Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Trump the Snake Bites the GOP

Why Trump’s latest tantrum, targeting his own party, matters (to Steve Benen, MSNBC/MaddowlBlog). Watching Republican reactions to Trump’s weekend tirade, in which he attacked his own party, “The Snake” parable keeps coming to mind. Read on for excerpts and additional commentary

When Donald Trump appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) about a month ago, the former president boasted, “The Republican Party is united…. I think we have tremendous unity.” About a week later, Trump’s lawyers sent cease-and-desist letters to the Republican Party’s three most powerful campaign entities, including the Republican National Committee, asking that they stop using the former president’s name and likeness in fundraising appeals and merchandise.

Trump soon after made clear that he wants supporters to send their money to him, not his party.

It wasn’t long before RNC leaders, eager to please the former president who’d just threatened them, announced plans to reward Trump, holding an event at one of his private clubs. Indeed, the RNC reportedly paid more than $100,000 for the privilege of using Mar-a-Lago and hearing directly from the former president.

The result was utterly predictable.

Former President Donald Trump again lashed out at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., calling the top Republican a “dumb son of a b—-” and a “stone cold loser” in a long rant at a Republican donor event Saturday night in which he reiterated his false claims that he won the election last fall. Trump, according to a source familiar with his remarks, said “a real leader” never would have accepted the electoral results.

By all accounts, the former president had a prepared text, which he repeatedly ignored. Instead, Trump spoke his mind, which meant Republican attendees heard him attack his own party’s Senate leader. And former Vice President Mike Pence (R). And Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R). And former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao (R). And Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Trump also lied about his 2020 defeat. And the crowd size on Jan. 6. And unnamed Democrats whom he says secretly know he won the election he lost. And his responsibility for the development of COVID vaccines. And the illegal extortion scheme he hatched against Ukraine.

Remember, the Republican National Committee paid for all of this. It was effectively a reward for Trump threatening to sue his own political party for fundraising with his likeness.

Does anyone seriously believe Trump cares about what is or isn’t “helpful” to the Republican Party?

Gauging some of the partisan reactions to the former president’s weekend harangue, I was reminded of Trump’s favorite parable, “The Snake.”

As regular readers may recall, the story is simple: a “tender woman” rescues a “vicious snake,” who repays her generosity by biting her. When the dying woman asks why, the snake explains with a grin, “Oh shut up, silly woman. You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.”

As Republican officials are once again forced to come to terms with Trump’s latest divisive harangue, much of which targeted Republicans, it’s awfully tempting to respond, “Oh shut up, silly party. You knew damn well he was a snake before you took him in.”

For all the chatter about how the Republican Party needs to move on, the fact remains that it isn’t even trying to remove the snake. On the contrary, it’s paying him $100,000 to bite them.

The GOP could have saved themselves lots of money and morbidity if they had paid attention toTrump’s “primal flaw.”

… we should never forget Trump’s primal flaw - he has nothing but contempt for the vast majority of Americans. This is from NY Times report on Trump’s biographer’s tapes.

Who earns his respect? “For the most part,” he said, “you can’t respect people because most people aren’t worthy of respect.”

So there it is - what Trump really thinks about his fellow humans, both Democratic and Republican, both liberal and conservative, both rich and poor, both soldiers and bureaucrats, both sick and well.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

'Economic boom' predicted by economists and Corporate America

Jennifer Rubin (Washington Post) believes that Republicans made a foolish bet on the Biden agenda. Here are excerpts.

The economy looks ready to take off in a way we have not seen for 30 years. The International Monetary Fund predicts that the U.S. economy “will surpass its pre-pandemic size as growth reaches 6.4% this year …. up 1.3 percentage points from the group’s forecast in January,” CNN reported. The IMF predicts the $1.9 trillion rescue plan will ”deliver a strong boost to growth in the United States in 2021 and provide sizable positive spillovers to trading partners,” and, as a result, the “recession is likely to leave smaller scars than the 2008 global financial crisis.”

This was precisely the argument the Biden administration made: The risk was spending too little, not too much. The key to a robust recovery was crushing the pandemic. With Biden’s “whole of government” approach, mass vaccination offers a realistic chance for returning to workplaces, schools and public venues. It is the new confidence in a post-pandemic world that promises to unleash an economic boom.

With more than 900,000 jobs added in March and a manufacturing boom underway, some economists anticipate a 10 percent growth in the second quarter. Corporate America sounds downright giddy about the economic prospects. CNBC reported:

JPMorgan CEO [Jamie] Dimon commented at length on the economy in his annual letter to shareholders Wednesday, and his remarks echoed what many economists expect.

