Thursday, January 31, 2019

Foxconn cons the con man

At a dinner attended by tech executives and then President Obama, Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs made a disturbing pronouncement - Apple’s Jobs to Obama: “jobs aren’t coming back” to U.S. That’s the 2012 report from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

When President Barack Obama joined Silicon Valley’s top luminaries for dinner in California last February, each guest was asked to come with a question for the president.

But as Steve Jobs of Apple spoke, Obama interrupted with an inquiry of his own: What would it take to make iPhones in the United States? Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.

Why can’t that work come home? Obama asked.

Jobs’ reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest.

The president’s question touched upon a central conviction at Apple. It isn’t just that workers are cheaper abroad. Rather, Apple’s executives believe the vast scale of overseas factories as well as the flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their U.S. counterparts that “Made in the USA” is no longer a viable option for most Apple products.

Apple has become one of the best-known, most admired and most imitated companies on Earth, in part through an unrelenting mastery of global operations. Last year, it earned over $400,000 in profit per employee, more than Goldman Sachs, Exxon Mobil or Google.

However, what has vexed Obama as well as economists and policy makers is that Apple – and many of its high-technology peers – are not nearly as avid in creating U.S. jobs as other famous companies were in their heydays.

But while Apple is far from alone, it offers a window into why the success of some prominent companies has not translated into large numbers of domestic jobs. …

The Herald-Tribune report describes the development of the glass screen now in use on iPhones, an interesting case study on why those screens are manufactured in China.

The Foxconn con

Fast forward: Foxconn, the giant electronics manufacturer headquartered in Taiwan, was shopping for a new site. Under Gov. Scott Walker’s leadership, Wisconsin coughed up lots of cash and other goodies to entice Foxconn to build in Wisconsin. Judd Legum at has the story.

It was proof, we were told, that Trump could make good on his promises. Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics giant, was building a new factory in Wisconsin – and manufacturing jobs were coming back to the United States.

Yes, it took $4 billion in subsidies and incentives from former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) and the state’s Republican legislature. But it was happening.

Trump traveled to Wisconsin for the groundbreaking on June 28, 2018. “Moments ago, we broke ground on a plant that will provide jobs for much more than 13,000 Wisconsin workers,” Trump said. “And I will tell you they wouldn’t have done it here, except that I became President, so that’s good.”

He claimed the “plant will manufacture state-of-the-art LCDs, adding an average of $3.4 billion to the state’s economy every single year.”

Trump said the new facility was proof he was “reclaiming our country’s proud manufacturing legacy” and “restoring America’s industrial might.”

“This is the Eighth Wonder of the World,” Trump proclaimed.

Except it was all a mirage. Foxconn announced Wednesday that it would not be building a manufacturing plant in Wisconsin.

Foxconn has changed its plans in Wisconsin dramatically. Louis Woo, a Foxconn spokesperson, told Reuters that it would not manufacture much of anything in Wisconsin.

On Wednesday, the company reiterated its pledge to bring 13,000 jobs to Wisconsin but did not provide a timeline. Conspicuously, Foxconn did not repeat its pledge to make $10 billion in capital investments.

In 2018, the company hired just 178 workers. The company reportedly considered “bringing in personnel from China…as it struggles to find engineers and other workers” in Wisconsin.

If this sounds to you like a bait-and-switch con, you are not alone.

As part of the deal, Republicans in Wisconsin essentially eliminated all corporate tax liability for Foxconn. So whatever “credits” Foxconn does qualify for will essentially be cash payments to the company.

“Not only do we not obtain the revenue, we pay the company,” State Representative Gordon Hintz (D), a critic of the deal, said.

Property owners have already had their land seized by the state, and paid for by taxpayers, to make way for Foxconn’s facility. “We wiped out entire neighborhoods,” Sandy Weidner, a Racine city alderman, told the Wall Street Journal.

Trump and Walker could have seen this coming. Foxconn has a history of making grandiose announcements but not delivering.

In 2013, Foxconn promised to spend $30 million and create 300 jobs in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania “to establish a high-end technology management facility.” It was never built. In recent years, Foxconn has pledged investments of $100 million to $1 billion in Brazil, Vietnam, and Indonesia, as well as Colorado, Louisiana, and four other states but never followed through.

Foxconn’s decision underscores the impossibility of Trump’s fundamental promise – to Make American Great Again by restoring the manufacturing economy. States are throwing billions at multi-national corporations to turn back the clock.

But while manufacturing jobs have ticked upwards since 2009, “they are still only back to where they were in 1941, when the population was less than half of today’s,” and well below the manufacturing peak of 1979.

One reason the old economy will not return: automation. Even when factories do return to the United States, they employ a small fraction of the people factories did 40 years ago.

The appeal of manufacturing is obvious. Those jobs supported a robust middle class and economic mobility. But, for the most part, those jobs are not coming back. …

It looks to Scriber that Foxconn pulled a fast one, again, and conned Walker and Trump. But the biggest con is what Trump promises the American worker - a return to a 40-year old economy. Steve Jobs might well have said “that economy isn’t coming back.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

For 2020 who is running, who might run, and who should not

Quote of the Day: “If, say, some ego-driven coffee salesman splits the American mainstream, it will be that much easier for Trump to overcome his weak standing and hang onto power.” (From Steve Benen at MSNBC/MaddowBlog.)

That’s one of two threats facing the Dems in the 2020 election. Benen is, of course, referring to the announcement by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz that he is thinking about running for President - as an Independent. There are good reasons for this guy not to run. Here are some of them from the story on Daily Kos: Schultz threatens 3rd party bid if Democrats pick “far left” candidate.

Howard Schultz’s advisers have a message for the former Starbucks chief‘s critics: Schultz could be the fail-safe plan in the event Democrats nominate a far-left candidate in 2020. —…

and how does Schultz define “far left”?

Schultz had this to say: “It concerns me that so many voices within the Democratic Party are going so far to the left. I say to myself, ‘How are we going to pay for these things,’ in terms of things like single payer (and) people espousing the fact that the government is going to give everyone a job.” —…

Hang on a second, who gave Schultz the idea that single payer healthcare was a “far-left” issue for Democrats? 85% of Democrats and 52% of Republicans support Medicare for All. Together, they’re 70% of the country. Maybe, just maybe, we are a “far left” country as Schultz suggests. Perhaps the thing that has kept us to from realizing these “far left” policy objectives are plutocrats like Schultz who work to undermine the common interest.

Schultz went on to say that the greatest threat domestically to the country is “this $21 trillion debt hanging over the cloud of America and future generations. The only way we’re going to get out of that is we’ve got to grow the economy, in my view, 4% or greater. And then we have to go after entitlements.” —…

Ah right, another wildly popular position among Democrats, cutting earned benefits such as social security, which right wingers love to malign as “entitlements”.

From a cited tweet.

Asked if Dems could do anything to change his mind, Schultz replies: “No”

“I don’t think their views represent the majority of Americans … I don’t think we want a 70 percent income tax in America (???), and I certainly don’t think we can afford the things they’re suggesting”

Where does this guy get his polling data from, the country club? Because 60% of Americans support AOC’s proposal to add a 70% tax bracket for income above 10 million a year. That support rises to 71% among Democrats.

The New Yorker has an independent account of Schultz’s beliefs - and the reaction of some hecklers to them - in Howard Schultz Against the Hecklers.

… Andrew Ross Sorkin, a Times and CNBC journalist, was on hand to interview Schultz. …

Sorkin got right to the point: Why was Schultz considering a run as an Independent, rather than as a Democrat? Schultz began to answer but was almost immediately cut off by a protester. “Don’t help elect Trump, you egotistical, billionaire asshole!” the man shouted. “Go back to getting ratioed on Twitter. Go back to Davos with the other billionaire élites who think they know how to run the world.” Security yanked him out of the room.

Schultz then got his turn. “I believe that, if I ran as a Democrat,” he said, “I would have to say things that I know in my heart I do not believe, and I would have to be disingenuous.” Many Democrats entering the 2020 field plan to run on expanding government investment in health care, education, and jobs. Schultz plans to run on a platform of deficit reduction.

Sorkin asked Schultz, a self-made billionaire, for his thoughts on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the self-made political force who now represents New York’s Fourteenth Congressional District. Schultz praised Ocasio-Cortez for bringing attention to issues of social inequality but criticized her methods as “punitive” to those who have succeeded. When Sorkin told Schultz that one of Ocasio-Cortez’s policy advisers has called “every billionaire a policy failure,” Schultz replied, “It’s so un-American to think that way.” Later, he added, “I don’t think we want a seventy-per-cent income tax in America,” referring to Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal to tax income above ten million dollars at high rates.

