Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Monday's Senate debate reduced to an analogy. unflappable is to unhinged as Sinema is to McSally

McSally & Sinema Debate
McSally & Sinema Oct 15 2018 Debate

McSally, Sinema trade barbs, stress voting records during their only Senate debate reports Cronkite News (via the Tucson Sentinel).

In a debate peppered with accusations of lying and treason, U.S. Senate candidates Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema took shots at each other Monday in their only public debate of the 2018 election, each calling out the other’s voting record as proof that the other candidate is not a true representative of Arizona.

Sinema used the debate, which was broadcast live on Arizona PBS, to portray herself as an independent, echoing the campaign ads supporting her candidacy. She painted herself as someone willing to step over party lines, embracing the fact that she had voted largely with President Donald Trump’s agenda since 2017.

“Over the past six years, I’m proud to say I’ve taken the time to learn and grow and occasionally even change my opinion,” said Sinema, who has served three terms in Congress. “Over time, I think it makes sense for individuals, who are willing, to learn and to grow.”

She attempted to dodge questions about how she would have voted during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing, calling the event a “circus.” She expressed disappointment with the way the Senate handled the confirmation, but ultimately said she would have voted no because it appeared to her that Kavanaugh lied under oath.

McSally spent much of the debate on the attack, fighting against both her opponent and the moderators – “Arizona Horizon” host Ted Simons and Arizona Republic/azcentral.com reporter Maria Polletta. Answering the first question about her relationship with Trump, McSally said she took offense to the idea that she had been a critic during the 2016 campaign.

“I never endorsed anyone for anything, whether president or dog catcher, and I just continued with that path,” she said. “But he’s now in office and is the president of the United States and we have this historic opportunity to move America in a new direction.”

She defended White House policy, including the separation of undocumented children from their parents at the southern border, saying the administration’s hands were tied by the law.

“The law in the books is to enforce the law,” McSally said.

As the debate weaved through topics ranging from health care to immigration, McSally fought back against questions about her voting record and stances on those issues.

When asked about her motivation for voting to allow internet service providers to sell private information online, McSally denied acting on behest of corporate political action committees and said such accusations had been debunked. She had received more than $40,000 in campaign contributions from the telecom industry when the vote was held.

“What are you even talking about?” McSally asked. “Of course I did not do that. And this has already been debunked. This is, again, what this campaign is all about, coming up with these lies and attacks that are fear tactics. I’m actually a privacy hound.”

McSally described herself as anti-abortion but refused to give an answer when pressed about whether she would support the repeal of Roe v. Wade.

“I am pro-life and I have a very strong pro-life record,” she said. “I would support (Supreme Court) justices that are looking independently at the Constitution and the laws that we make, and that they will have a good decision-making process because of that.”

By the end of the hourlong debate, McSally was visibly frustrated, not answering a question about climate change and instead turning to her opponent and asking whether she would apologize for 2003 comments about the Taliban that McSally described as treasonous.

So let’s look at that accusation. Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) reports how Martha McSally accuses Kyrsten Sinema of backing “treason” in Senate debate.

PHOENIX — Republican senatorial contender Martha McSally said Monday that Kyrsten Sinema, her Democratic foe, is guilty of “treason.”

Near the end of their hour-long debate, McSally brought up a radio interview Sinema did in 2003 during her anti-war days. Asked if it was OK to fight for the Taliban, Sinema had said, “Fine, I don’t care if you want to go do that.”

Much of the campaign against Sinema has been focused on who she was more than a decade ago, including her opposition to war in the Middle East. McSally hopes to convince voters that Sinema, since being elected to Congress in 2012, is not the moderate that she proclaims.

After the debate, Sinema brushed aside the questions of what she said years ago.

“Martha’s chosen to run a campaign that’s based on smears and attacks and that’s her choice,” she said. What happened in the past, Sinema said, is history.

“Over time I think it makes sense for individuals who are willing to learn and to grow,” she said.

Sure, but Scriber thinks there is no apology necessary. It’s one thing to root out the taliban and go after Osama bin Laden who masterminded the 9/11 attack. It’s quite another to invade Iraq on excuses ranging from quite flimsy to mostly false to outright fiction. A lot of us were opposed to Bush’s war which he paid for by adding more to the deficit.

The Wall Street Journal reported a study showing that the U.S. Spent $5.6 Trillion on Wars in Middle East and Asia.

The cost of the wars also include borrowing money to pay for them,[Sen. Jack Reed (D., R.I.)] said. According to the [study][brown], the accumulated interest expenses on the future cost of borrowing money to pay the wars could add an additional $8 trillion to the national debt over the next several decades. “Even if we stopped [the wars] today, we would add $7.9 trillion to the national debt,” Mr. Reed said

Wikipedia lists the Financial costs of the Iraq war. The estimates are eclipsed by the Brown University study cited by Sen. Reed. For example: “According to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report published in October 2007, the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost taxpayers a total of $2.4 trillion by 2017 when counting the huge interest costs because combat is being financed with borrowed money.” Ten years later we know the cost is triple those estimates.

On that basis alone, any thinking person would have to question, if not oppose, the Mideast wars.

McSally might want to rethink her accusation and consider Trump defending Putin’s attack on our democracy and the Russian interference in our election. Now that, it seems to me, is treason.

AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona agrees in A desperate Martha McSally accuses Kyrsten Sinema of ‘treason’.

… if you want to talk about “treason” Martha, you should take it up with Putin’s puppet traitor Trump who is coming to Mesa to campaign for you on Friday. Trump fails to defend America against Russian attacks; there is a word for that. Helsinki is now synonymous with Munich for appeasement.

Trump is expected to stump for McSally on Friday in Mesa, the same day that former president George W. Bush – responsible for the unnecessary and illegal war in Iraq – is scheduled to hold a fundraising breakfast for the Republican candidate in Scottsdale, according to the Arizona Republic.

Martha McSally is unfit for political office. She has been a complete failure as my representative in Congress. She does not deserve a promotion to U.S. Senate. Go away, never to be heard from again.

David Gordon at Blog for Arizona summarizes the debate this way: In Monday’s Arizona Senate Debate, it was a Tale of Two Temperaments: Poised versus Unhinged

Scriber agrees. For example, at the end of the debate when time had run out, the moderators tried to close it down as McSally shrieked “Military, military.” Sinema was unflappable.

Democratic nominee Representative Kyrsten Sinema came across as poised, prepared, mature, approachable, bipartisan and wonky. On issue, after issue, be it healthcare, Brett Kavanagh, border security, climate change, or the economy, she skillfully laid out for the audience her positions and why she supported or opposed differing policy initiatives or nominees. She conducted herself professionally when attacked by her opponent, calmly refuting each assertion brought on by her.

In sharp contrast, Representative Martha McSally came across as unhinged, inflexible, bombastic, animated, and untruthful. On issue after issue, she continually parrotted Republican talking points on the border, health care, the economy. taxes, and Brett Kavanaugh. She brought up Nancy Pelosi (the Republican boogeyman of the last 12 years) at least twice and when it came time for her response to the topic of climate change, she immediately demanded to shift the topic to the military where she regurgitated all the proven misleading, inaccurate, and false accusations against Representative Sinema, even “slinging mud” by accusing her of treason for remarks made in 2003 (long before the Democratic Nominee ever held office).

Here are useful links from Gordon: a fact-check and the debate itself

The devil is in the deficit - and his GOPlins are coming after your Social Security and Medicare

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) exposes what the Republicans don’t want you to know about how they plan to pay for their deficits: GOP rhetoric about the deficit becomes a punch-line to an awkward joke.

First, consider Benen’s chart showing deficits by year by party in the White House. “Red columns point to Republican administrations, blue columns point to Democratic administrations, and red-and-blue columns point to years in which the fiscal year was split between presidents from two different parties.”

Deficits - year x party

Here are some take-aways from those data. Reagan ran a deficit as did Bush 1. Clinton actually ended up running a surplus. Bush 2 cranked up the deficit. Obama, after the stimulus to counter the great recession, gradually reduced the deficit. Under Trump, due to his tax breaks, the deficit increased and is increasing. Benen tells us how the Republicans are planning to pay for such excess.

As recently as June, Larry Kudlow, the director of the Trump White House’s National Economic Council, boasted to a national television audience the U.S. budget deficit “is coming down, and it’s coming down rapidly.”

Yeah, about that….

The U.S. government ran its largest budget deficit in six years during the fiscal year that ended last month, an unusual development in a fast-growing economy and a sign that – so far at least – tax cuts have restrained government revenue gains.

The deficit totaled $779 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, up 17% from $666 billion in fiscal 2017, the Treasury Department said Monday. The deficit is headed toward $1 trillion in the current fiscal year, the White House and Congressional Budget Office said.