“I have little doubt that with excess savings, new stimulus savings, huge deficit spending, more QE, a new potential infrastructure bill, a successful vaccine and euphoria around the end of the pandemic, the U.S. economy will likely boom,” Dimon wrote. “This boom could easily run into 2023 because all the spending could extend well into 2023.”

And the Democrats will get the credit for it. And the Republicans?

If this comes to fruition, Republicans will be hard-pressed to come up with a justification for their utter intransigence on spending plans. And it will be difficult to convince voters that their fake cultural wars — from their attacks on trans youth to complaints about discontinuing some Dr. Seuss titles — are more important than an economic recovery.

Republicans’ game plan of obstruction and distraction seems poorly designed to address the real possibility of economic success and post-pandemic elation. The Biden administration’s bet going into its first 100 days was that competency could deliver real results that mean more to voters than contrived cultural memes. For now, the “Go big!” strategy seems to be on track. No wonder Republicans sound so angry these days.

Following the money as the FloodGaetz open

Still more details emerge showing that Matt Gaetz was using his pal Greenberg to pimp young women reports Mark Sumner of the Daily Kos Staff.

Below are some excerpts from Sumner’s report.

The story of Rep. Matt Gaetz is like one of those horror films that generates an extra large jolt of fear by first tossing up something that causes laughter. It’s clear that what Gaetz has done is genuinely criminal, and that the way his crimes were systematically ignored by Republicans at every level in both Florida and Washington, D.C. speaks to an incredible level of hypocrisy and corruption. On the other hand, the details are … ridiculous.

For example, Gaetz has repeatedly put out statements saying that “Rep. Matt Gaetz has never paid for sex.” It turns out this may be true. Technically. Because as Daily Beast reports, records show that Gaetz only paid his friend Joel Greenberg. It was Greenberg who then actually paid for the sex. This is the kind of logic that’s certain to make heads nod on the couches of Fox & Friends. “See? Gaetz was telling the truth.”

But to take this claim and turn the facepalm level to 11, it turns out that Gaetz paid Greenberg $900 using the cash app Venmo. Greenberg then sent cash along to three women, also using Venmo, that totaled $900. And before anyone starts up the Fox-brand coincidence engine, Gaetz included a memo along with his payment saying “hit up _” where “_” was the name of one of the women involved.

SNIP

… perhaps the most disturbing part of this story. Not what Gaetz did, but that he did it so loudly. From the sex games he played in the Florida House—where sleeping with interns was a goal and finding virgins scored extra “points”—to the nude videos he has circulated on the flood of the U.S. House, Gaetz was absolutely open with his fellow Republicans. Gaetz walked around preaching family values while apparently jetting off to visit sex workers in the Bahamas, or working with Greenberg to generate fake IDs for underage girls, or paying for those girls to fly to hotels where Gaetz could be “generous” to them with “gifts.”

SNIP

Republicans in general shouldn’t be feeling too comfortable. Unfortunately, they are.

When it comes to Joel Greenberg and the trio of women to whom he distributed Gaetz’s funds, there is no direct mention of their age. However, the terms that Greenberg placed in the memos of their payments might give a clue: “Tuition,” “School,” and “School.”

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Following the money in GaetzGate

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports:Matt Gaetz under new pressure to resign following new revelations. Before last night, the grand total of GOP lawmakers calling for the Florida congressman’s ouster was zero. That’s no longer the case.

As the scandal surrounding Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) grew more serious, there was no shortage of House Republicans quietly celebrating his crisis. These intra-party critics, however, had one important thing in common: they preferred to remain anonymous. Indeed, before last night, the grand total of GOP lawmakers calling for the Florida congressman’s ouster was zero.

That’s no longer the case. Politico reported overnight:

Rep. Adam Kinzinger called on fellow Republican lawmaker Matt Gaetz to resign Thursday night, making him the first Republican to do so since it was revealed that the Justice Department is investigating the Florida congressman over sex trafficking allegations. Kinzinger (R-Ill.), an Air Force veteran and one of former President Donald Trump’s fiercest critics within the party, has previously targeted Gaetz, along with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), with the creation of a political action committee that aimed to help fund Republican candidates who have separated themselves from Trumpism.

Kinzinger shared his new position by way of a simple, five-word tweet that read, “Matt Gaetz needs to resign.”

The Illinois congressman published the brief missive in response to this Daily Beast report, which alleged that Gaetz sent his friend, accused sex trafficker Joel Greenberg, money through a mobile money-transfer service called Venmo in May 2018, and the next morning, Greenberg used the same app to send the same amount of money to three young women.

[Also reported:]… Greenberg moved toward a plea deal with federal prosecutors, creating new dangers for Gaetz. Indeed, Greenberg’s lawyer briefly spoke to reporters outside an Orlando courthouse yesterday and said, in unsubtle terms, “I am sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today.”