Political moderates, Schultz suggested, don’t have a place in the current Democratic Party. “What the progressive, left-leaning Democratic Party is suggesting is government-paid health care for everyone … government jobs … government-paid college for everyone,” Schultz said. He calculated that these three programs would cost forty trillion dollars over a ten-year period. “If America was a company, with twenty-one and a half trillion dollars of debt, adding a trillion dollars a year, we’d be facing insolvency.”

But then he was interrupted by another progressive protester. “Health care is a human right!” the man bellowed. He repeated the statement over and over again, until he, too, was dragged out of the Barnes & Noble.

In Scriber’s opinion, the second threat facing Dems is a run by Hillary Clinton. I thought she would be a superb president in 2016 and I think that now. However, her candidacy would certainly resurrect all the email and server issues - at least. So, first, is she thinking about running?

The Rolling Stone reports that Hillary Clinton Reportedly Has Not Ruled Out a 2020 Run. The former presidential candidate has told friends she is leaving the door open.

[CNN’s Jeff Zeleny], a White House correspondent, was careful to clarify that this news “does not mean that there’s a campaign-in-waiting, or a plan in the works.” But, Clinton is considering it.

“Most losing presidential candidates never totally close the doors to running for president [again],” Zeleny said. “But I think we have to at least leave our mind open to the possibility that she is still talking about it. She wants to take on Trump. Could she win a Democratic primary to do it? I don’t know the answer to that.”

To win a primary, Clinton would face opponents on her left—and not just Bernie Sanders. She will also be up against other female candidates like Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, whom Clinton has reportedly met with recently, presumably as they courted Clinton for her endorsement.

Having acknowledged all that, an historian notes reasons why a Clinton run might be viable: Hillary 2020? Trump better hope not. Why Hillary Clinton would be well-positioned to win in a rematch.

Clinton still retains significant support within her party, and Democrats currently have no clear front-runner to replace her. Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, have numerous financial backers willing to support her campaign, and the former nominee has a vibrant, large, motivated base of supporters angry at Trump, Russian interference in the election and former FBI director James B. Comey — in their minds, the collective robbers of Clinton’s presidency. Moreover, as Trump hates to be reminded, Clinton won the popular vote.

While Trump welcomes a Clinton challenge in 2020, he may find himself regretting it if voters come to believe they made a mistake and look to Clinton to rectify the wrong. Like Nixon and Reagan, Clinton can win the presidency in 2020 thanks to a combination of demographic and electoral shifts among voters and uncertainty about their futures. If Trump pulls Americans into a new economic recession or an unpopular war or fails to follow through on his rhetoric (which looks likely), Hillary Clinton’s time out of office might prove temporary.

All this does suggest an interesting election issue: competence. On that contest with Trump, Clinton wins hands down. But I still think before we close the door on this one, we need to examine those Dems who are also in the ring - like two other female contenders, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren - who in their own ways crush Trump when it comes to competence.

Joe Scarborough, writing in the Washington Post, thinks Kamala Harris has what it takes “to fill a big political stage. During Sunday’s announcement of her 2020 presidential run, the California senator looked very much like a political contender who belongs in the big leagues.”

It is one thing to propel a presidential campaign off a launch pad and quite another to successfully send it into safe political orbit. But a few days into her campaign, even Harris’s critics should take note that the junior senator managed something in her first campaign speech that the last Democratic nominee failed to do throughout the whole of the 2016 campaign. She gave Americans a compelling explanation as to why she wanted to be president.

Her message — “we are better than this” — was delivered with the fierce urgency of now. In that, it was much like the earlier campaign launch by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), who framed her own White House bid as the continuation of her quest to protect consumers, to hold corporate leaders accountable and to promote a fiery brand of progressivism shaped by the prairie populism of Oklahoma and the liberal ethos of Harvard intellectualism.

Like Warren, Harris will be underestimated by Team Trump at its own peril. We are, of course, in the opening steps of a grueling, nonstop, two-year battle. Perhaps Harris will prove far more adept at beginning a presidential campaign than actually running one. And Warren may prove her critics correct by proving she lacks the personal touch to navigate the ugly give-and-take of modern presidential politics.

But I doubt it.

There are other interesting candidates in the race. But with Harris’s and Warren’s entrance into the pitched battle to crush Trumpism and its toxic legacy, Democratic primary voters may at last have reason to believe that their eventual nominee can take on Trump, win back the White House for Democrats, and bring a sense of stability and sanity back to Washington for all Americans.

More tests and more candidates are coming soon enough. But a party that produced a weakened nominee in 2016 has begun the 2020 cycle on a path that looks certain to produce a tougher political challenger than Trump has ever faced before.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Why lessons not learned from shutdown 1 could lead to shutdown 2

At the end of the day, February 15th, the chances are pretty good that Trump will deliver a Valentine to America in the form of another shutdown. Regardless of what Congress does during the next two weeks, Trump is not likely to get his wall, or at least not the wall he imagined and touted to his base. That will precipitate another Trump Tantrum. How many more shocks can America endure? How many more insults to our democracy will Congress accept?

Yesterday I posted on What Trump’s pointless shutdown will cost America. Today I follow up with a longer report on the costs of the shutdown, the strong possibility of another shutdown, the equally likely chance of Trump declaring a “national emergency” (after he torpedos a conference committee report), and the lessons that should have been learned from shutdown #1 (but probably weren’t). If you think I am being overly pessimistic, read on and judge for yourself.

More on what the shutdown cost America

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports that Trump’s government shutdown gets a price tag (and it wasn’t cheap).

It’s not a secret that the longest government shutdown in American history hurt the country in a wide variety of ways. From the workers who couldn’t receive paychecks to the important government services that were halted, the nation paid a high price for Donald Trump’s failed tantrum.

But as federal operations get back into gear following a five-week halt, it’s also worth taking the question in a literal direction: how much did the president’s misguided endeavor cost us?

S&P Global Ratings published an assessment late last week, reporting that the U.S. economy lost at least $6 billion during the shutdown. This morning, the Congressional Budget Office put together a price tag of its own.

The federal government shutdown cost the economy $11 billion, according to a new analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, reflecting lost output from federal workers, delayed government spending and reduced demand.

The report, which was released Monday, estimated a hit of $3 billion, or 0.1 percent, to economic activity during the fourth quarter of 2018. The impact was greater during the first quarter of 2019: $8 billion, or 0.2 percent of GDP.

As CNBC’s report added, “Although most of the damage to the economy will be reversed as federal workers return to their jobs, the CBO estimated $3 billion in economic activity is permanently lost after a quarter of the government was closed for nearly 35 days.”

The CBO’s report specifically noted, “Among those who experienced the largest and most direct negative effects are federal workers who faced delayed compensation and private-sector entities that lost business. Some of those private-sector entities will never recoup that lost income.”

Trump sought nearly $6 billion for a medieval vanity project. It matters that he ended up with zero, but it matters just as much, if not more, that his misadventure has cost the nation roughly half of that total.

By any fair measure, $3 billion is one heck of an expensive tantrum.

Shutdown, Part 2

It’s not over ’til it’s over. Already the evidence points to a second shutdown in the works

“Hunter” of the Daily Kos Staff confirms that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney says Trump is willing to shut down the government again in three weeks. Hunter announces today’s Message of the Day: “All options for fouling our government remain on the table, if the pouting dotard does not get his way.”

Steve Benen reports more reasons from the White House: Trump prepared to shut down the government again

… let’s review the possible scenarios we’re likely to see unfold between now and Feb. 15.

The three-week spending bill is designed to give policymakers time to work on some kind of immigration compromise. Democrats believe they have a framework in place – including increased investments in ports-of-entry security, enhanced technology at the border, more Border Patrol agents and immigration judges, etc. – that could serve as the basis for a larger agreement. If Republicans insist on wall funding, however, that agreement will fail to materialize. [Scriber: Why the Republicans might hang tough on Trump’s wall is a topic raised later on.]

The process will unfold through something called a “conference committee,” featuring a group of 17 members selected by party leaders from both chambers’ appropriations committees, which will be tasked with finalizing a spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security. If/when they put together a package agreeable to all parties, they’ll present a “conference report” to be voted on in the House and Senate without amendments. If it passes, the bill would then go to the White House for a presidential signature.

There are several possibilities:

(1) Maybe lawmakers will work out an agreement, Trump will sign it, the drama will end, and the political world can turn its focus to some other fight.

(2) Maybe lawmakers will work out an agreement, Trump will be unimpressed, and he’ll shut down the government again.

(3) Maybe lawmakers will work out an agreement, Trump will be unimpressed, but he’ll sign it anyway and pursue a wall by way of a national-emergency declaration.

(4) Maybe lawmakers won’t work out an agreement and there will be a shutdown on Feb. 15.

(5) Maybe lawmakers won’t work out an agreement, but policymakers will agree to another stopgap spending measure to prevent the next shutdown.

We’ll learn soon enough which of these scenarios comes to fruition, but before the talks even get underway, Donald Trump is already undermining them, telling the Wall Street Journal yesterday that he expects he’ll oppose whatever Congress comes up with.