This deficit is the fifth largest in modern American history – in non-inflation adjusted terms – and it now stands at 3.9% of GDP, up from 3.5% a year ago.

To be sure, as a percentage of the economy, the deficit isn’t necessarily at a level that should cause significant concern. The trouble is the broader context:

Circling back to our previous coverage, there are a few key angles to this to keep in mind. The first is that Donald Trump’s campaign assurances about balancing the budget and eliminating the national debt should be near the top of the list of his broken promises.

Second, it’s now painfully obvious that the Republican Party, which spent the Obama era pretending to care deeply about fiscal responsibility and the terrible burdens deficits place on future generations, operated in bad faith.

And third, every Republican who said the GOP tax breaks for the wealthy would pay for themselves ought to face some renewed questioning about how very wrong they were.

As we discussed several months ago, I should emphasize that I’m not a deficit hawk, and I firmly believe that larger deficits, under some circumstances, are absolutely worthwhile and necessary. [Scriber agrees.]

These are not, however, those circumstances. When the economy is in trouble, it makes sense for the United States to borrow more, invest more, cushion the blow, and help strengthen the economy.

The Trump White House and the Republican-led Congress, however, decided to approve massive tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations when the economy was already healthy – not because they were addressing a policy need, but because they were fulfilling an ideological goal.

Economic growth is healthy and unemployment is quite low. This is exactly when we should see the deficit shrinking. Instead, it’s growing – and it’s on track to keep growing in the coming years.

Worse, now that the deficit is spiraling, those same Republicans who pretended to care about “fiscal responsibility” have decided that what the nation really needs is more tax breaks – none of which will be paid for – and cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

Given how close we are to the midterm elections, GOP officials and candidates will have to hope voters don’t hear about this.

One of those leaders is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

In a companion piece, McConnell eyes cuts to Medicare, Social Security to address deficit, Benen thinks rhetoric about “entitlements” has become quite serious. To Scriber all this sounds typical Republican: spend the public money on yourself and then complain that there is no money to run the government. In other words, they are starving the beast. The thing is, the “beast” is you and me.

Take a wild guess what McConnell told Bloomberg News he wants to do about [the soaring deficit].

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday blamed rising federal deficits and debt on a bipartisan unwillingness to contain spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and said he sees little chance of a major deficit reduction deal while Republicans control Congress and the White House.

“It’s disappointing but it’s not a Republican problem,” McConnell said in an interview with Bloomberg News when asked about the rising deficits and debt. “It’s a bipartisan problem: Unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future.”

He added that he believes “Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid” funding constitutes “the real driver of the debt.”

… it’s important to understand that we already know it’s the Republicans’ tax breaks for the rich that have made the deficit vastly larger. When McConnell calls the increased federal borrowing “very disturbing,” as he did this morning, it’s like watching an arsonist wring his hands over the ashes he created.

… During the debate over the Republican tax package, Democrats made a fairly obvious prediction: GOP policymakers would blow a giant hole in the budget and then use the shortfall as an excuse to target social-insurance programs like Medicare and Social Security (often referred to as “entitlements”).

That is, of course, exactly what’s happening.

But looking past Trump’s bizarre nonsense [about the GOP saving social insurance programs], leading Republican officials – from the White House, the Senate, and the U.S. House – keep admitting that they’re eager to cut programs like Medicare and Social Security. Maybe the public should believe them.

So now you know what the GOPlins are up to but don’t want to admit to.

Be worried.

Monday, October 15, 2018

With DNA evidence against him, welsher-in-chief reneges on million dollar bet on Elizabeth Warren's ancestry

Trump attacked Sen. Elizabeth Warren in a July 5, 2018 rally in Great Falls, Montana. (Why pick on Warren? She’s a presumed potential rival for the 2020 presidential election. ) As usual, Trump focussed on Warren’s claimed Native American ancestry, calling her repeatedly “Pocahontas”. He walked the audience through an imagined debate in which (1) he presents Warren with a DNA testing kit, and (2) offers to give her a million dollars for her favorite charity. Trump said: “I will give you a million dollars to your favorite charity, paid for by Trump, if you take the test and it shows you’re an Indian,” he said. “I have a feeling she will say no.”

The offer was widely quoted at the time. For example, NBC News reported that Trump challenges ‘Pocahontas’ Warren to DNA test to prove she’s Native American, and RealClearPolitics reported that Trump Offers $1 Million For “Pocahontas” Elizabeth Warren To Take DNA Test To Prove Indian Ancestry.

The Daily Beast reports that, now fighting back, Elizabeth Warren Fights Trump’s ‘Pocahontas’ Taunt With DNA Test Proving Native American Roots. The senator sought to negate the frequent attacks on her claimed heritage. But for Trump and his allies, it seems, no evidence will ever prove sufficient.

It was President Trump, however, who said at a rally in Montana this summer that he would give $1 million to charity should Warren take a DNA test proving her heritage claims.

“And we will say, ‘I will give you a million dollars, paid for by Trump, to your favorite charity, if you take the test and it shows you’re an Indian,’” Trump said. “And we’ll see what she does. I have a feeling she will say no, but we will hold it for the debates.”

On Monday, however, the president denied that he ever said such a thing.

“I didn’t say that. You better read it again,” he told reporters.

Warren, eager to remind him of the pledge, defiantly tweeted Monday that Trump should send a check to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.

The Hill, cited in the Washington Post coverage, quickly posted a fact-check result: “Trump denies offering $1 million for Warren DNA test, even though he did.” The Post has a comprehensive time-line with the evidence in Trump promised $1 million to charity if Warren proved her Native American DNA. Now he denies it..

Moreover, his mouthpieces are attacking the DNA report as “junk science.” The Post reports:

Earlier Monday, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, dismissed Warren’s DNA test as “junk science,” an early indication that Trump is not likely to follow through on the donation promise he now denies having made.

"I haven’t looked at the test. I know that everybody likes to pick their junk science or sound science depending on the conclusion, it seems some days,” Conway told reporters. “But I haven’t looked at the DNA test and it really doesn’t interest me… ”

It gets worse.

On Monday afternoon, Trump was again asked by a reporter about the promised donation, and this time he said he would “only do it if I can test her personally.”

Oh, good grief.

Remember that:

Trump has had a long history of making bold pledges to donate large sums of money to charity, without actually delivering on those promises, as The Washington Post’s David A. Fahrenthold uncovered in a series of articles that won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting.

I’ve got a few things to say about all that. First off, Trump can deny all he wants. Fox News, his own propaganda outlet, posted the evidence to YouTube. Click on the link to view the 2:35 video with the million-dollar promise at about 2:05.

Second, the report of the DNA analysis conducted by independent scientists supports Warren’s claim about her ancestry. “While the vast majority of the individual’s ancestry is European, the results strongly support the existence of an unadmixed Native American ancestor in the individual’s pedigree, likely in the range of 6–10 generations ago.” This is not “junk science.” I’d venture a guess that Conway does not know anything about genetics or quantitative analyses.

Third, now confronted with the evidence against his claims, Trump says he won’t pay up because he never said that he would. Liar. As Post reporter David Fahrenthold learned, Trump has a history of welshing on payments to contractors, a history I reviewed back in June 2016, here and here. Coupled with the Fox News video, it appears he has welshed again, trying to get himself off the hook by denying what has already been proven.

Finally , Warren has opened a new web site show-casing her background. It does look like the kind of slide show that would appear on the large screens of a Democratic National Convention. Be worried, Donald. Go get’m Elizabeth!

Robert Reich contrasts Trump's economy with the living standards of most Americans. 'You get a very different picture.'

This last Sunday I covered a New Yorker piece on why a narcissist like Trump should not be in charge of our economy. Robert Reich has many more specifics on how Trumponomics is not helping the non-rich but is actually hurting them. He exposes The Truth About the Trump Economy
(Monday, Oct 15, 2018).

I keep hearing that although Trump is a scoundrel or worse, at least he’s presiding over a great economy.

As White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow recently put it, “The single biggest story this year is an economic boom that is durable and lasting.”

Really? Look closely at the living standards of most Americans, and you get a very different picture.

Yes, the stock market has boomed since Trump became president. But it’s looking increasingly wobbly as Trump’s trade wars take a toll.

Over 80 percent of the stock market is owned by the richest 10 percent of Americans anyway, so most Americans never got much out of Trump’s market boom to begin with.

The trade wars are about to take a toll on ordinary workers. Trump’s steel tariffs have cost Ford $1 billion so far, for example, forcing the automaker to plan mass layoffs.

Reich lists many more negative aspects of Trump’s economy after the break. He concludes:

Too often, discussions about “the economy” focus on overall statistics about growth, the stock market, and unemployment.

But most Americans don’t live in that economy. They live in a personal economy that has more to do with wages, job security, commutes to and from work, and the costs of housing, healthcare, drugs, education, and home insurance.

