maintain control of Congress.

But Trump has no plans to step out of the spotlight. …

The president is casting himself as the star of the midterms, eagerly inserting himself into hotly contested primaries, headlining rallies in pivotal swing states and increasing his fundraising efforts for Republicans. Last week, Trump agreed to donate a portion of his reelection fund to 100 GOP candidates running in competitive House and Senate races.

He’s expected to be even more aggressive in the fall. White House officials say he’s reserving time on his schedule for midterm travel and fundraising likely to surpass that of former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“This is now about Donald Trump,” said Al Cardenas, a former Florida Republican chairman. “It’s a high-risk, high-stakes proposition.”

There’s a special election for a U.S. congressional seat in Ohio on Tuesday that may give us another clue how the midterms will go. It’s in a district that’s been reliably Republican for a long time, and even more so since it was gerrymandered into a mostly white exurban district in 2010. Trump won the district in 2016 by 11 points. But Monmouth says the special election is a toss-up between Republican Troy Balderson and Democrat Danny O’Connor.

Trump just held one of his signature unhinged rallies in a high school auditorium  — with no air conditioning; someone on the staff will be in trouble —  about 17 miles north of Columbus. It appears this was arranged on Trump’s initiative, not Balderson’s.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) said Sunday that an Ohio House candidate did not invite President Trump to appear at his campaign rally on Saturday.

The governor and former GOP presidential candidate, who has been critical of Trump, told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” that GOP hopeful Troy Balderson told him that he didn’t have anything to do with inviting Trump.

“I asked him the other day ‘Why are you bringing Trump in,’ he said ‘well, I don’t have anything to do with it,’ ” Kasich said, referring to Balderson, who is facing a tough challenge from Democrat Danny O’Connor in a district Trump won by double digits.

“I think Donald Trump decides where he wants to go, and I think they think they’re firing up the base,” Kasich added.

It’s also possible that Trump’s appearance in Ohio fired up the other base.

Ahead of the Saturday evening rally, some party strategists worried that it would do more harm than good for Balderson, who has campaigned as a mainstream figure. Their concerns were illustrated by a Monmouth University survey released earlier this week showing Trump’s approval at just 46 percent in Ohio’s 12th District, which stretches from the traditionally moderate Columbus suburbs to more conservative rural areas.

Indeed, at many points at Saturday, Trump seemed more focused on revisiting his greatest hits than on Tuesday’s special election. He slashed the media (“MSNBC is so corrupt, is so disgusting”), went after political rivals (recently ousted South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford, he joked, “likes flamingo [sic] dancers from Argentina”), and ripped the Russia investigation.

Well, we’ll see on Tuesday how it turns out.

Some other factors that could impact the midterms:

Brent Budowsky, writing for The Hill, predicts that there will be an “obstruction of justice bombshell” before the midterms. “… odds are very high that Mueller will offer a declarative public statement before the midterm elections, and very likely before Labor Day, that the president is guilty of obstruction of justice,” says Budowsky.

The gender gap is huge and possibly historic, according to the nerds at fivethirtyeight.

See Jennie Neufeld at Vox: Republicans have begun to sever ties with the Koch brothers. It isn’t just Trump and Steve Bannon; the RNC itself is souring on the Kochs. “Republicans have won more elections at every governmental level than they have since the 1920s partly due to the Kochs’ immense support,” Neufeld writes. “The Kochs were going to donate $400 million to various GOP campaigns in the midterm elections; it’s unclear if this feud will change those plans.”

For your reading pleasure, see David Atkins, Does Trump Even Understand What He Did Wrong?

Even the briefest observation of Donald Trump is adequate to confirm that he is not a man of profound intellect. He certainly possesses his share of social intelligence, a knack for salesmanship and an obsessive drive to dominate and humiliate others stemming from a yawning maw of overlapping insecurities. But in terms of how we traditionally measure intelligence in the modern developed world–the acquisition of knowledge over time and the ability to process, digest and act cogently in response to complex information–Trump probably doesn’t even reach the 50th percentile of Americans. And that is being generous.

This basic fact is difficult to keep in mind when assessing his decisions because we have never had a president like this. Society tends to dramatically overestimate the talent and intelligence of those fortunate enough to be rich and powerful, but rarely are they as objectively ignorant and lacking in basic competency as Trump. Far too often we look for a schema or strategy behind Trump’s actions, only to discover that his decisions were precipitated by the dumbest of reasons: because he saw a Fox News segment that made him angry, or because he heard that Barack Obama had originated a policy, because some extraneous person mentioned some falsehood to him that he was credulous enough to believe, or because he was openly bribed. This principle has become known as “Trump’s Razor“: when seeking to understand the president’s behavior, look for the stupidest possible reason.

Atkins argues that “it’s entirely possible that at a moral level and, crucially, at a legal one, he simply isn’t smart enough to grasp the enormity of the crimes he and his associates seem to have committed.” If so, we can count on Trump continuing to make one blunder after another to “defend” himself.

Update: See also emptywheel on why Trump’s conspiracy trial is going to be awesome.

Share Button
19 Comments

Fashion in the Age of Trump

Trump Maladministration

Has a single garment ever gotten so much press commentary than Paul Manafort’s ostrich skin jacket? (Update: Yeah, okay, Monica’s blue dress.)

The jacket is infamous for costing $15,000 and still being ugly. I’m having a hard time visualizing Manafort wearing it, although I guess all the photos I’ve seen of him show him wearing a suit that looks like just about every other suit any man wears.