The president added that he sees another shutdown as “certainly an option.”

Option #3, declaring a bogus national emergency, is very possible. Benen explains in Why Trump insists his shutdown surrender wasn’t ‘a concession’

There’s no great mystery as to what Trump World is talking about.

In fact, it’s a little surprising this hasn’t already happened. For weeks, the president has talked up the idea of a “national emergency” declaration in which Trump would grant himself emergency powers, borrow the “power of the purse” from the legislative branch, redirect funds away from other departments, and use American tax dollars to build a border wall in defiance of Congress’ wishes.

Trump acted as if this gave him leverage: if lawmakers failed to pay his ransom, he’d use this option to go around them. By some accounts, as recently as Friday morning, the president was prepared to pull the trigger on the idea, though he was talked out of it.

Now, Trump hopes to use this as a pacifier for his base. “Sure, I broke my promise to you,” the president is effectively telling Limbaugh, Coulter, et al. “But I’ll make it up to you and declare a national emergency in mid-February. Wall construction will soon follow.”

Of course, approaching the issue in such a way becomes self-defeating. Either there’s an emergency or there isn’t. Not to put too fine a point on this, but there’s no such thing as a pre-arranged, carefully scheduled emergency – a detail the courts are likely to take note of.

Indeed, therein lies the point Trump doesn’t seem to fully appreciate. In his vision, Congress hasn’t given him a wall, so he’ll circumvent lawmakers by giving himself the power to do as he pleases. But that’s a whole lot less likely than he likes to pretend. Once Trump makes an emergency declaration, he’ll be sued, and while anything’s possible in a federal judiciary he and Senate Republicans have moved to the right, the consensus in many legal circles is that this is a case the White House is likely to lose.

The last several weeks reinforce the fact that even the president doesn’t perceive conditions on the border as an actual, proper emergency.

And even if Trump were to somehow prevail in the courts, the adjudication process would likely take so long that by the time he hits the campaign trail ahead of next year’s election, he still will not have delivered on his signature promise.

Mark Sumner (Daily Kos Staff) summarizes the evidence for another shutdown: Trump undercuts negotiations, sets stage for shutdown, part 2

After backing down and accepting the same deal that Democrats offered before he put the nation through a month-long shutdown that damaged the economy, shook faith in the ability of the government to provide basic services, fractured national security, and left hundreds of thousands of federal workers on the job without pay, Donald Trump was back over the weekend … to give up on negotiations. …

Trump set the odds of reaching any arrangement with Congress at “less than 50–50,” setting the stage for either a second act of shutdown or the declaration of the world’s slowest and least-justified “national emergency.” …

With the elections in 2018, Trump was faced, for the very first time, with the prospect of actually having to negotiate. What 2019 has demonstrated definitively is that ghostwriter Tony Schwartz wrote The Art of the Deal. Trump’s personal experience includes only cajoling, bullying, and cheating the rubes who have fueled both his failed real estate schemes and his fake “university.” Actually making a deal, especially with people who understand both the function of government and the system of legislation in infinitely more detail, is simply beyond him.

A bipartisan group of 17 legislators is now meeting, negotiating an actual deal. The goals of that group are going to be, even more than they would have been before the shutdown, finding a reasonable position and avoiding the damage of a repeat shutdown. And since Congress had worked out a compromise with broad support in both chambers before Trump threw a wrench in the nation’s gears, an agreement may not be hard to reach. But that agreement is very, very unlikely to be one that pleases Donald Trump.

The early rumble from the negotiations is that the legislation proposed might include additional funds for border security, but also include restrictions that would force that money to be used for security provisions, such as more technology at ports of entry, that might actually help, rather than construction of Trump’s ego-monument. Which would not.

The bipartisan panel will emerge from behind closed doors. And they will have a deal. Then Trump will be faced, again, with the prospect of throwing the nation into chaos simply because he did not get 100 percent of what he wanted. Because he won’t get 100 percent of what he wanted.

If Trump were a real negotiator, he would recognize that he is operating from a badly weakened position. He would recognize that, from that position, he should take what he can get, walk away, try to rebuild some semblance of support on Capitol Hill, and come back to fight another day. But the odds of that happening are way less than 50–50. Trump is the boy who always got the new toy he wanted, and the man whose greatest pleasure has come from putting his brand on things. His wall isn’t a policy. It’s filler material for the massive ego-shaped hole in his soul.

The shutdown lessons (not) learned

Benen reports on What the shutdown (hopefully) taught Republicans about Trump.

… consider some of what Trump’s GOP should understand now, even if they were unclear before the president’s surrender on Friday afternoon:

(1) Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing. No, really, he has no idea what he’s doing. The president stumbled into a government shutdown because he was afraid of upsetting some far-right media personalities, and in the weeks that followed, Trump demonstrated a total inability to think even one step ahead. He made painfully clear over the course of five weeks that he doesn’t know how to negotiate, he doesn’t know how to persuade, and he doesn’t bother to keep up on the most basic details on the policy dispute he initiated. Trump assured his allies he had “a plan.” He didn’t.

(2) The people whose advice Trump takes seriously also don’t know they’re doing. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a leader of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, said two days before the shutdown began that if the White House forced a crisis, Democrats would wilt under pressure and agree to a deal. He was wrong. On Friday morning, as Trump was caving, one senior Republican said, “I hope the president remembers this when the Freedom Caucus types tell him what to do next time. They only have a first move: start a fight. They never have a second move.”

(3) Trump is unconcerned about making his allies look foolish. The president assured congressional Republicans, conservative media, and allied activists that he wouldn’t back down. There was one way he’d end the shutdown, Trump said, and it was when Democrats agreed to meet his demands. On Thursday afternoon, Senate Republicans followed his lead, voting against a temporary spending measure to end the shutdown, insisting it needed to have wall funding. Literally one day later, the president retreated, leading those same GOP senators to approve the identical policy they’d rejected 24 hours earlier as unacceptable.

(4) Nancy Pelosi is vastly better at political leadership than Trump. In his first two years in the Oval Office, the president’s principal foe was his own ineptitude. Now, his principal foe is a skilled and experienced congressional leader, who effectively humiliated Trump as if he were a hapless amateur – which Pelosi proved him to be. As the dust settles, it’s the Speaker who emerges stronger and more popular, as Trump looks around erratically, wondering how he lost so spectacularly.

The week before the shutdown, the president met in the Oval Office with Democratic leaders, and told reporters, in apparent reference to Pelosi’s efforts to nail down the necessary votes to become Speaker, “I also know that, you know, Nancy’s in a situation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now.” Pelosi responded, “Please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting.” She warned him not to underestimate her. Trump should have listened.

(5) The laws of political physics have not been repealed. In some Republican circles, there’s a belief that Trump defies gravity. He can get away with ignoring polls and public attitudes. He can persevere where mere mortals may stumble. He can ignore the traditional pressures that normal politicians pay attention to. When others look to compromise or accept concessions, he digs in, commanding others to bend to his will. Even when it looks like he’s struggling, the argument goes, Trump will find a way to succeed, no matter the odds or the predictions of skeptics. More than anyone else in American public life, this man is a winner.

It was always a silly fairy tale, which has now been exposed as a sham. All Republicans have to do now is accept the truth that has been laid bare.

Trump would do well to ignore the wing-nut talk show pundits calling the plays from the bench. Even Fox News thinks so. Jen Hayden (Daily Kos Staff) observes how The Fox News knives come out for Ann Coulter after her disastrous order to shut down the government. “Even Brian Kilmeade [Fox & Friends] actually said that Donald Trump needs to learn how to ignore Brian Kilmeade, because even Brian Kilmeade has come to realize his advice is terrible.” Hayden cites two related tweets.

Bobby Lewis
Brian Kilmeade on how Trump should move forward toward the border wall: “The president has gotta almost ignore people, whether it’s me or you one day, Ann Coulter today, and just do what he knows is best."

Bobby Lewis
Newt Gingrich: President Trump “should not pay any attention to Ann Coulter. Ann Coulter’s never run for office, she doesn’t know anything about how you put a majority together. She’s off here in some fantasyland where she gets to be noisy which helps her sell books."

[Kilmeade] dings Ann Coulter as well, with good reason. She recently bragged that she advised Trump on immigration and encouraged him to go all-in for the wall. In short, Coulter ordered the code red to shut down the government.

[So] now Fox News is coming for Coulter. These snakes deserve each other.

In the other clip above, Newt Gingrich brings out the knives for Coulter, saying, “She’s off here in some fantasyland where she gets to be noisy, which helps her sell books.” Given that Gingrich is listed as the author of 45 different book titles, he knows a lot about conservative fantasyland and being noisy for the purpose of selling books.