These are the things that hit closest home. They comprise the typical American’s standard of living.

Instead of an “economic boom,” most Americans are experiencing declines in all these dimensions of their lives.

Trump isn’t solely responsible. Some of these trends predated his presidency. But he hasn’t done anything to reverse them.

If anything, he’s made them far worse.

White House screens 'Attack of the Ignoramous'. That and other Mournday Mourning Illustrated Gnus.

Here are the schemes, themes, memes, and falemes from the Blue Meanie at Blog for Arizona.

Trump policies
  • There are no more moderate Republicans. If you think otherwise, put your trust in Susan Collins and see what that gets you.
  • Trump’s rallying cry is still “Lock her up!” This time it’s Ford, not Clinton.
  • The new Devil’s Triangle: White House, Senate, Supreme Court.
  • Rumored: Nikki Haley’s resignation letter said “Will the last sane woman to leave please turn out the lights- and leave the toilet seat up.”
How to elect morons
Tuned in, turned on, dropped out
  • Trump repeats 125 false or misleading claims in Lesley Stahl’s 60-minutes interview. (I didn’t count, but given the fact-checking record, it’s a good guess.)
  • Mexico Beach is the new normal.
  • More from Stahl interview: When it comes to climate change disasters, Trump knows something is happening but he doesn’t know what.
  • Trump loves Kim. Is this Love for Sale?
  • Speaking of love for dictators, how about Prince bin Salman? Do his reforms include bumping off journalists?

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The hydraulic model of Trumponomics - a short introduction to why a narcissist should not be F'ing with our economy.

The mattress-as-bank is the butt of numerous jokes and cartoons. But come on. You don’t hide your life savings under your bed, do you? (The dog ate my money?) So let me come at this from a different but parallel direction - my hydraulic theory of the economy in which the commode is a receptacle for your money. Suppose that President Chaos perceives (quite accurately) that a big tax cut would help his bottom line and also the bottom lines of the party of his Chaotic Chronies. So we pour all our money into the economy aka the commode. We are now at the mercy of whoever controls the flush button. That would be President Chaos.

When President Chaos goes to war against the Fed, he is fucking with your money.

When he runs a tax break scam that benefits billionaires, he is fucking with your money.

And when he launches a unilateral trade war, he is fucking with YOUR MONEY.

Flush.

Adam Davidson of the New Yorker tells us How Trump’s Impulsiveness, Vanity, and Cronyism Could Tank the Economy. I’ll pick up on Davidson’s post about half way.

[Trump’s comments on the Federal Reserve] came as confirmation of warnings that the International Monetary Fund issued last weekend. The I.M.F.’s World Economic Outlook provides the benchmark forecast for the global economy. It is a bureaucratic document, using careful, bloodless words to convey even the most hysterical of warnings. But readers familiar with the language of international finance can’t help but see the fear and contempt in the most recent reports. The executive summary warns, “The trade measures implemented since April will weigh on activity in 2019 and beyond; US fiscal policy will subtract momentum starting in 2020.” In regular English, this means: Trump has unilaterally launched a series of trade wars that will damage the global economy next year. Also, the tax cuts that were sold as growth-inspiring will so dramatically increase the U.S. government’s deficit that its economy will begin to slow.

In the rest of his column, Davidson explains why the current state of the economy is an unsustainable bubble, and the hope that Trump knows something, knows any thing, is a hopeless dream. To believe that is to confuse economics (the science) with Trumponomics (a religion).

It can be tempting to mock President Trump because his craven rhetoric makes him sound ignorant of basic economic principles. To be fair to him, all Presidents pursue policies that international-finance experts see as contrary to long-term growth. All Presidents boast when the economy is doing well and blame others when it fails. And all Presidents get angry at the Fed when it raises rates. They just don’t speak publicly about it and try so nakedly to manipulate the process. (President Richard Nixon pressured his Fed Chair, Arthur Burns, into keeping rates low in order to artificially boost economic growth before the 1972 election. Nixon, though, implicitly recognized the importance of Fed independence by keeping his intervention secret.)

Trump, though, stands alone among post-Second World War Presidents in describing himself not just as a steward of the economy but as a visionary tactician, a person who has unique ideas about how best to promote economic growth. And his ideas are radically different from those of recent Presidents of both parties. This is a good week in which to explore what those ideas look like in practice and to begin to describe a unified Trumpian theory of the economy.

To understand just how radical a departure Trump’s views are, it’s helpful to remember that Presidential economic thinking for the past seventy or so years has existed in a remarkably narrow band. From the late nineteen-thirties until 1980, all Presidents were, essentially, Keynesian. To absurdly oversimplify complex policies that played out over decades, this means they all believed that most decisions about how money is spent and invested should be made by the private sector, by people and companies, and that the government’s primary role was to provide clear, thoughtful rules and apply them fairly. Keynesians, such as John F. Kennedy, typically believe in government intervention as a break-this-glass-in-case-of-emergency exception. When an economy is temporarily underperforming, the government can step in, spend money, and jolt the free market back up to a healthier level. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan famously dismissed Keynesians and embraced what is known as the Chicago School of almost religious devotion to the free market, shunning interventions. Since then, Presidents have seesawed between Keynes and Chicago. Partisans seek to heighten the distinction between these economic schools, which do have major differences in policy advice and methodology. But, in contrast to Trumponomics, they appear as near twins.

Trumponomics is something else entirely. For Trump, an economy, apparently, is best run when some person with power and good sense continuously weighs in on key economic questions. It could be called an anti-theory theory. For Trump, theoretical models—no matter how well grounded in data and experience—are binding constraints that limit the President’s ability to respond however he thinks appropriate and, worse, they telegraph which policies the President will likely pursue. This is an essential difference. For past Presidents, stability and predictability were crucial. These qualities allow companies to make long-term investments, feeling confident they will pay off decades later. Stability also encourages other countries to orient their economies around the United States, knowing that its economic policies are unlikely to change dramatically, no matter who is in power.

In many ways, Trump’s views on economics are off base. Decades of research show that economies run best when there are clear and neutral rules, fairly applied. But understanding Trump’s view is important to having a sense of what our next two to six years might look like.

Some Republican leaders, I imagine, comfort themselves by picturing Trump’s erraticism as a bit of showmanship that masks an embrace of standard Republican orthodoxy. He yells at China or Canada, he insults the Fed, he doesn’t understand how our economy functions. But that’s noise. They believe that, at base, Trump is a Mitt Romney Republican: he wants low taxes and less regulation and thinks that the only way for poor and middle-class people to thrive is to ensure that the rich do so first.

This is, clearly now, a misreading. The chaos is not the aberration. It is the point. It is Trumponomics.

Consider something else we learned this week. ProPublica reported that last year Trump asked Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe to help out his donor, Sheldon Adelson, in his bid to enter the new Japanese casino market. On one hand, political leaders have always carried water for their rich donors. This is the swamp. But, with Trump, it is something more (or, possibly, something less). It is a model of governance and economics based, it seems, on impulse. Trump puts pressure on one of our closest allies so that a crony can make some money; Trump strong-arms Carrier so that a few hundred people can stay employed for a few weeks longer; Trump decides which industries and which countries should thrive and which should fail. The salient point is not consistency or theoretical rigor. It is that the world economy is governed by Trump’s whims. Trumponomics is not a steady state. It is, by its nature, constant turmoil.

This is, of course, deeply self-serving. Trump gets to enrich his cronies and, one supposes, himself. He gets to distract the media and the public when there is unfavorable news about him. But I believe it is not right to assume that Trump—in his own experience—is solely cynical. His mentality, apparently, allows him to pay little heed to the forces leading him to prefer one action over another. Is he pitching Adelson and attacking the Fed because he wants to help himself or because it’s good for America? Who cares? They’re the same. If he wants to do it, it’s good for America, then it’s good for Trump, and vice versa.

Trump is no longer a mystery. He is among the most transparent of public figures. The mystery is that it all works. The stock market, even with this week’s drop, has been at record highs. Unemployment is at record lows. Consumer and business confidence is robust. How can this be? According to basic economic theory, businesspeople should look at this chaos and realize it is unsustainable.

G.O.P. politicians and some sympathetic economists argue that the tax cuts and deregulation are spurring business. But there is one idea that Keynesians and Chicago School thinkers have long agreed upon: It is always possible to give an economy a sugar rush, a short-term boost, by flushing huge amounts of government money through the system. One can do this through tax cuts or government spending. Or, in a sense, by weakening regulation. (When the government removes consumer protections, it makes it cheaper for banks to do business and operates like a tax cut or a subsidy.) This creates a promise of near-term profits for companies, which leads to higher stock prices, which can lead to business expansion and new hiring. The newly employed buy more things, increasing the rate of expansion. It can be exciting and self-reinforcing.