We must preserve the scenic Santa Ritas. Another open pit mine is not needed

The Daily Star published this op-ed by Gayle Hartmann: Save the Santa Ritas: Don’t let Hudbay destroy even more of the Santa Ritas.

BEGIN QUOTE

In a recent guest column, Andre Lauzon, an executive with Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals Inc., suggested that the United States will not realize a “green future” without the Rosemont Mine, their proposed, open-pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains southeast of Tucson.

Shortly after Mr. Lauzon’s op-ed, Hudbay announced with great fanfare that it is considering expanding the Rosemont project beyond the existing footprint to include even more of the northern Santa Ritas, including the ridgeline and the west slope.

Residents of Sahuarita and Green Valley could be surrounded by massive open-pit mining operations and their corresponding mine waste if Rosemont’s plan comes to fruition.

These latest developments underscore why it is more important than ever that we stop the Rosemont Mine.

It is remarkable arrogance and cynicism for a foreign mining company’s senior official to claim Hudbay’s proposed mine will be good for the environment. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Hudbay’s current proposal is to blast a mile-wide, half-mile deep crater into the Santa Ritas’ northeast crest and pile mine waste 800 feet high over 2,500 acres of Coronado National Forest. The waste dump would be in a watershed that provides significant groundwater recharge to the surrounding area and the Tucson basin.

If Hudbay were to follow through on its expansion plans, Rosemont would sprawl over the top of the Santa Ritas and spill over onto the western slope, where the 24-hour a day mining operation would be visible from Green Valley and Sahuarita.

The Rosemont Mine would use 4.8 million gallons of Southern Arizona drinking water to, among other things, control dust. Rosemont’s expansion to include an open-pit mine on the west side of the Santa Ritas would only increase groundwater pumping from the Rosemont wells in Sahuarita.

A fundamental review of copper economics undermines Mr. Lauzon’s absurd claim that a country unable to meet its domestic copper demand will pay higher prices.

First, copper is a basic commodity, and international markets set its price. Unlike oil, there is no copper cartel. It doesn’t matter how much or little a country produces when it comes to the price of copper.

Second, while the U.S. imported 680,000 tons of refined copper in 2020, the Rosemont Mine would not reduce imports and would very likely cause imports of refined copper to increase. Why? Because the U.S. already produces more raw copper from domestic mines than it can process at its three U.S. copper smelters.

The U.S. Geological Survey reports U.S. copper mines produced 1.2 million metric tons of copper ore, also called concentrate, in 2020. Most of that copper ore was sent to U.S. smelters to produce 860,000 metric tons of refined copper. But nearly one-third of the U.S. copper ore production, or 390,000 metric tons, was exported.

Third, it is doubtful that the United States will construct new copper smelters that are notoriously high emitters of sulfur dioxides and heavy metals. And it is implausible that Rosemont’s copper concentrate would be refined at any of the three existing smelters as they have little if any excess capacity and are owned by competing companies.

The lack of smelting capacity is why Hudbay intends to ship Rosemont’s copper concentrate by train or truck to Mexico, where it will likely then be exported to overseas smelters, most likely China.

America doesn’t need Rosemont to achieve its renewable energy goals.

And Arizona doesn’t need another massive copper project that destroys the landscape while depleting and polluting scarce desert water supplies. The Santa Ritas are a superb sky-island mountain range; they deserve to be preserved and protected.

END QUOTE

Friday, April 9, 2021

All voters are equal, but some voters are more equal than others

The title of this post is adapted from George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

In the April 7, 2021 edition of Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson exposes the Mudsill theory of elite rule.

Last night, commentator Kevin Williamson published a piece in National Review justifying voter suppression by suggesting that “the republic would be better served by having fewer—but better—voters.” Representatives, he says, “are people who act in other people’s interests,” which is different from doing what voters want.

Additional excerpts follow.

This is the same argument elite slaveholder James Henry Hammond made before the Senate in 1858, when he defended the idea that Congress should recognize the spread of human enslavement into Kansas despite the fact that the people living in that territory wanted to abolish slavery. …

The theory of government that lies behind the argument for limiting the vote to “better” voters was also articulated by Senator Hammond in his 1858 speech. He explained that the South had figured out the best government in the world. It had put a few wealthy, educated, well-connected men in power over everyone else: those he called “mudsills,” workers who produced the capital that supported society but had little direction or ambition and had to be controlled by their superiors. In the South, Hammond explained to his northern colleagues, the mudsills were Black, but in the North they were wage workers. …

In 1859, Abraham Lincoln rejected this vision of government by wealthy elites and replaced it with one of his own. Government worked best not when it protected the property and thus the power of a few wealthy elites, said this poor man’s son, but when it protected equality of access to resources and equality before the law for everyone. …

Throughout our history, adherents of these two different visions of what constitutes the best government for the U.S. have struggled. On the one hand are those who say that the country operates best when the government is controlled by a few wealthy, educated, well-connected, and usually white and male leaders. The argument goes that they are the only ones with the skills, the insight, and the experience to make good decisions about national policy, particularly economic policy. And it is important that wealth concentrate in their hands, since they will act as its stewards, using it wisely in lump sums, while if the workers who produce wealth get control of it they will fritter it away.