To be clear, these folks are using Fox News to speak directly to Donald Trump, begging him to ignore their ideas and criticism. It’s pathetic, and it only further emphasizes how adrift Donald Trump is, with no values, morals, or ethics to guide him, only the plastic faces of Fox News. 2020 cannot get here soon enough.

Scriber thinks it’s really cool when GOPlins go after each other.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Mournday Mourning illustrated gnus

Here are Scriber’s takes on the Illustrated Gnus (and other creatures from the swamp), with thanks to the AZ Blue Meanie.

Negotiating with the Coulergeist
  • Dem leaders bypass middle man and start negotiating with the real power in the White House - the Coultergeist and her sidekick, the Limburgher.

  • GOPlins, at least some of them, flock to support Trump as he shoots himself in the foot on 5th Ave.

  • Sign in front of White House: Will fork for FED food. Wilbur Ross shoots GOP in their feet by channeling Marie Antoinette.

  • Who’s afraid of the big, bad Trump? Not Nancy!

  • Pelosi’s boots are made for walking
    You keep lyin’ when you oughta be truthin‘
    You keep losing when you oughta not bet
    You keep samin’ when you oughta be a’changin’
    Now what’s right is right but you ain’t been right yet
    These boots are made for walking
    And that’s just what they’ll do
    One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you
    As sung by Nancy Sinatra, 1966.
    And they sure did.

  • Semi-finally, the AZ GOP lurches rightward. That would be right and ward as In GOP upset, Kelli Ward to lead Arizona Republican Party.

I’ll bet you, like me, are snickering. Snippets (uh, Snickerets?) from the Arizona Capitol Times report follow.

Failed U.S. Senate candidate Kelli Ward, a conservative firebrand, will lead the Arizona Republican Party through the 2020 election.

In the past, many moderate Republicans have shied away from Ward, who has been seen as part of a more extreme faction of the party. …

Democrats at [their] state party meeting, broke out into laughter, cheers and incredulous gasps when they heard the news Republicans had selected Ward as their chair.

While Arizona Republicans were divided on who should lead the party moving forward, Arizona Democrats overwhelming threw their support behind chairwoman Felecia Rotellini, who was unopposed in her re-election bid.

Well, those are two reasons, albeit very different ones, why Arizona Democrats should be cheering. While the GOP is fractured (as in Humpty off Trump’s wall), the Dems are unified and raring to go.

  • Finally: BLINK!
The other fellow just blinked

What Trump's pointless shutdown will cost America

“I will shut down the government. I am proud to shut down the government. I will be the one to shut it down. I am not going to blame you for it. I will take the mantle of shutting it down.” -DonaldTrump 12/21/18 (via Dave Fitzsimmons)

And, no surprise, he lied. Almost immediately he began blaming the Democrats.

The effects of the pointless shutdown will continue long after its putative end. Here’s a case in point from the 538 significant digits email.

At least 1 year
Thanks to the recently-ended, record-long government shutdown, the Internal Revenue Service will need 12 to 18 months to recover. At least, that’s what the National Taxpayer Advocate, a government watchdog group, reported to lawmakers, an anonymous House aide told The Washington Post. The IRS is apparently buried in millions of unanswered taxpayer letters, is weeks behind on training workers, and needs to hire thousands of new workers for tax season. [The Washington Post]

And in that year or so, I suspect that revenue will be lessened. The longer story is at the Post’s report: IRS will need at least a year to recover from government shutdown, watchdog tells Congress. “The watchdog group told House staffers that the recovery would take between 12 and 18 months, one House aide said. These numbers assume the government does not shut down again in three weeks.” As Trump has threatened to do.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Pelosi hero and winner, Trump villain and loser at end of pointless shutdown

Scriber suspects that many of you do not subscribe to the New Yorker email newsletter. Scriber does. So, here is part of John Cassidy’s summary of the last week’s events. The focus is on who got what out of the government shutdown, its beginning and its end.

If you are strapped for time, I’ll help out by listing winners and losers.

The list of losers includes:

  • government workers and their worry and stress
  • consumer confidence
  • America’s reputation
  • American air travel - a near miss triggering panic
  • Donald Trump’s approval - now at an historic low
  • Donald Trump’s standing amongst conservatives, like the Coultergeist
  • Donald Trump - who took to the podium to offer an alternative definition of “concession”

The list of winners includes:

  • Nancy Pelosi

So what, finally, brought and end to the pointless shutdown? Cassidy quotes the New York Daily News: Trump’s "agreement with Democrats to end the punch-yourself-in-the-face government shutdown was a complete capitulation, brought on in a panic when the gears of American air travel began grinding to a halt.”

Mr. and Mrs. Scriber traveled last week and noted the large number of empty airplane seats. It seemed to us that the gears were already grinding to a halt.

Contrary to its presentation by Trump, there was no deal. Just defeat for President Chaos.

Even by the unequalled standards of Donald Trump’s Presidency, Friday was an epic news day. It began with a heavily armed team of F.B.I. agents arresting Roger Stone, who is arguably Trump’s oldest political associate, at his home in Fort Lauderdale, and it ended with the President signing a short-term funding bill and officially bringing to an end the longest government shutdown ever, which began five weeks ago, on December 22nd. In reporting the bill signing, Friday night, on Twitter, Mark Knoller, a White House correspondent for CBS News, noted, “Depts and agencies expect to handout back pay checks early next week.”

That will be a relief to the roughly eight hundred thousand federal workers who have been furloughed or working without pay, as well as the millions of Americans who depend on or utilize government services, such as national parks, statistical agencies, and farm-service centers. According to an estimate from Standard & Poor’s, which was published Friday, the direct monetary cost of the shutdown was about six billion dollars, but that doesn’t include all the worry and stress inflicted on the affected workers and their families, the hit to consumer confidence in the broader economy, or the damage to the reputation of the United States—all of which were considerable.

These costs raise the question of why Trump provoked the shutdown in the first place and what, if anything, he got out of it. In a column, on Friday, I argued that he got virtually nothing, and the entire thing served only to educate him about “how futile government shutdowns are, and how constricted Presidential power is when the opposition party controls at least one house of Congress.” I also argued that the fact that Trump was forced to capitulate in the face of public anger and rising discontent among elected Republicans demonstrated that “Trump is also just a regular politician, subject to the normal laws of political gravity.”

There were lots of other instant takes, of course, almost all of them critical of Trump. The front-page headline on Saturday’s edition of the New York Daily News was “cave man.” Inside the paper, an editorial said, “The man whose name graces the cover of ‘The Art of the Deal” called it a compromise, but let’s be clear: His agreement with Democrats to end the punch-yourself-in-the-face government shutdown was a complete capitulation, brought on in a panic when the gears of American air travel began grinding to a halt.”

What was more disturbing to Trump, probably, was a lot of criticism of him from the right. The columnist Ann Coulter called him the “biggest wimp ever to serve as President,” and a number of conservative news sites headed their coverage with similarly damning headlines to the ones appearing in the mainstream press. A piece in the Washington Post listed some of them: the Daily Caller and the Gateway Pundit both wrote, “trump caves,” and Breitbart wrote, “government open … and border … no wall.”

On Friday evening, Trump tried to push back against all the criticism and suggested, as he had in his speech earlier in the day from the Rose Garden, that he was prepared to invoke a national emergency if talks between the Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill didn’t produce some funding for his border wall. “I wish people would read or listen to my words on the Border Wall,” he tweeted. “This was in no way a concession. It was taking care of millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!”

A few conservative outlets did take a more balanced view of Friday’s developments. The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal called the shutdown a “fiasco,” and it also cast doubt on the feasibility of Trump using the national-emergency escape route to get his wall built, noting that it would quickly be enjoined by the courts and would also divide Republicans more than Democrats. But the editorial board also suggested that Trump could escape from the bind that he is in by broadening the compromise offer he put forward last weekend “to include a path to citizenship for all Dreamers.” The goal would be to “persuade Dreamers and voters that Mrs. Pelosi is now the obstacle to a reasonable immigration compromise.” In order to do this, Trump would need to sideline Stephen Miller, his hard-line adviser on immigration, and “turn the negotiations over to someone who really does want to make an immigration deal. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is the voice to listen to here.”

We’ll have to wait and see what happens between now and February 15th, when the temporary spending resolution runs out, but political analysts are already assessing the damage that Trump has done to himself over the past few weeks, which have seen his approval ratings dip considerably. In a piece that dubbed him the “Chaos president,” Eli Stokols and Noah Bierman, of the Los Angeles Times, suggested that the President was now starting to pay the political price for his chronically disorganized style, and that he could suffer permanent damage. “We’re in a period where how he acts and what he says is being viewed much more critically in light of the shutdown and the changing economy,” Peter Hart, a veteran Democratic pollster, told the paper. “Instead of being the hero for ending the shutdown, he’s seen as the villain for starting it.”