An important lesson of the financial crisis of ten years ago is that markets are very bad at figuring out how to respond to warning signs. Many people on Wall Street knew that the housing market might be a bubble, that there was something of a frenzy. But they didn’t know when it would all fall apart, so they just traded as if everything would keep going up. Many on Wall Street today know that the likelihood of the President making a series of decisions—from launching a trade war to influencing fed policy—that sends our economy downward is unusually high. But, on any given day, the businessperson looks at the numbers that provide clarity (unemployment, wages, G.D.P. growth, the stock market) and sees no reason for today to be the day for despair. Yes, of course, they are all looking, anxiously, at the President, always unsure of what he will do next but knowing something, someday, might be cataclysmic. But before then, perhaps, he’ll do something else, something that helps their business and makes them richer. They don’t know, because there is nothing to base their forecast on other than Trump’s own gut. And that is precisely how he wants it.

Remember: Susan Glasser, also at the New Yorker, reminds us that “the chaos in the White House cannot be overstated.” It starts with President Chaos, it infects his staff, and will ultimately trickle down to our economy. The thing is, we common folk don’t want to be in the way of what this president tinkles down on us.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

How the media is complicit in Trump’s campaign to ‘flood the zone with shit’

Judd Legum (popular.info) introduces the theme of today’s post in Trump’s accomplice.

Spreading the media thin is part of the plan. “The Democrats don’t matter. The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit,” Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, said.

This strategy paid off last week when the New York Times published a devastating piece, based on 100,000 documents, exposing how Trump and his father engaged in tax fraud to build their fortunes. The article, however, received only a modest amount of attention because, well, there was a lot of other stuff going on. Trump makes sure of it.

He makes sure of it by an increasing rate of lies. Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post fact-checker, documents the acceleration of Trump falsehoods: President Trump has made more than 5,000 false or misleading claims.

On Sept. 7, President Trump woke up in Billings, Mont., flew to Fargo, N.D., visited Sioux Falls, S.D., and eventually returned to Washington. He spoke to reporters on Air Force One, held a pair of fundraisers and was interviewed by three local reporters.

In that single day, he publicly made 125 false or misleading statements — in a period of time that totaled only about 120 minutes. It was a new single-day high.

The day before, the president made 74 false or misleading claims, many at a campaign rally in Montana. An anonymous op-ed article by a senior administration official had just been published in the New York Times, and news circulated about journalist Bob Woodward’s insider account of Trump’s presidency.

Trump’s tsunami of untruths helped push the count in The Fact Checker’s database past 5,000 on the 601st day of his presidency. That’s an average of 8.3 Trumpian claims a day, but in the past nine days — since our last update — the president has averaged 32 claims a day.

Trump’s op-ed in the USA Today is the high profile example of how the media gives Trump a pass on his distorted view of the world - a view that generates self-made fake news that then permeates the media.

In another report, as a specific example, Glenn Kessler does Fact-checking President Trump’s USA Today op-ed on ‘Medicare-for-All’.

President Trump wrote an opinion article for USA Today on Oct. 10 regarding proposals to expand Medicare to all Americans — known as Medicare-for-All — in which almost every sentence contained a misleading statement or a falsehood.

… this is not a serious effort to debate the issue. So as a reader service, we offer a guide through Trump’s rhetoric.

Kessler lists and rebuts many of Trump’s numerous false claims about Medicare. For examples, I return to the popular.info report for a selection of “five whoppers.”

Weaponizing USA Today

There is a history of presidents publishing op-eds in USA Today, one of America’s largest papers with a daily print readership of 2.6 million people. Obama published an op-ed in the paper commemorating the 10 year anniversary of 9/11. Bush wrote one on the day of his reelection entitled, “Why you should vote for me today.” Bill Clinton’s commemorated the 50th anniversary of John Kennedy’s assassination.

But no president has ever published a column in USA Today like the one published on Wednesday by Trump.

Trump’s op-ed is a diatribe against the Democrats’ health care agenda, particularly Medicare for All. That’s no accident. Healthcare has emerged consistently as a top issue for voters heading into the midterm elections.

The piece is also full of demonstrable lies.

Trump v. the truth

This entire newsletter could be devoted to fact-checking Trump’s op-ed. Virtually every sentence is false or misleading. But to give you a taste, here are five whoppers.

Trump writes: “As a candidate, I promised that we would protect coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions… I have kept that promise.”

The Trump administration has refused to defend the Affordable Care Act, which established protections for people with pre-existing conditions, against a lawsuit filed by Republican Attorneys General. In a brief filed with the court, the Trump administration argued that protecting people with pre-existing conditions is unconstitutional. If the Trump administration gets its way, the provision will be struck down.

Trump writes: “We are now seeing health insurance premiums coming down.”

Insurance premiums, on average, are still going up. Insurance premiums would be lower in many states if Trump had not taken steps to sabotage the Obamacare exchange.

Trump writes: “Democrats have already harmed seniors by slashing Medicare by more than $800 billion over 10 years to pay for Obamacare.”

Obamacare extended the life of Medicare by adding a payroll tax for wealthy Americans. The $800 billion in savings came largely from trimming back reimbursements from health care providers, not reducing care for seniors.

Trump writes: “I am fighting so hard against the Democrats’ plan that would eviscerate Medicare.”

Trump’s op-ed targets Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All legislation. That bill would expand Medicare to cover all Americans and create additional benefits like dental and eye care.

Trump writes: “Republicans believe that a Medicare program that was created for seniors and paid for by seniors their entire lives should always be protected and preserved.”

For many years, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has proposed ending Medicare as we know it and replacing it with “premium support.” In other words, replacing Medicare with a subsidy for private insurance. Democrats successfully fought against the plan.

USA Today’s epic failure

Surprisingly, USA Today claims that it fact-checked Trump’s op-ed. A statement from USA Today’s editorial page editor Bill Sternberg:

We see ourselves as America’s conversation center, presenting our readers with voices from the right, left and middle. President Trump’s op-ed was treated like other column submissions; we check factual assertions while allowing authors wide leeway to express their opinions. Readers are invited to submit opposing viewpoints and provide additional context, some of which will be published in the days ahead.

It’s unclear what kind of fact check was undertaken since the errors were obvious. Many of Trump’s lies are exposed by the very sources he links to in the article.

For Trump’s claim that he has kept his promise to protect people with pre-existing conditions, for example, the article links to a Washington Post fact check explaining that he broke his pledge.

What good is a fact check if it allows authors to publish things that are not true?

USA Today even featured one of the most obvious falsehoods on its Twitter account, which has 3.6 million followers.

To survive in Trump’s world, the media must change

There are many media fact checkers. But their work hasn’t changed Trump’s behavior because he knows that more people will hear what he says, without context, than slog through a lengthy fact check of his claims.

To fulfill its mission of providing accurate information to the public, the media must change their tactics.

For example, instead of producing fact checks after Trump’s appearances, cable networks could have a rapid response team on hand any time they decide to air a Trump speech, equipped with the facts needed to correct Trump’s most repeated lies.

If every time Trump said something false, networks displayed the facts on half of the screen, it may or may not change Trump’s behavior. But it would certainly change the experience for viewers.

In other words, we need to flood Trump’s zone with facts. For every Trump lie, the media should publish - in real time - 10 truths.

To combat Trump’s torrent of misinformation, the media needs to think outside the box. If outlets continue to treat Trump as if he was the same as other presidents, they will continue to be complicit in his efforts to warp reality for the American public.

Greg Sargent (Washington Post/Plum Line) pens a Memo to the media: Stop spreading Trump’s fake news.

It is a great irony of the current political moment: By broadcasting forth Trump’s lies in tweets and headlines — while declining to inform readers that they are just that, and while burying the truth deep within accompanying articles — the organizations that Trump regularly derides as “fake news” are themselves spreading a species of fake news.

… the problem remains one that plenty of traditional journalists and news organizations still refuse to take seriously enough. You constantly see headlines on news organizations’ websites that blare forth a politician’s false, dubious or unsupported claims without informing readers that those claims are, well, false or dubious or unsupported. Often it requires reading deep into a story to discover a corrective, if there is a corrective at all.

This is part and parcel of a broader problem, in which too many newspaper editors and television producers still continue to fear that if they forcefully — and prominently, right in tweets and headlines — call out Trump’s lies for what they are, they will somehow come across as biased or lacking in objectivity. Indeed, some editors have offered the tortured argument that they should refrain from using the word “lie” because it suggests knowledge of Trump’s intent to mislead, which cannot be conclusively established.

But this rigs the game in Trump’s favor: One cannot ever conclusively prove whether Trump is intentionally lying, as opposed to just delusional or hopelessly uninformed. Yet if Trump repeats a falsehood over and over after it has been debunked, it is obviously deliberate deception; if news organizations refrain from calling this out as such, they are failing to accurately describe what is right there in plain sight.