On the other hand are those like Lincoln, who believe that government should reflect the will of the majority, not simply on principle, but because a wide range of voices means the government has a better chance of getting things right than when only a few people rule.

In today’s world, Americans appear to be siding with the popular measures of the Democrats. A Morning Consult/Politico poll today says that 65% of Americans support higher corporate taxes to pay for infrastructure and that 82% want infrastructure in any case. To make matters worse for the Republicans, counties that voted for Biden provide 70% of the nation’s gross domestic product, the value of goods and services in the nation. The large corporations Republicans used to be able to count on for money and support are now eager to court these young, liberal producers.

So, to combat the nation’s drift toward popular government, it appears the current-day Republican Party has taken up the cause of elite rule.

Like Williamson, Arizona state representative John Kavanagh has mused that getting rid of voters might be good for the nation. He has said of voting that “[q]uantity is important, but we need to look at the quality of votes as well.”

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Coming soon to a Republican Party organization near you. MAGA's crazy coups.

Daily Beast Congressional Reporter Sam Brodey exposes ’A Whole Bunch of Crazy’: Inside the South Carolina GOP’s MAGA Coup. Local Tea Party leader Pressley Stutts said Trump’s instructions to the faithful were clear: “‘Go purge, get rid of the RINOs in the Republican Party.’ So we took him seriously.”

Following is the opening part of Brodey’s report.

When Lenna Smith arrived at her precinct’s annual Republican Party organizing meeting last month, she didn’t expect to be greeted by a dozen strangers.

Smith has been a fixture in GOP politics in Greenville, South Carolina, for 30 years. As a prominent anti-abortion activist, she has in her rolodex nearly everyone notable or influential in conservative circles in the state’s most populous county. She is on a first-name basis with past governors.

So, when Smith walked into a church function room for her precinct meeting on March 22 and saw people who’d never participated in local GOP politics, she was a little unnerved. As precinct president, it was Smith’s job to run the meeting, and she simply chalked up the new faces as “neighbors I’ve never met.”

But what happened next was totally out of her control. When it came time to elect the precinct’s president for the coming year, one of the newcomers nominated a fellow newcomer, but not a single person nominated Smith. Stunned, she had to nominate herself. “That was a little disheartening,” she said.

When it came time to vote, the outcome was a foregone conclusion: Smith had lost the president position she’d held for years. For the vote on the next most senior office, the same thing happened, and then the next, until there were no more offices left. Smith had been totally shut out.

“I came home, and told my husband, I was just booted out,” Smith told The Daily Beast. “Do these people see me as what I’m not?” she recalled wondering. “Did I offend them?”

What happened in Smith’s precinct was no one-off oddity; that night, longtime party activists were similarly ejected from their positions at meetings across Greenville County after hundreds of new faces showed up, seemingly out of the woodwork. The GOP loyalists did not know them, but the newcomers seemed to know the process, and they took advantage of it to jettison longtime officials.

Smith, and others, seemed to offend simply by having a whiff of experience in local politics, a black mark that was linked to the worst possible offense to the GOP base: not doing enough to support Donald Trump in the wake of the 2020 election.

Since Trump’s defeat and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the MAGA faithful around the country have been restless. State-level activists have led the charge nationally in loudly criticizing and plotting against any Republican perceived to be an enemy of the Trump movement, from members of Congress who voted to impeach the ex-president to local officials seen as being weak or soft when it counted.

The phenomenon is not unique to this pocket of South Carolina, but the fight unspooling here is a powerful microcosm of the dynamics in a national tug-of-war over the direction of the Republican Party after Trump’s presidency.

“A behind-the-scenes battle is happening,” said a Republican operative in the state, “between establishment forces, such as they are in the current GOP, and the far-right, QAnon-believing Trump supporters who want to take over this county party.”

“It’s frustrating to think the party may be turned over to people who have different goals from what we’ve had for years. Their goal is to replace us all. They may succeed. ”Suzette Jordan, longtime South Carolina GOP activist

See Brodey’s report for more, many more, instances of GOP warfare that seems certain to result in MAGA victories.