In addition to agreeing that Trump had misplayed his hand, the punditocracy was united in declaring Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House, as the big winner. CNN’s Chris Cillizza argued that Pelosi basically out-Trumped Trump. “What Pelosi seems to understand better than past Trump political opponents is that giving any ground is a mistake,” Cilliizza wrote. “You have to not only stand firm, but be willing to go beyond all political norms—like canceling the [state of the union] —to win. Which is what Pelosi did this week.”

Vox’s Ezra Klein noted that throughout the shutdown Pelosi skillfully held together the Democratic caucus, “creating a united front that offered Trump few avenues of egress.” Klein added that Pelosi also baited Trump into making mistakes, especially when she and Chuck Schumer got him to take ownership of the shutdown even before it started. “You don’t hear many House Democrats these days grumbling about Pelosi’s leadership,” Klein wrote. “But you hear plenty of Republicans lamenting Trump’s.”

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Trump delays speech until after shutdown - Coultergeists go on the attack

Quote of the Day: “… everything is negotiable. Border security is negotiable. Immigration policy is negotiable. Shutting down the government is not negotiable, and we’re angry about it.” - Representative Tom Malinowski, Democrat of New Jersey, on the consensus of the House Democratic caucus.

Word of the Day: You saw it here first!

Coultergeist noun
a female spirit or force that makes loud noises, threatens government officials, and throws her weight around
In Scriber’s revised ghostlore, Coultergeists are troublesome spirits who haunt a particular person instead of a specific location. Coultergeist manifestations have been reported in many cultures and countries and date back to the 1st century - as do Coultergeist social policies.
For location-specific hauntings see McConnellist.

“Trump Blinks”

Being its usually unhelpful self, that’s what Fox News said about the report that Trump Says He’ll Delay Speech Until After Shutdown, as Democrats Draft Border Security Plan.

President Trump said late Wednesday that he would deliver his State of the Union address once the federal government reopens, capping a day of brinkmanship with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who told the president that he was not welcome to deliver the speech in the House chamber while the government is partly closed.

“As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter shortly after 11 p.m., hours after he had said he would look for another venue for the speech. “I agreed. She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative - I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over.”

The president’s seeming capitulation came even as House Democratic leaders said they were prepared to give him a substantial sum of money for border security — perhaps even the $5.7 billion he has requested — but not for a wall and not until he agreed to reopen the government. That figure is roughly double what Democrats had previously approved.

Mr. Trump’s actions during the shutdown have often seemed in response to criticism from allies like the conservative commentator Ann Coulter [an instance of Coultergeist] and the prime-time hosts on Fox News. The network’s first reaction to the president’s decision to delay his speech appeared to indicate trouble ahead: “Trump Blinks” read the headline atop the Fox website.

You will remember, I am sure, that Trump has reneged before on agreements and promises. For that reason alone we should be suspicious of what he says. But for another reason as well: the Coultergeists start sucking at his political blood and he caves, apparently believing that those ghouls are more powerful than he, the President of the United States. Trump needs to say “F’em” and get on with doing the job of president, and that does not include doing harm to untold millions of Americans.

Democrats hang firm

During a closed-door meeting with House Democrats on Wednesday morning, Ms. Pelosi urged her caucus to stay unified and not to peel off and begin negotiating with the president on his terms, which could muddle the stark differences between Mr. Trump and them on a critical issue.

She also told rank-and-file lawmakers that they should not get “too bogged down” on what legislation was being voted upon — a direct message to some of her restive centrist freshmen, who have been meeting with Republican freshmen to discuss a bipartisan path out of the shutdown. The appeal seems to have worked; as they emerged from the closed-door meeting, rank-and-file Democrats appeared united behind their leaders’ demand that the government open before border security negotiations took place.

“There’s an overwhelming consensus that this is about establishing that shutdowns are wrong,” said one centrist, Representative Tom Malinowski, Democrat of New Jersey. “From my standpoint, and I think this is the consensus of the caucus,everything is negotiable. Border security is negotiable. Immigration policy is negotiable. Shutting down the government is not negotiable, and we’re angry about it.”

Mr. Malinowski went on: “If we give in to this tactic in any way we will validate it, and there will be no end to these shutdowns, and the people who suffer today will be suffering again and again and again. We cannot have that.”

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

What Trump and McConnell are really promising for DACA, TPS, and asylum

The actual roll-out of Trump’s recent proposal for wall vs. DACA (ignoring the shutdown) is a list of horrors. You would not know it from his televised speech, but now that it’s hit the senate floor, we can pick it apart and expose what Trump and McConnell are really promising.

What’s bound to happen: McConnell will put a legislative version of Trump’s proposal on the Senate floor for a vote. It will likely fail the 60-vote requirement. Then McConnell et al. will blame the Democrats for prolonging the sh*tdown. Here are the many reasons why, once again, no one should trust the party of Trump and its figurehead to bargain in good faith. The short, and predictable, reason: they ain’t got none.

Judd Legum ( opens up the bill that McConnell has crafted in Shutdown bait-and-switch.

On Saturday, President Trump made a televised announcement to detail his plan to “end” the government shutdown. Trump is still insisting on $5.7 billion for a southern border wall. But he said he was including “three years of legislative relief for 700,000 DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] recipients” and “a three-year extension of temporary protected status or TPS” as incentives for Democrats to support his proposal.

Over the last two years, Trump decided to cancel DACA and most TPS protections unilaterally. Both of those moves are being challenged in court. But taking Trump’s speech at face value, he is offering a reprieve from decisions he has made in exchange for the wall.

The reality is much worse.

On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) released the legislative text of Trump’s proposal. The 1301-page document] outlines a set of policies that is nothing like Trump advertised.

Trump is not extending DACA and TPS; he is gutting both programs. And his proposal also includes radical new restrictions on asylum seekers.

Did he think no one would read this bill?

Contrary to what Trump advertised, if the bill actually becomes law, in my opinion, DACA is dead. Here’s more from Legum.

Trump’s proposal does not extend DACA for three years; it “replaces it with a totally different program.” The new program would not only “exclude untold thousands of Dreamers who would have been eligible under DACA” but imposes burdensome new requirements that could deny DACA status to those that previously enrolled.

Trump’s bill requires “Dreamers already in good standing in DACA to reapply for status, even though DACA would have allowed them simply to renew their status without refiling all of their paperwork and evidence.” Meeting this requirement will require most Dreamers to hire an immigration lawyer.

Further, applicants will have to prove their eligibility for the program with “clear and convincing” evidence. Previously, applicants could qualify by meeting a lower standard of “preponderance of the evidence.” This raises the evidentiary bar for applicants to prove they meet the basic requirements of DACA, such as entering the country before June 2007.

Trump’s new program would exclude any applicant “who is even 5 percent dependent on any level of government, even state or local aid, from receiving legal status.” This is known as the “public charge” rule. While DACA recipients are ineligible for federal benefits, this could exclude Dreamers from states like New York and California, which provide state government assistance to Dreamers. It also revokes eligibility for anyone who can’t prove an income of at least 125% of the federal poverty line.

Remarkably, the bill would also require Dreamers “to pay to the U.S. Treasury the value of any legally-obtained tax credits that they have received” – a particularly heavy burden for people with children. At the same time, it doubles the fees associated with DACA enrollment. Fees are the number one reason Dreamers don’t apply for DACA.

Unlike the bipartisan legislation Trump claims his DACA proposal is modeled on, the bill excludes anyone who hasn’t already enrolled in DACA – both those who have not yet applied and those who will “age-in” by turning 15.

Here are two more topics you should explore in Legum’s report.

Trump’s proposal guts TPS - Trump’s proposal does not “extend” TPS; it temporarily replaces it with a far more restrictive program.

The poison pill - the Trump bill imposes entirely new restrictions on migrant children from Central America. The proposal would only allow migrant children to apply for asylum from “application centers” in their home countries. … Forcing people to remain in their home countries run counter to the entire point of asylum, which is intended to provide refuge for people fleeing legitimately dangerous conditions.

The Senate will vote on Trump’s proposal on Thursday. Even the plan that Trump described on Saturday had no chance of passage. But now that the details have been revealed, it’s truly an exercise in futility.

Climate change may be the sleeping giant among 2020 issues

The NY Times’ Tuesday evening briefing reports that a record number of Americans understand that climate change is real, a new survey found, and they are increasingly worried about its impact on their lives.

Some 73 percent of Americans polled late last year said global warming was happening, a jump in 10 percentage points from 2015. And 72 percent of Americans said global warming was personally important to them, jumping nine percentage points since last March. Above, Mexico Beach, Fla., after Hurricane Michael last year.

Read more in the Times’ report: Global Warming Concerns Rise Among Americans in New Poll.

The trends in American attitudes about climate change are significant. Before the 2016 election 55% of those polled saw climate change as important. Now that percentage has grown to 72%.

The survey is the latest in a series from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. It was conducted online in November and December by Ipsos, which polled 1,114 American adults.