This misleads readers and viewers not just in each particular case. Importantly, it also misleads them more broadly about the truly sinister and deliberate nature of Trump’s ongoing campaign to obliterate the possibility of shared agreement on facts and on the news media’s legitimate institutional role in keeping voters informed. The resulting standard does not reckon seriously with the scale of the challenge to the truth he poses. It ends up portraying his ongoing campaign of flood-the-zone lying as conventional dishonesty or mere incompetence, which in turn paints a profoundly misleading picture of the realities of the current moment.

To be fair, there have been many signs that leading journalists grasp the urgent need for their profession to rise to all these current challenges. CNN media reporter Brian Stelter’s newsletter recently reported that within newsrooms, there is “more and more introspection” about the media’s response to Trumpian deception tactics, and about whether the press is compounding the “damage” by airing and repeating falsehoods without any adequate institutional response to it.

So we may be in the midst of another transition, similar to the one that unfolded a generation ago. The news media seems to be retaining its core institutional independence and appears to be finding new ways to adapt. But as Hannah Arendt put it in a famous 1967 meditation on “Truth and Politics,” back during that previous period of serious institutional adaptation by the press, those two things — politics and factual truth — are perpetually “on rather bad terms with each other.”

Thanks to the rise of Trump, those terms are particularly bad right now. Perhaps we will get through this. But we are learning all over again, as Arendt put it, that “factual truth is fragile in politics, and its survival is never guaranteed.”

Friday, October 12, 2018

Scriber endorses Sinema for Senate and Kirkpatrick for House

The ballots for the 2018 election are in the mail, so we are down to the wire. I know that in the primary season many of you (and that includes me) preferred candidates who did not prevail. But we are beyond that now.

I am endorsing Kyrsten Sinema for U. S. Senate and Ann Kirkpatrick for AZ CD2 House.

The alliance4action has published 2018 fact sheets that include tables comparing and contrasting candidates and their positions on issues. The evidence in that publication supports my decision. In addition, following are excerpts from (and updates to) my previous posts that inform my endorsements.

Kirkpatrick

Larry Bodine (Blog for Arizona) covers The Kirkpatrick v. Marquez-Peterson CD2 Congressional Debate at a Glance with an excellent table contrasting the positions of the candidates. Carolyn Classen responds with a link to the Video of this debate online at AZPM. These two items make it clear why 538 said “maybe they should” in evaluating the Republicans withdrawing from districts that are likely losers for GOP apparently now including AZ CD2.

538 gives Kirkpatrick a 95% chance of taking back the CD2 seat.

UPDATE: As I was writing this post this morning, I found this report by Joe Ferguson in the Daily Star, NRCC pulls funding for Marquez Peterson in CD2.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is pulling the plug on a planned six-figure ad buy in Congressional District 2 weeks before the general election.

The move has some wondering whether one of largest national groups singularly dedicated to electing Republicans to the House of Representatives has lost faith in its candidate, Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Lea Marquez Peterson.

A spokesperson for the NRCC confirmed that the group would stop spending money on ads next week, but declined to discuss the reasons why it would shift an estimated $400,000 to races in other districts or states.

To update what I said earlier, “Republicans withdrawing from districts that are likely losers for GOP apparently now including AZ CD2.”

Sinema

[I identified] votes on legislation that matter to progressives, for example, denying funding for Planned Parenthood, punishing sanctuary cities, increasing the availability of guns, repeal of Dodd-Frank, and repeal of regulations that provide for clean air and water. I pulled the records for 33 such bills from January 1, 2017 to present. I counted the number of instances in which Sinema voted against legislation supported by Trump. Her score was 85% opposed to Trump’s position.

You might ask how good is that score. To establish bounds on that measure I used the same method to compute the progressive scores for Raul Grijalva (AZ CD 3) and Martha McSally (AZ CD2). Grijalva scored a perfect 100% opposed to Trump’s positions and McSally, voting almost entirely with Trump on everything, scored 3%. (By the way, Trump’s score on the same measure was a perfect 0%.)

… When it comes to deciding on how to vote, if you want ideological purity, you could point to the difference between Sinema and Grijalva (100% - 85% = 15%) and stay home. But if you want to flip that seat held by Republican Jeff Flake to a Democrat, you should focus on the difference between Sinema’s progressive score vs. that of McSally (85% - 3% = 82%) and Get Out to Vote.

UPDATE: Joe Ferguson adds:

Attempts to get Rep. Martha McSally to debate her Democratic rival Kyrsten Sinema in her hometown have failed.

While Sinema first floated the idea for a debate hosted by AZPM several weeks ago, the proposal eventually fell apart as the two sides couldn’t agree.

Instead McSally and Sinema will take part in a debate in Phoenix on Monday, Oct. 15, hosted by Arizona PBS, in partnership with The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com.

The Republican Party has been transforming itself and America for decades. It's all about white male power.

The Republican party has now institutionalized psychological projection. For example, the AZ Blue Meanie reports that The Sausage Party declares women are an ‘angry mob’ that threatens the privileged white male patriarchy

The transformation of the GOP over the past two weeks has moved at remarkable speed.

President Trump went from declaring Christine Blasey Ford a “very fine woman” and “certainly a very credible witness” after she testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about her allegation of sexual assault, to just days later using her as a prop at one of his Nuremberg campaign rallies, lying about her testimony and playing the privileged white male as victim card, to chants of “lock her up” from his personality cult of Trump.

Trump and his enablers in the GOP then moved on to saying those who made ‘false statements’ about Kavanaugh ‘should be held liable’ and Saying Brett Kavanaugh Was ‘Caught Up In A Hoax’ And ‘Did Nothing Wrong’, to falsely saying Kavanaugh was ‘proven innocent’ at his swearing-in ceremony. The coup de grâce came when Trump apologized ‘on behalf of the nation’ to Kavanaugh “for the terrible pain and suffering” that he and his family endured during his confirmation process

In just two weeks, Brett Kavanaugh went from being credibly accused of sexual assault to the privileged white male victim of a hoax who should be able to exact retribution against his female accusers, according to the pussy-grabber-in-chief.

But, according to conservative columnists, the transformation of the GOP has been underway for decades. It abandoned conservative principles long ago.

Max Boot explains how The dark side of American conservatism has taken over

… It would be nice to think that Donald Trump is an anomaly who came out of nowhere to take over an otherwise sane and sober movement. But it just isn’t so.

… the history of modern conservative is permeated with racism, extremism, conspiracy-mongering, isolationism and know-nothingism … conservatives have also espoused high-minded principles that I still believe in, … But there has always been a dark underside to conservatism that I chose for most of my life to ignore. It’s amazing how little you can see when your eyes are closed!

… The Republican Party will now be defined by Trump’s dark, divisive vision, with his depiction of Democrats as America-hating, criminal-coddling traitors, his vilification of the press as the “enemy of the people,” and his ugly invective against Mexicans and Muslims. The extremism that many Republicans of goodwill had been trying to push to the fringe of their party is now its governing ideology.

That’s why I can no longer be a Republican, and in fact wish ill fortune on my former party. I am now convinced that the Republican Party must suffer repeated and devastating defeats beginning in November. It must pay a heavy price for its embrace of white nationalism and know-nothingism. Only if the GOP as it is currently constituted is burned to the ground will there be any chance to build a reasonable center-right party out of the ashes. But that will require undoing the work of decades, not just of the past two years.

Another conservative columnist, Jennifer Rubin, considers alternatives to burn it down She admits The corruption of the GOP is complete and asks So what’s Plan B?

Perhaps a potential ticket independent is waiting to be constructed from among the few Republicans who have refused to join the Trump cult. There are center/right governors — John Kasich (Ohio), Charlie Baker (Mass.), Brian Sandoval (Nev.) and former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels. Democrats such as Gov. Steve Bullock (Mont.), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), and Gov. John Hickenlooper (Colo.) would be solid additions on a ticket if you wanted to go the bipartisan route — perhaps with the promise of a one-term “reset” to rinse out the toxic remnants of the Trump era. Alternatively, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — a true independent voice — would be on any short list for vice president.

Rubin thinks that the “reset” should include a return to the 3 Rs. “What would the Plan B ticket offer? It should start with what is plainly missing in politics — restraint, respect and reform.” But, unfortunately, “Respectful and clean government, values-based leadership of the free world, responsible stewardship of the environment and a commitment to reform are no longer on the GOP agenda.”

Finally, Charles Blow forces on us a larger vision of the struggle between left and right in America, writing Liberals, This Is War What’s at stake is much more than a single Supreme Court seat. (h/t Sherry Moreau)

Yes, Brett Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court. Rue the day. Rend your garments.