People have pointed out that the $15,000 pales in comparison to a $51,000 Dolce & Gabbana jacket worn by Melania awhile back.

To me, that looks like what might happen if the Etsy website got stomach flu. Yes, everybody says it’s a $51,000 jacket. No, I don’t know what kind of markup over cost is involved, but I suspect a lot. It has also been noted that Melania very rarely uses jacket sleeves. I assume the thing in her hand is a clutch of some sort and not some alien being expelled by the jacket.

Back to the ostrich jacket. Washington Post fashion editor Robin Givhan wrote,

Where to begin in the dumbfounding tale of Paul Manafort and his fashion habit? The gluttony. The indulgence. The preening bad taste.

The pathetic pretentiousness of it all.

His is the story of a man’s inexorable slide into a nauseating spectacle of insatiable consumption — a parable, or perhaps, a farce that included salivating merchants flying across the country to cater to his appetites. There are so many enticing, beguiling entry points in this story of unbridled decadence: the use of wire transfers from foreign bank accounts to pay his clothing bills, the capacity to spend more than $929,000 on suits in a five-year period, a perplexing fixation on plaid sport jackets.  But ultimately, the one thing that most folks will remember from the first week of Manafort’s trial on bank and tax fraud charges is his $15,000 ostrich-leather bomber jacket.

Well, why not? The Manafort saga has a distinctively freak show quality to it. How does a man stash $30 million in offshore bank accounts and still go broke?

Mueller has alleged a years-long scheme of astonishing scope: that Manafort first laundered $30 million from a web of undeclared offshore accounts into the US without paying taxes on it, and then (after the Ukrainian money stopped coming in) defrauded several US banks to get more than $20 million in loans. Manafort has pleaded not guilty on all counts.

The man owns a lot of real estate, including a condo in Trump tower, another condo in Manhattan’s SoHo district, a brownstone in Brooklyn, an estate in the Hamptons, an unremarkable single-family home in Arlington, Virginia, and a home in Palm Beach, Florida. I understand that if he’s convicted, all those homes will be forfeited.

The man is 69 years old. He could have announced his retirement, sold some of that real estate to cover debt and still live more than comfortably for the rest of his life. Instead, he talked himself into the Trump campaign as a way back into the lobbying game. That’s how he got his start, years ago; he turned a mid-level position in the Reagan campaign into a big-ticket lobbying career.

The trial that began this past week was all about the money he earned working for Viktor Yanukovych, one-time president of the Ukraine, and several Russian oligarchs.

The first set of charges, which Mueller calls “the tax scheme,” relate to Manafort’s flush years, when the Ukrainian money was pouring in to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Mueller says Manafort set up a complex web of offshore shell companies and then spent $30 million of that offshore cash in the US between 2008 and 2014.

About $12 million of that cash was allegedly spent on “personal items” for Manafort and his family, spread across more than 200 different transactions. This included about $5.4 million to a home improvement company in the Hamptons, $1.3 million tied to an antique rug store in Virginia, $849,000 or so to a men’s clothing store in New York, $819,000 on landscaping, and payments related to several Range Rovers and a Mercedes-Benz.

Then another $6.4 million was allegedly wired from offshore for three real estate payments: $1.5 million for a condo in New York City, $3 million for a brownstone in Brooklyn, and $1.9 million for a house in Virginia. On top of that, Manafort allegedly sent another $13 million as “loans” to US companies he controlled — but the government calls these loans “shams” designed to fraudulently reduce his taxable income.

There are allegations that he was wiring money from a bank in Cypress for “home improvements” that he didn’t actually buy. Money laundering?

The New York Times reports that Manafort wasted no time trying to monetize the Trump campaign gig, for which he was not paid:

In April 2016, just days after becoming a Trump campaign strategist, he tried to use his positive news media coverage as leverage in a debt dispute with a Russian oligarch, Oleg V. Deripaska.

“I assume you have shown our friends my media coverage, right?” Mr. Manafort wrote in an email to a business partner.

“Absolutely,” the partner, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, responded. “Every article.”

“How do we use to get whole,” Manafort asked. The emails were reported by The Washington Post and The Atlantic.

Later, Mr. Manafort suggested providing campaign briefings to Mr. Deripaska. No evidence has emerged that such briefings occurred.

In short, no sensible person would have let Manafort anywhere near a presidential campaign. Apparently Trump was the one who hired him.

As Mr. Manafort ascended to one of the premier jobs in American politics, prosecutors now say, his career was privately in shambles. In early 2016, his accountant testified, he worked to mortgage some of his seven or eight homes. Prosecutors said he had become accustomed to a lavish lifestyle and was preoccupied with clinging to it.

Back to Robin Givhan and the ostrich jacket:

Prosecutors argued that the luxurious nature of Manafort’s purchases was important because it offered the jury insight into it their case. That Manafort “had an expensive lifestyle that required lots of money to maintain is important proof as to why he would commit the bank frauds,” prosecutors wrote. Manafort had grown accustomed to Bijan, ostrich and python and when his income declined “he resorted to bank fraud as a means to maintain his lifestyle.”

Perhaps. But prosecutors missed a more significant argument. The fashion industry has long recognized and exploited the fact that its customers are not just buying accoutrements to a lifestyle. They are buying the building blocks to a public identity.

And when those blocks elevate a man to the tippy-top of the pyramid, he might do just about anything to prevent a perilous fall.

Apparently, the yawning emptiness that is Paul Manafort required a lot of accoutrements to maintain an identity.

Share Button
11 Comments
« Older Posts