The results suggest that climate change has moved out of the realm of the hypothetical for a wide majority of Americans, said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale program.

“It is something that is activating an emotion in people, and that emotion is worry,” he said. The survey found that 69 percent of Americans were “worried” about warming, an eight-point increase since March.

“People are beginning to understand that climate change is here in the United States, here in my state, in my community, affecting the people and places I care about, and now,” Dr. Leiserowitz said. “This isn’t happening in 50 years, 100 years from now.”

While public opinion on climate issues has fluctuated over the years, many of the recent changes were large enough to fall outside the margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points. “I’ve never seen jumps in some of the key indicators like this,” Dr. Leiserowitz said.

Americans’ growing understanding of global warming is part of a long-term trend, he said. But he attributed the recent increases to a number of extreme weather events with plausible connections to a warming planet, and to the publicity that surrounded two major scientific reports on climate change last year.

Those reports, from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change and the United States government, laid out grim prospects for the future if action is not taken to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that warm the planet.

The changes in public opinion over the last year were also tied to politics, Dr. Leiserowitz said, and to the efforts of President Trump to deny the scientific evidence of climate change.

Every time he talks about climate change he drives more media attention to the exact issue,” Dr. Leiserowitz >said.

Political party affiliation is strongly associated with acceptance of the overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming, with Democrats tending to accept it and Republicans tending to reject it. But Mr. Trump’s approach to politics is so divisive, Dr. Leiserowitz said, that when he takes a strong stand on climate change and other issues, “he tends to drive a majority of the country in the opposite direction.”

My good friend and mentor, Al Riley, sees climate change and what to do about it as the paramount question for presidential candidates. It appears that about 3 in 4 voters feel the same way. Now it falls on all of us to convince our candidates to go beyond talk and commit to specific action. The question to ask your 2020 candidate is: we believe climate change to be the most important issue for planetary survival. Do you? And then press them to get specific.

So who will arise to challenge Trump on climate change? With the field expanding almost daily, keeping track of candidate positions will be a bit of a challenge. With regard to climate change I will try to help. For example, the League of Conservation Voters has helped us out with a scorecard. I will post some of their results in a forthcoming edition of

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Kamala Harris announced her bid for president - here's who else is running

538’s significant digits email summarizes the current state of play in the Democratic Party’s candidates for the presidency in the 2020 election.

8 are running (so far)
Sen. Kamala Harris of California announced yesterday on “Good Morning America” that she is running for president. For those keeping a tally at home, that’s now: Eight people who are running for the Democratic nomination, two who are “all but certain” to run, four who are “likely” to run, and eight who “might” run. [The New York Times]

The NU Times piece has the longer list: Kamala Harris Has Entered the 2020 Democratic Race. Here’s Who Else Is Running.

These are the Times’ lists.
Running (8): Castro Delaney Gabbard Gillibrand Harris Ojeda Warren Yang
All But Certain (2): Booker Hickenlooper
Likely to Run (4): Biden Bullock Garcetti Sanders
Might Run (8): Bloomberg Brown Inslee Klobuchar Landrieu McAuliffe Merkley

So the number of Dem candidates announced, likely to announce, or even just may announce varies depending on where you draw the line: 8, 10, 14, or 22.

The good news is that Scriber does not see another Donald Trump in any of those lists - that is someone who will eliminate competitors by tweeting about “little” this or “crooked” that.

Just to start some conversations, how about a Biden/Harris ticket? Here’s what the times has to say about each of those.

Joseph R. Biden Jr., 76
Former vice president; former senator from Delaware
“I think I’m the most qualified person in the country to be president.”

  • Has run for president twice before.
  • Is among the best-liked figures in the Democratic Party, known for his down-to-earth personality and his ability to connect with working-class voters.
  • Regards 2020 as his last chance to run for president.

SIGNATURE ISSUES: Restoring America’s standing on the global stage; strengthening economic protections for low-income workers in industries like manufacturing and fast food.

Kamala Harris, 54
Senator from California; former attorney general of California; former San Francisco district attorney
“I believe our country wants and needs some leadership that provides a vision of the country in which everyone could see themselves.”

  • Would bring a star power and history-making potential to the race that few other Democrats can match.
  • One of few new Democrats to join the Senate after 2016.
  • Quickly drew notice for her tough questioning of President Trump’s cabinet nominees — and later, his Supreme Court nominee, Brett M. Kavanaugh.

SIGNATURE ISSUES: Unveiled middle-class tax cut legislation last fall, and has championed a liberal civil-rights agenda in the Senate.

You can read these kinds of summaries for each named (possible) candidate in the Times’ report.

And, FYI, the Times knows who is not going to run.

Unlikely to Run (6): Bennet Clinton de Blasio Holder Kerry Schultz
Not Running (5): Casey Murphy Patrick Steyer

Friday, January 18, 2019

Scriber takes a break

Hi all. Your Scriber is on vacation for a few days. I’ll get back to regular posts next week. Cheers!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Be careful what you wish for - impeachment might trade an idiocracy for a theocracy.

Dana Milbank (Washington Post) tells us why AG nominee William Barr might want the AG job in Why would William Barr take this job? The answer should alarm Trump. The short answer is that Barr might be a protector of the rule of law and of the Mueller investigation. But I digress. In the confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee we have evidence that our law makers, and Barr, understand that Trump is not the best and brightest.

And the chairman, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), usually a Trump loyalist, seemed to be trolling the president.

Asked whether then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions was right to recuse himself from the Russia investigation — a source of Trump’s fury — Barr replied: “I think he probably did the right thing recusing himself.”

“I agree,” Graham added, before poking fun at Trump’s lack of intellectual curiosity. “President Trump is a one-pager kind of guy,” he said.

“I suspect he is,” Barr concurred.

There was laughter in the hearing room at Trump’s expense.

Although the Senators would not dare utter the word, Trump’s tenure really is an idiocracy - my word.

But let’s put that on hold for a moment. What if Trump is successfully impeached and leaves office. Who takes his place? You know the answer: VP Mike Pence. He is an evangelical and so is his wife Karen. She is the focus of recent reports about her teaching job at a Christian school that bans LGBTQ students and requires a moral pledge from its teachers. (And, look, I am not being misogynistic here. If Pence gets the presidency his wife becomes first lady, and that is not exactly apolitical.)

Jen Hayden at Daily Kos has a short version: Karen Pence begins teaching at a Virginia school that bans LGBTQ students and employees.

Karen Pence, mother wife of Vice President Mike Pence, started a new job this week: a part-time gig as an art teacher at Immanuel Christian School in Virginia, where she previously taught for 12 years. The private Christian school explicitly bans LGBTQ students and employees in the employment application that each staff member must sign and affirm.

It reads:

I understand that the term “marriage” has only one meaning; the uniting of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive covenant union as delineated in Scripture and that God intends sexual intimacy to occur only between a man and a woman who are married to each other and that God has commanded that no intimate sexual activity is engaged in outside of marriage between a man and a woman. Further, I will maintain a lifestyle based on biblical standards of moral conduct. Moral misconduct which violates the bona fide occupational qualifications for employees includes, but is not limited to, such behaviors as the following: heterosexual activity outside of marriage (e.g., premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex), homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy, transgender identity, any other violation of the unique roles of male and female, sexual harassment, use or viewing of pornographic material or websites, and sexual abuse or improprieties toward minors as defined by Scripture and federal or state law.

Remember that these hypocrites work next to and support someone who has repeatedly cheated on his current and former wives, and violates nearly every ethical and moral code we live by, but hey—you do you, Karen Pence.

One can only imagine what a painful, toxic place this kind of school would be for students who may be struggling with their own sexual identities.

Naw, no need. I suspect rather few such students would end up for any length of time in that school.

But this reporting does beg for evidence of the claimed hypocrisy. It comes from another story at CNN, Karen and Mike Pence’s astonishing moral hypocrisy by Clay Cane (h/t Sherry Moreau)

For all their professed beliefs, Pence, and his wife, show unwavering support for a man who has been married three times, divorced twice, has had five children with three women and who has been accused of (though denies) paying a porn star and a Playboy model hundreds of thousands of dollars to conceal affairs he’d had with them.

The hypocrisy here, and indeed from white evangelical Trump supporters, is astonishing. As of April, white evangelical support for Trump was at an all-time high: 75%. Disturbingly, as he left the White House, President Barack Obama enjoyed the favorable view of only 24% of white evangelicals.

Obama, a man who had no sex scandals, was never accused of sexual harassment, had two children with the same woman, couldn’t crack 25% white evangelicals. Of course, race is a huge reason, but Hillary Clinton only received 16% of the white evangelical vote.

For white evangelicals, it appears to be Trump over country – and Karen Pence is a glowing example.

It comes down to this: If the Pences love their God so much, then they would not sit in a White House with a man who shows no moral compass and said he never asks for forgiveness. They would be on the White House lawn, with the King James Bible in hand, disavowing a President who is a horrible representation for our children.