Then, step back, view the entirety of the battle in which you are engaged, and understand that Kavanaugh is just one part of a much larger plan by conservatives to fundamentally change the American political structure so that it enshrines and protects white male power even after America’s changing demographics and mores move away from that power.

This, for them, is not simply a game about political passion and political principles. This is a game of power, pure and simple, and it’s about whether the people who have long held that power will be able to retain it.

For them, Trump is just a useful idiot, a temporary anomaly.

They are thinking generationally, not in terms of the next election cycle but in terms of the next epoch.

Liberals can get so high-minded that they lose sight of the ground war. Yes, next month it is important to prove to the rest of Americans, and indeed the world, that Trump and the Republicans who promote and protect him are at odds with American values and with the American majority.

On one level this would provide relief and release for a pent-up demand by most Americans to be heard and to calm some of the chaos. But, catharsis is an emotional response and an emotional remedy.

Liberals have to look beyond emotions, beyond reactionary electoral enthusiasm, beyond needing to fall in love with candidates in order to vote for them, beyond the coming election and toward the coming showdown.

For instance, the constant pining about justices who will interpret the “original intent” of the Constitution feels far bigger than single issues like gun control.

In July, Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the “constitutional originalist Federalist Society,” as RealClearPolitics phrased it, told Fox News:

“Any Supreme Court confirmation is transformative. This is a court that is often equally divided. At the end of the day, I think what’s really important to remember is that there’s been a movement on the court toward being more originalist and textualist. In other words, the idea that law means something, it has determinate meaning. And that’s the trend that I think this president wants to continue.”

But, when I think of originalism, I think this: Many of the founders owned slaves; in the Constitution they viewed black people as less than fully human; they didn’t want women or poor white men to vote. The founders, a bunch of rich, powerful white men, didn’t want true democracy in this country, and in fact were dreadfully afraid of it.

Now, a bunch of rich, powerful white men want to return us to this sensibility, wrapped in a populist “follow the Constitution” rallying cry and disguised as the ultimate form of patriotism.

We have to learn to see everything around us, all that is happening on the political front, through that lens. This is what the extreme measures on illegal immigration and even the efforts to dramatically slash legal immigration are all about.

This is also what the demonizing of the visa lottery program is all about. As the Pew Research Center pointed out in August: “In fiscal 2017, which ended Sept. 30, the largest number of visas went to citizens of African countries” while applicants from European countries and from Asia received fewer visas than before.

The effort to demonize the lottery program is an effort to preserve America’s white majority, against the statistical eventuality, for as long as possible.

And that is also what voter disenfranchisement and Citizens United are about. That is why conservatives cheer the moves by young liberals to densely populated cities. The move weakens conservative votes in the places they move to and strengthens it in places they move from.

As The Washington Post pointed out in 2016, “In the Electoral College, each individual Wyoming vote weighs 3.6 times more than an individual Californian’s vote.” The Post continued, “That’s the most extreme example, but if you average the 10 most populous states and compare the power of their residents’ votes to those of the 10 least populous states, you get a ratio of 1 to 2.5.”

But probably the biggest, gutsiest move is the call for a constitutional convention.

There are two ways that amendments to the Constitution can be proposed: One is by a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate, and the other is by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the states. The second method has never been used, but is now gathering steam among Republicans.

As Charles Pierce wrote in January in Esquire, the people pushing for a convention “have commitments from 28 state legislatures. They need 34 to trigger the Constitution’s provision for a ‘convention of the states.’”

Pierce continued: “If the convention is called, the disunion that has become a faith in some conservative quarters will run amok. Economic oligarchy will be established in law, and any political check on the powers of business likely will be eviscerated.”

Folks, Kavanaugh is only one soldier, albeit an important one, in a larger battle. Stop thinking you’re in a skirmish, when you’re at war.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

How and why our democracy might become Republican roadkill on the judicial highway ...

… and what we can do about it.

If you ask an average bloke (or blokette) what makes our democracy a democracy, there are a number of things that could be said. At the top of my list, is the principle and practice of voting by the people. Because of the never ending attempts at voter suppression, I fear for that practice and I therefore fear for our democracy.

This post is about a recent Supreme Court action (inaction, really), why it is so harmful to Americans, and what we can do to counter it.

I’ll lead with a NY Times piece by David Leonhardt in which he indicts The Anti-Voter Supreme Court (Oct. 10, h/t Jana Eaton) As an example, Leonhardt uses the North Dakota law disenfranchising Native Americans, a law that was upheld by the Supreme Court.

After Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat, narrowly won a Senate seat in 2012, Republicans changed a voter-identification law in the state. They stopped allowing any voter identification that lists a post-office box as an address.

There was a specific reason for the change, as Pema Levy of Mother Jones reports. Many Native Americans use a P.O. box as their address because the U.S. Postal Service does not deliver to their communities. And Native Americans had provided Heitkamp with crucial support in her win. The law was another Republican attempt to win elections by keeping Democratic-leaning groups from voting.

Last night, the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the North Dakota law, effectively upholding it. Amy Howe of Scotusblog has a fuller explanation. “The risk of disenfranchisement is large,” Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in a dissent.

This case is yet another reminder that democracy protection needs to be the No. 1 item on the Democrats’ long-term political agenda. (Really, it should the top item on both parties’ agenda, but I realize that’s a naïve wish.) The next time Democrats control the federal government, they should pass a sweeping voter-rights bill, similar to the kind Paul Glastris has described in Washington Monthly.

History won’t look kindly on the political party that is trying to keep Americans — usually dark-skinned Americans — from voting.

Perhaps now you can see why I think the Supreme Court decision to let the ND voter-ID law to stand ranks right up there with lousy decisions like Citizens United v. FEC and Shelby County v. Holder.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) says more about Why North Dakota’s new voter-ID law is suddenly so important

When the Supreme Court fails to take up a case, it’s generally not front-page news, but this is a story that may carry significant consequences.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed North Dakota to implement a voter ID law for the November midterm election, turning down a petition arguing that the measure would harm Native Americans who are less likely to live at standardized addresses or possess the identification cards required by the statute.

Native Americans are a reliably Democratic constituency, making Tuesday’s order unfortunate news for Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat struggling to hold off a challenge from Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer in the deep red state.

In so sparsely populated a state, “it could be that a couple of hundred votes matter,” said Robert Wood, a political-science professor at the University of North Dakota.

Some background is in order. Six years ago, Heidi Heitkamp was widely expected to lose her Senate race in North Dakota. It’s generally a very red state – a Democratic presidential ticket hasn’t won in North Dakota in over four decades – and polls showed her trailing then-Rep. Rick Berg (R), the state’s sole U.S. House member.

But Heitkamp narrowly pulled off an upset, thanks in large part to support from Native American voters.

Soon after, the Republican-run state legislature decided it was time to overhaul the state’s incredibly easy system of voting. Under the newly imposed model, North Dakota would enforce a GOP-friendly voter-ID system, which would – you guessed it – make it harder for Native American voters to cast ballots.

Lower courts struck down the system as discriminatory, but just last month, the 8th Circuit, in a 2–1 ruling, rescued the Republican policy. The Supreme Court this week passed on taking up the case, which means the appeals court ruling will be binding and the state law – which wasn’t in place during North Dakota’s primary elections – will be enforced for Heitkamp’s tough re-election fight next month.

By practically every fair measure, the incumbent was already an underdog. This week’s court developments make matters just a little worse for the senator.

Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern did a nice job highlighting the practical implications:

The appeals court allowed the state to implement the part of the law that compels voters to provide an ID that includes his or her current residential street address. This provision is controversial because it seems to directly target Native Americans. The U.S. Postal Service doesn’t provide residential delivery in rural reservations, so most tribal members use a P.O. box, which is listed as their address on tribal IDs. To remedy this problem, the district court had ordered the state to accept IDs that list a current mailing address. But the 8th Circuit scrapped that compromise, permitting the state to reject IDs that include a mailing address but no street address – that is, a huge number of tribal IDs.

How many, exactly? The district court found that at least 4,998 otherwise eligible Native Americans do not have an ID with a current street address. They are not alone: About 65,000 non–Native American voters also lack the necessary ID. The law does allow voters to provide “supplemental documentation” to prove their identity, such as a utility bill or bank statement. But once again, Native Americans are disproportionately unlikely to have these materials, due in part to poverty and homelessness within their communities. Thus, at least 2,305 Native Americans may not be allowed to cast a ballot in the 2018 election.

For context, let’s not forget that Heitkamp won in 2012 by 2,936 votes.

In fairness, it’s important to emphasize that Native voters without a proper residential address can jump through some bureaucratic procedural hoops in order to try to cast a ballot. But to put it mildly, they’ll face an additional burden that most other voters won’t have to deal with.

What’s more, voters who participated in North Dakota’s recent primaries may not realize that a different system will be in place now. This week, Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan warned of “grand-scale voter confusion” in North Dakota.

For Republicans eager to take Heidi Heitkamp’s Senate seat – and solidify the GOP’s Senate majority – it’s apparently a small price to pay.

Postscript: At the 8th Circuit, the two judges who restored the voter-ID law were appointed by George W. Bush. The dissenter was appointed by Barack Obama.

As Donald Trump and Senate Republicans dramatically shift the federal courts to the far-right, Americans should expect to see a whole lot more rulings like this one for the next several decades.

What to do

John Nichols (The Nation) confirms that “The Supreme Court Is Broken” and tells us Here’s How to Fix It. Progressives need to take back the Senate, and then consider constitutional reforms. We pretty much know about the broken part, so I am going to focus on Nichols’ take on how to fix it.

Shifting control of the Senate is vital, but that’s still an insufficient response; progressives must acknowledge the broader crisis and redouble their efforts to address it. Kavanaugh joins a right-wing activist majority on the Court that extends not from the will of the people but from our broken and dysfunctional politics. He is the fourth member of that majority to be nominated by a president who lost the popular vote. The genius of the American experiment has been its adaptability—much of it achieved by amending a Constitution that the founders knew would need to be changed. Yet the Electoral College lingers as the unreformed remnant of a period in which compromises between slaveholders and wealthy merchants were designed to thwart democracy. Advocates for constitutional amendments to get corporate money out of politics and to guarantee the right to vote—essential responses to the Court’s disastrous decisions in Citizens United v. FEC and Shelby County v. Holder—must add to their agenda the elimination of the Electoral College. They can also work for short-term fixes like the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, in which states formally agree to cast their electoral votes for the winner of the popular ballot.

Progressives must also make structural reform of the courts a priority. A century ago, presidential contenders like Theodore Roosevelt and Robert La Follette proposed sweeping reforms of the federal judiciary, which was well understood as a reactionary threat. There were calls for legislation and constitutional amendments that would give Congress the power to defend laws that the Supreme Court sought to overturn, and to change the courts themselves with term limits for judges and provisions for the recall of errant jurists. President Franklin Roosevelt tried in the 1930s to expand the Supreme Court so that dinosaur justices appointed in the distant past could not block the New Deal. These calls for reform were dismissed as radical. But history often reminds us that the radicalism of one moment is the common sense of the next. That next moment has come. The awful corruptions of politics and process that put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court demand the immediate response of a new Senate and the longer-term response of a common-sense movement to reform the federal judiciary.

So, buckle up. The judicial road ahead is full of pot-holes and other political road hazards. We need to do a lot of road repair to get our democracy working.

Haley 'getting out while the getting is good'

Nikki Haley announced her resignation as U. S. Ambassador to the U.N. “Haley’s Come” is how The Economist viewed then SC Governor Nikki Haley back in January 2016 when she was “auditioning” for a position in the Trump Administration. Now the comet is headed somewhere else - but no one knows where.

Here’s a related observation from the 538 Significant Digits email.

63 percent approval
Yesterday, Nikki Haley announced she’s resigning as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. at the end of the year. According to a Quinnipiac poll of five of President Trump’s Cabinet members, Haley was the only one with majority approval among Republicans and Democrats. Overall, 63 percent of people approved and 17 percent disapproved of her performance as ambassador. [The Washington Post]

It will be interesting to see who follows her out of the Trump administration. John Cassidy (New Yorker) notes that Trump “won’t be President forever, and some politically astute people, Haley included, are already looking ahead.” He expands in considering Why Nikki Haley’s Resignation Is a Hopeful Sign for Opponents of Trump. Rather than wait for the dénouement of the Trump story, which is unlikely to be pretty, Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., is getting out while the getting is good.

… Sitting next to Donald Trump in the Oval Office, Haley said that it had been “an honor of a lifetime” to hold the U.N. job, which comes with a plush suite at the Waldorf Towers. Preëmpting the obvious question about why she is leaving the Administration at this juncture, she added, “No, I am not running for 2020.”

That didn’t prevent the publication of a slew of pieces speculating about Haley’s motivations, including one from my colleague Eric Lach. On Wednesday morning, one of the most-read pieces on the Washington Post’s Web site was headlined, “ ‘A rising star’: Haley poses a potential threat to Trump even if she doesn’t run in 2020.”

All this interest in Haley’s intentions is understandable. … Haley isn’t just a G.O.P. oddity. She’s a canny and ambitious politician who has the ability to shape-shift seamlessly. … Anybody who can simultaneously retain the support of Trump and the Times’s editorial board should never be underestimated.

Perhaps to quell some of the speculation about Haley’s political ambitions, people close to her leaked the suggestion that she’s looking to make money in the private sector. That may well be true (her most recent federal ethics report listed debts of up to a million dollars), but it doesn’t detract from the main takeaway from her resignation, which should provide some succor for anybody eager to see the back of Trump: he won’t be President forever, and some politically astute people, Haley included, are already looking ahead. Rather than waiting for the dénouement of the Trump story, which is unlikely to be pretty, she’s getting out while the getting is good.

That’s a smart move. A month from now, if the opinion polls are correct, Trump will be facing a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and an inability to get any legislation passed without making concessions. … If Democratic leaders get their way, they will wait for Robert Mueller to file his report on the Russia investigation, and, in the meantime, torment the White House with subpoenas demanding the release of Trump’s financial records, including his tax returns.

Another potential danger to Trump is the economy, which is currently in the category of “as good as it gets.” Going into 2019, the fiscal stimulus from the December, 2017, tax-cut bill and the February, 2018, bipartisan spending deal will start to wear off, and G.D.P. growth will probably fall back. In addition, as the Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates, the stock market, which has enjoyed a record-breaking run in the past ten years, could take a dive at any moment. With the unemployment rate at 3.7 per cent and the Dow trading above twenty-six thousand, Trump’s approval rating is in the low forties. Where will it be if the market crashes and the economy falters?

A Scriber note: The DJIA started a linear increase just after Obama took office and was, until this week, at an all time high. However, just in the last five days, the Dow fell over 1,000 points from 26,784 to 25,622 - losing 813 points in today alone. If this continues, it may signal the possible “dive” Cassidy mentions.

Rather than languishing in depression, people opposed to Trump should follow Haley’s example and look forward. Handicapped by an antiquated and blatantly inequitable electoral system, the Democratic Party desperately needs to reverse at least part of the gains that Republicans have made away from the coasts, and outside of big cities, in the past thirty years. There is another huge challenge in the nation’s courts, where Kavanaugh’s confirmation marked the culmination of a multi-decade conservative campaign to wrest control from moderate and liberal judges. But in democracies things can change. Things do change. And, in fewer than four weeks, there will be an invaluable opportunity to start the process.

Bad news and good news for AZ Democratic candidates

Some bad news

The Arizona Capitol Times reports a new poll in which Ducey leads Garcia by wide margin. But there is a caveat to consider.

Gov. Doug Ducey is dominating challenger David Garcia, according to a poll by Arizona Capitol Times and OH Predictive Insights.

Ducey has a 17-point lead over Garcia in the latest poll of likely Arizona voters. The poll comes as early voting begins on Wednesday.

Approximately 54 percent of the 600 likely voters surveyed chose the Republican incumbent, while 37 percent sided with the Democratic challenger.

In the poll, Ducey is beating Garcia among both men and women of all age ranges, and among likely voters across all regions.

Polling has showed Ducey increasing his lead in recent weeks, likely a result of the governor and his allies blanketing the airwaves with pro-Ducey and anti-Garcia ads leading up to the election. Meanwhile, Garcia’s campaign, having spent most of its campaign cash ahead of the primary, hasn’t had the resources to fight back.

The caveat: As I said before, these polls are based on samples of “likely voters”. If unlikely voters turn out in large numbers, then Garcia can close the divide.

Better news in CD2: 538 in its Election Update sees Six Districts The GOP Appears To Have Abandoned — And Maybe Two More It Should.

One of those two is AZ CD2!!!

As of 9:20 a.m. Eastern time, Republicans have a 4 in 5 chance (80 percent) of holding the Senate, according to our Classic forecast. The situation is much more dire for the GOP in the House, where Democrats have a 7 in 9 chance (78 percent) of taking control. They are so dire in some GOP-held districts, in fact, that national Republicans have begun pulling their resources or never invested them in the first place — effectively ceding those seats to Democrats, presumably so that the GOP can bolster more winnable districts.

Why take such a drastic step? Usually, it’s because party elders believe the seat is already lost. But parties don’t always show the best judgment about these things, so we thought we would compare the seats that Republicans have given up on with the seats most likely to flip to Democrats in our model. And what we found was that Republicans are indeed picking their battles wisely, at least based on what we know right now.