Do Karen and Mike Pence (who, incidentally, supports conversion therapy) not see LGBTQ people as humans deserving the same respect and rights as anyone? It’s easy to imagine, based on his pronouncements in the past, that if he could, Vice President Pence would create a sweeping policy to annihilate the progress of all LGBTQ communities — progress that, to be clear, resonates in every community.

The LGBTQ community is Republican, Democrat, black, white, undocumented, documented and has members in red and blue states.

Mike and Karen Pence, where is your Jesus?

So there you have it. Impeaching Trump risks trading the Trumpian idiocracy for a Pencian theocracy. Be careful what you ask for.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

With shutdown Trump shoots America. Russia celebrates.

Read on to find out which part of the title is fact and which is fiction.

Trump accepted shutdown mantle. Voters agree.

There are two take-aways from the report Trump Took Responsibility for the Shutdown, and Voters Say It’s His.

Polls: Half of Americans fault him, one-third blame Democrats
In past shutdowns, a president’s opponent blamed by public

How’s that for doing things differently.

President Donald Trump said a month ago that he’d gladly take the blame for a government shutdown over his proposed border wall. Polls show he’s getting it.

(In that iconic meeting with Pelosi and Schumer, Trump promised not to blame Democrats. Guess what - he lied.)

Trump didn’t help himself by embracing the responsibility for the looming shutdown on Dec. 11 during an acrimonious Oval Office meeting with Democratic leaders. “I am proud to shut down the government for border security,” he said. “I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down.”

Congressional Republicans were stunned. “‘I own it’? Really?” former Representative Mike Coffman of Colorado, who lost his seat in the November midterm elections, said the following day. "Do you really want to own this? Don’t you want to put it on their lap? Really!?”

Republicans fail History 101

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it” said the philosopher George Santayana. The report provides the evidence that Republicans are repeating the past.

In October 2013, a government shutdown occurred after the Republican-led House refused to include funding for Obamacare in spending legislation; they relented in 16 days. A CNN poll that month showed that 52 percent blamed Republicans in Congress, while 34 percent blamed President Barack Obama.

In November 1995, the first of two shutdowns occurred after the Newt Gingrich-led Republicans demanded steep domestic spending cuts opposed by President Bill Clinton. A CNN survey found that 49 percent blamed Republican leaders, while 26 percent blamed Clinton.

Now, reports bloomberg, “Six surveys taken since the partial government closure began last month tell a consistent story – half or more Americans believe Trump and his party are responsible for the shutdown, while one-third or fewer point the finger at Democrats.”

Trump shoots America in the foot rated this one as true. “On 23 January 2016, presidential candidate Donald Trump caused controversy when he stated the following during a campaign rally in Iowa: I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Now he’s holed up in the White House waiting for some one, any one, to do something about his self-inflicted looming economic contraction. Not just a slow-down. A real reversal in economic growth. He’s sitting in the White House shooting America and claiming that he will not lose voters.

Shutdown’s Economic Damage Starts to Pile Up, Threatening an End to Growth reports the New York Times.

The partial government shutdown is inflicting far greater damage on the United States economy than previously estimated, the White House acknowledged on Tuesday, as President Trump’s economists doubled projections of how much economic growth is being lost each week the standoff with Democrats continues.

The revised estimates from the Council of Economic Advisers show that the shutdown, now in its fourth week, is beginning to have real economic consequences. The analysis, and other projections from outside the White House, suggests that the shutdown has already weighed significantly on growth and could ultimately push the United States economy into a contraction.

To blunt the shutdown’s effects, the administration on Tuesday called tens of thousands of employees back to work, without pay, to process tax returns, ensure flight safety and inspect food and drugs. But some people involved in the shutdown discussions in the White House have privately said they anticipate that Mr. Trump will grow anxious about the economic impact in the coming days, accelerating an end to the stalemate. Others close to the president believe Mr. Trump has leverage and are encouraging him to stand by his demands.

Is that intransigence working?

Mr. Trump has demanded that Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, include $5.7 billion for a border wall in any measure to fund the government. Democrats have refused and, along with some Republicans, have tried to persuade the president to reopen the government and negotiate border security afterward. The House has passed several bills to fund parts of the government, including the Internal Revenue Service, that are not related to border security. Senate Republicans have declined to schedule votes on those bills.

On Tuesday, in an effort to try to splinter the Democrats’ opposition, the White House invited several House Democrats from districts Mr. Trump won to discuss a path forward. None showed up.

In the meantime, federal workers are taking a big hit and the misery is likely to spread to the general populace. See my post from yesterday for a summary of the damage Trump is doing. So far, congressional Republicans are just fine with that.

Would you believe that Mitch McConnell was heard to say “What, me worry?”

Our man from Moscow in the White House

Scriber has a nagging feeling that the shutdown is just the latest item on Putin’s wish list that Trump is checking off. There is evidence.

Rachel Maddow reported that Alarm rises as Trump behavior aligns with Putin’s fondest wishes.

Rachel Maddow looks at mounting evidence of Donald Trump policy inclinations lining up with the wildest anti-American, anti-Western dreams of Vladimir Putin as Donald Trump reportedly tries to obscure his personal interactions with Putin.

If you got this far, you will know that none of this is fiction.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Trump's shutdown and the wall - garbage in, garbage out.

Trump's garbage
Garbage in, garbage out

There is an old saying in computer science: ’ garbage in, garbage out describes the concept that flawed, or nonsense input data produces nonsense output or “garbage”. The principle also applies more generally to all analysis and logic, in that arguments are unsound if their premises are flawed.’

So it is with respect to the White House. If you put a deeply flawed person IN a position of authority, you get garbled nonsense being spewed OUT. In 2016, Americans elected the most incompetent petulant narcissist in history. In 2019, he is forcing the people to suffer for his own campaign promise that is founded on nothing more than a campaign slogan: “Build the wall.” You see? Garbage in, garbage out.

Sher Watts Spooner, a Daily Kos Community writer, documents how The human costs of the Trump shutdown will affect all of us. Coming soon to your nation, your community, your income, you personally: bad sh!t inflicted by Trump’s temper tantrum - and we should acknowledge, abetted by the Congressional Republicans. In the latter regard, it’s become so bad that we have a Senator (Lindsey Graham) goading the president to take the legally, constitutionally, politically precarious autocratic action of declaring a national emergency.

Watts Spooner lists the various consequences of Trump’s shutdown.

… The worst-off, of course, are those employees who won’t get paid and are genuinely fearful about their ability to make a rent or mortgage payment. They’re worried about how they’ll afford groceries in the coming weeks to feed their families. They wonder where they’ll find the money for school fees. …

Would you believe that Trump’s idiocracy infected the US Coast Guard evidenced by “its online tip sheet suggesting that employees hold yard sales or babysit to make ends meet.”

Those who don’t depend on the government for a paycheck might not realize how cutting off government services when employees aren’t around can affect all of us. Whether it’s curtailing a visit to a national park, waiting in a long line to board a plane, or worrying whether the food you buy at the grocery store is safe, this Trump shutdown is starting to mean inconveniences and hardships for many Americans.

The Center for American Progress issued an analysis that put the amount of missed paychecks at $2 billion every two weeks. That’s a lot of money to remove from the economy, even for a short time.

Moreover, Trump’s shutdown is, or soon will be, affecting the majority of Americans.

Here are just a few of the ways the shutdown is causing inconveniences and creating dangers for the U.S. population:

Food safety. The Food and Drug Administration oversees about 80 percent of the nation’s food supply. With workers furloughed, the FDA “has suspended all routine inspections of domestic food-processing facilities,” according to a story in the Washington Post. The FDA typically conducts about 160 inspections a week, and a third of those are done at high-risk facilities.

The safety net. Poor Americans count on government assistance for a variety of services, and those services are getting cut off. Whether it’s nutrition programs, housing subsidies, or low-interest housing loans through the government doesn’t matter; many are on hold.

Fear of flying. Employees of the Transportation Security Administration must show up for work, even when they don’t receive a paycheck. But many of those who screen travelers at the nation’s airports have been calling in sick. Some are threatening to resign all together—or already have done so. … It’s one thing to be bothered by the inconvenience of long lines at airports when there aren’t enough TSA agents to process travelers. It’s a more serious safety concern when there are personnel shortages in air traffic control towers.

Data not found. The loss of data collection might not cause any personal hardships now, but the lack of such data will hurt us all in the long run. Pew Research has a compilation of all the agencies that have stopped collecting and supplying data, “affecting everyone from investors and farmers to researchers and journalists.” Those include the Census Bureau, statistical offices in the Agriculture Department, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and more.

The Center for American Progress did a breakdown of how the shutdown is affecting seven states—seven states where Republican senators face re-election in 2020.