Daily Kos Elections is tracking House districts that either party appears to have conceded. According to its data, there are six Republican-held districts that both the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund have opted out of: the California 49th, Iowa 1st, New Jersey 2nd, Pennsylvania 5th, Pennsylvania 6th and Pennsylvania 17th. …

538 goes on to list its own predictions for “eight Republican-held districts that our model says are most likely to fall to Democrats, as of 9:20 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday”, Oct 10th.

Our model generally agrees with top Republicans’ assessments: All six of the districts that Daily Kos has tracked make our list …

You may have noticed that two of the eight districts in our table aren’t on the Daily Kos list. That’s because Republicans apparently haven’t backed away from them yet — but maybe they should. The Arizona 2nd (which typically plays host to some of the closest congressional races in the country) and the Pennsylvania 7th (another redrawn seat) are strong Democratic bets by our calculations — even stronger than the California 49th and Pennsylvania 17th.

538 gives Kirkpatrick a 95.3% chance of winning.

Larry Bodine (Blog for Arizona) covers The Kirkpatrick v. Marquez-Peterson CD2 Congressional Debate at a Glance with an excellent table contrasting the positions of the candidates. Carolyn Classen responds with a link to the Video of this debate online at AZPM. These two items make it clear why 538 said “maybe they should” in evaluating the Republicans withdrawing from districts that are likely losers for GOP apparently now including AZ CD2.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Thinking in terms of the survival of human society

That is no overstatement. If we, as a species, cannot get off our collective asses, as the saying goes, our ass will be grass and Gaia ( “the ancestral mother of all life: the primal Mother Earth goddess”) will be the lawnmower.

A lot of what our invasive species, Homo Sapiens, has wreaked upon the planet will be gradually more and more noticeable over the next 20 years. Even more, like the loss of species, will come to pass without notice, without outcry - unless you are living on a small island nation barely above the rising sea level.

In early 2015 I reported on how our human action, and political inaction, was contributing to the impending global disaster, one sign of which is the disappearance of species, a cataclysmic event called the “sixth extinction.” I wrote about The One-Sixth Extinction: Global warming is the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse for many disappearing species, and followed on with the Signs of the sixth extinction: What happens when apes rule the earth.

Statistically, it is unlikely that I shall live for another 20 years and thus it unlikely that I will experience the full horror of the effects of climate change on our planet and the extinction of its inhabitants. Most likely, I will not be around to see Hellscape 2040 (as Judd Legum called it in popular.info).

The latest predictions from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), The Dire Warnings of the United Nations’ Latest Climate-Change Report, are the most dire yet reports Carolyn Kormann at the New Yorker. Here are parts of story. (Unless otherwise noted, quoted excerpts are from the New Yorker.)

What will happen is happening now

… after a week of deliberation, the I.P.C.C. released the new findings. The summary tells a nightmarish tale—one much worse than any of those in the I.P.C.C.’s previous reports—surveying the climate-change impacts we’re already experiencing with one degree of warming, and the severity of the impacts to come once we surpass 1.5 degrees of warming. Ten million more people would be exposed to permanent inundation, and several hundred million more to “climate-related risks and susceptible to poverty.” Malaria and dengue fever will be more widespread, and crops like maize, rice, and wheat will have smaller and smaller yields—particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America. Security and economic growth will be that much more imperilled. “Robust scientific literature now shows that there are significant differences between 1.5 and 2 degrees,” Adelle Thomas, a geographer from the Bahamas and also one of the report’s lead authors, told me. “The scientific consensus is really strong. It’s not just a political slogan: ‘1.5 to stay alive.’ It’s true.”

The report marks the start of the I.P.C.C.’s latest assessment cycle, the sixth since the organization was formed by the U.N. Environment Program and the World Meteorological Organization, in 1988. Its importance is hard to overstate. The thirty-three-page summary for policymakers—which is based on more than six thousand cited studies, and written by ninety-one authors from forty different countries—is a collective scream sieved through the stern, strained language of bureaucratese. Unique ecosystems will vanish and species will go extinct by the thousands. With two degrees of warming, three times as many insects (eighteen per cent), and twice as many plants (sixteen per cent) and vertebrates (eight per cent), will lose their geographic range, when compared with warming of 1.5 degrees. Nearly all the coral reefs (more than ninety-nine per cent) will be dead, including the Great Barrier Reef, an ecosystem some twenty-five million years old, which is visible from space and is already in severe decline. The global annual catch from marine fisheries will decrease by three million tons. The likelihood of a sea-ice-free Arctic summer will increase from once per century to once per decade. “The next few years are probably the most important in our history,” Debra Roberts, a co-chair of the I.P.C.C. Working Group II, said. (There are three working groups: one focussed on the physical science of climate change; the second on impacts, adaptation, and vulnerabilities; and the third on mitigation.)

The NY Times Evening Briefing provides an example of the new normal.
Hurricane Michael is a monstrous storm, and the forecast keeps getting more dangerous,” Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, warned residents.
The storm, swirling northward through the Gulf of Mexico, was upgraded to Category 3 and is expected to make landfall on Wednesday with powerful winds, torrential rains and a potentially devastating storm surge.
Residents of Alabama, Mississippi and Florida are being urged to evacuate or to fortify their homes. Above, a resident of Mexico Beach, Fla., boards up a shop.
Forecasters predicted Michael would veer northeast after landfall — through Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina — before heading into the Atlantic on Thursday night.

What can we, should we, do … or not

To keep warming at 1.5 degrees, governments and private businesses must make unprecedented changes—on a sweeping global scale—in energy systems, land management, building efficiency, industrial operations, shipping and aviation, and city-wide design. Within the next decade, human-caused carbon-dioxide emissions need to fall forty-five per cent below 2010 levels. By 2050, net carbon-dioxide emissions must equal zero. “It’s a goal that we can aspire to, but maybe not meet,” Jennifer Francis, a climate scientist at Rutgers University who studies Arctic warming and its impacts on global climate, said. “So it’s useful, even if it isn’t all that realistic.”

… The longer countries take to reduce energy consumption and transition to renewable energy sources like solar and wind, the more they will have to rely on technologies such as carbon removal, which are currently too expensive, experimental, and small-scale to do the job.

… faster rates of sea-level rise allow much less time to adapt—to restore natural coastal ecosystems and reinforce infrastructure. “Above 1.5 it becomes even more difficult for small islands to plan and recover economically from any damage,” Thomas said. “There are issues of migration and reduced social cohesion after repeated extreme events.” At the U.N. talks in 2010, rich countries had promised to provide financial support of as much as a hundred billion dollars collectively (or one per cent of their total G.D.P.s), to developing nations by 2020, to help with the transition to a low-carbon economy and with adapting to climate impacts they already experience. Rich nations have not followed through on that promise; this year, both the United States and Australia declared that they would no longer be contributing any money at all.

Wired.com considers geoengineering options in WE NEED MASSIVE CHANGE TO AVOID CLIMATE HELL.
The starkness of the report may also spark talk of more elaborate strategies for fighting climate change than cutting emissions. Scientists are also toying with the notion of geoengineering. This could entail carbon capture techniques or solar geoengineering to bounce the sun’s radiation back into space by spraying aerosols in the atmosphere or by brightening clouds.
“There will be some pressure from some corners to increasingly look at options like solar geoengineering,” says Pasztor. “That’s a fact of life. That doesn’t mean necessarily that we will have to use solar geoengineering, but if you want to prudently manage global climate risk, then it’s fair to say that one needs to look at all the options.”
Geoengineering, though, comes with a slew of potential problems. You might spray foam on the ocean surface to reflect light back into space, but that could also change the weather. And the issue with such solar radiation management, or SRM, is that even in the best case, it doesn’t address the underlying problem. “Once emitted, CO2 stays in the atmosphere for millennia,” says Seneviratne. “Any approach related to SRM only mitigates some of the symptoms of climate change, but not its root cause, which is the elevated CO2 concentrations.” That means issues like ocean acidification, which is inflicting wide-ranging harm on marine life, would remain unaddressed.

So, wired.com concludes: “… we aren’t going to geoengineer our way out of this mess—cutting emissions is our number one priority. But as this new report makes abundantly clear, the disease we’ve unleashed on this planet is only getting worse, and we aren’t doing nearly enough to find the cure.”

The stakes

“You have to think in terms of the survival of human society,” Benjamin Horton, a British geographer who is currently leading the creation of a sea-level-rise adaptation plan for Singapore …

Heads of state and international leaders will meet in Poland, in December, for the next round of U.N. climate-change talks. They have been given a map of the scale and urgency of the risks that island nations, and the rest of the world, now face, and also specific, feasible pathways to reduced emissions. The science is settled. The only question now is whether the world can find the political—or moral—will to do anything about it. “The report is an assessment of the current scientific understanding,” Solecki, who co-authored the first chapter, told me. “The tone of the report paints a challenging picture, but one that also can be viewed as an opportunity.”