One of these is Arizona where:

Seven thousand and three hundred federal employees in Arizona, over half of whom work for the Interior Department, are either furloughed or working without pay during the shutdown. The Interior Department includes workers who support the state’s 24 national parks, monuments, and trails in addition to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The 300,000 indigenous Americans living in Arizona are uniquely harmed by the shutdown, thanks to its impact on the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the USDA’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) has said she does “not think there’s ever a time when it’s appropriate to shut down the government over any demand.” Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) has not publicly broken from Trump and McConnell, and did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Another of those states is Kentucky, home of Senate Majority Leader who has gone AWOL, effectively by his disappearance turning over control of the Senate to Trump.

Spooner concludes:

… [McConnell] shows no sign of budging and refuses to let senators vote on the House-passed bill to fund the government. You know—the same bill that passed on a voice vote in the Senate back in December.

“More than 6,000 federal government employees in Kentucky are furloughed or working without pay,” says a Center for American Progress report on the shutdown.

What do you say, Mitch? How much are you willing to screw over your constituents just to appease the big baby in the White House?

Monday, January 14, 2019

Mournday Mourning Madness (Trump) and Mythology (GOP)

Today let’s start with some definitions.

Wall defined:
Make someone very irritated or angry.
‘Chuck and Nancy are driving Trump up the wall’

National Emergency
A term typically used by politicians to express irony.
‘Donald Trump at the border’

Trump's wall
Dig under it, drive around it, fly over it

Now more Illustrated Gnus from AZ Blue Meanie at Blog for Arizona.

  • Trump: “Why doesn’t anybody believe me?” Toon: “Because you are the boy who cried wolf.”
  • Trump declares national emergency, requisitions paper towels from Puerto Rico.
  • A logical progression: concrete blocks, steel slats, chicken wire, picket fence, speed bump, legos.
  • What Trump is not considering: concrete wall, steel wall, padded cell.
  • Trump’s progression: The Art of the Deal, The Art of the Steal, The Art of the Heel.
  • The lesson Trump learned from Truman: The buck stops everywhere else.
  • What American taxpayers could get for the $5.7 billion: 58,853,290,105 legos.
  • What else American taxpayers could get for the $5.7 billion: A monthly paycheck for 1,954,062 TSA employees.
Trump's wall

A fool's impulse drives America to the brink

A means of building a wall. Typically used to prevent government workers from working and/or being paid.
Also: A fool’s impulse.

Something that can be dug under, driven around, and flown over. A monument to the stupidity of [one] man.

General George Patton had it right. Here are quotes swiped from

“Pacifists would do well to study the Siegfried and Maginot Lines, remembering that these defenses were forced; that Troy fell; that the walls of Hadrian succumbed; that the Great Wall of China was futile; and that, by the same token, the mighty seas which are alleged to defend us can also be circumvented by a resolute and ingenious opponent. In war, the only sure defense is offense, and the efficiency of offense depends on the warlike souls of those conducting it.”

“Fixed fortifications are monuments to the stupidity of man”

Michael Gerson (Washington Post) elaborates: Trump is turning a budget crisis into a constitutional crisis — all for a fool’s impulse. (h/t Daily Star which reprinted Gerson’s column this morning)

So far: President Trump has announced a crisis that isn’t actually a crisis — requiring a wall that is not really a wall, funded by Mexican pesos that are really U.S. tax dollars — to keep out murderous migrants who are (as a whole) less violent than native-born Americans, leading to congressional negotiations that involve no actual negotiations, resulting in a government shutdown undertaken on the advice of radio personalities, defended in an Oval Office address that consisted of alarmism, prejudice, falsehood and other material caught in the P-trap of senior policy adviser Stephen Miller’s mind.

One conservative claimed that Trump finally looked “presidential.” Actually, we are seeing the federal government — Trump supporters and opponents — trying to explain and respond to an impulsive, emotive, selfish, irresponsible and fundamentally irrational force at its center. It is like the immune system responding to a virus it has never seen before and cannot defend against. Trump walks in and out of meetings, repeating scraps of his stump speech, unpredictable to his staff, unconcerned about the pressure on his allies, contemptuous toward congressional opponents and with no apparent end game except their total surrender.

This is a case study in failed and erratic leadership. The shutdown happened because the president — under pressure from partisan media — reneged on a commitment to sign a spending bill the Senate had passed and that the House was ready to pass. Then, during an Oval Office meeting with the Democratic leaders, he said he would gladly own a shutdown, presumably because he figured it would look good on TV. Trump apparently did this without talking to congressional Republicans or his own staff. Congressional Republicans and his own staff were then forced to defend Trump’s impulse as a strategy. But this has proved difficult, because Republicans have no leverage. So now the whole GOP is left pretending there is an emergency at the border, and that a multiyear construction project is somehow the best way to deal with an emergency.

This is the Republican legislator’s lot in the Trump era — trying to provide ex post facto justifications for absurd presidential choices. The border “crisis” did not break because of some tragedy caused by a porous southern border. It did not result from some serious determination of national security priorities. The whole GOP strategy, and all the arguments they are using, are really backfill for an intemperate choice made by a president in response to media coverage. It is a dynamic we’ve seen again and again. Trump announced a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un because, well, for the hell of it. Then the whole government had to backfill a policy and process to fit his wrongheaded announcement. Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria on the spur of the moment, perhaps to assert himself against the influence of his now-departed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Then, the whole defense and national-security establishment has to scramble to backfill the details of coherent policy (which they still haven’t really done).

On the issue of border security, it has fallen to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to provide justification for the irrational. And this has turned a serious public servant into a font of deception and bad faith. She warns darkly about a terrorist threat crossing our southern border, though both the size and details of that threat are too “sensitive” to release. “I am sure all Americans,” she explains, “would agree that one terrorist reaching our borders is one too many.”

So, we know that the number of terrorists intercepted at the southern border is equal to or greater than one. What we don’t know is how this terrorist threat compares with other dangers and vulnerabilities that require funding as well. I have spoken to many counterterrorism experts about domestic radicalization, and foreign intelligence gathering, and drones and special operations, and financial investigation and disruption. I have never met an expert who mentioned the construction of a physical barrier with Mexico as an urgent priority in the fight against global terrorism. Some benefit in this area may be a highly attenuated byproduct of a wall. But if the goal is fighting terrorism, the first dollar would not go to a wall. Or probably the billionth dollar. The argument is deceptive to its core.

But security arguments would certainly be at the core of Trump’s justification for declaring a national emergency and building the wall with U.S. troops — if he makes that choice. Then, the ignorance, arrogance and stubbornness of one man would turn a budget crisis into a constitutional crisis — and turn Republican defenders into abettors of creeping authoritarianism. All to justify a fool’s impulse.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

How the media became Donald Trump's apprentice

This morning, Frank Bruni, columnist at the New York Times, asks Will the Media Be Trump’s Accomplice Again in 2020?, adding We have a second chance. Let’s not blow it. Bruni reports on some of the media’s biases and failures during the 2016 election thus becoming complicit in the election of Trump. It’s fairly lengthy. Here are some highlights.

"The shadow of what we did last time looms over this next time,” the former CBS newsman Dan Rather, who has covered more than half a century of presidential elections, told me. And what we did last time was emphasize the sound and the fury, because Trump provided both in lavish measure.

“When you cover this as spectacle,” Rather said, “what’s lost is context, perspective and depth. And when you cover this as spectacle, he is the star.” Spectacle is his métier. He’s indisputably spectacular. And even if it’s a ghastly spectacle and presented that way, it still lets him control the narrative. …

I asked Rather what he was most struck by in the 2016 campaign, and he instantly mentioned Trump’s horrific implication, in public remarks that August, that gun enthusiasts could rid themselves of a Clinton presidency by assassinating her.

I’d almost forgotten it. So many lesser shocks so quickly overwrote it. Rather wasn’t surprised. “It got to the point where it was one outrage after another, and we just moved on each time,” he said. Instead, we should hold on to the most outrageous, unconscionable moments. We should pause there awhile. We can’t privilege the incremental over what should be the enduring. It lets Trump off the hook.

The real story of Trump isn’t his amorality and outrageousness. It’s Americans’ receptiveness to that. It’s the fact that, according to polls, most voters in November 2016 deemed him dishonest and indecent, yet plenty of them cast their ballots for him anyway.

You might recognize this as one of the themes I’ve blogged about - the real story of 2016 being Trump’s followers. Another is the false equivalence sought by the media when it came to reporting on Trump’s habitual lying.

Through the first half of 2016, as Trump racked up victories in the Republican primaries, he commanded much more coverage than any other candidate from either party, and it was evenly balanced between positive and negative appraisals — unlike the coverage of Clinton, which remained mostly negative.

Only during their general-election face-off in the latter half of 2016 did Trump and Clinton confront equivalent tides of naysaying. “On topics relating to the candidates’ fitness for office, Clinton and Trump’s coverage was virtually identical in terms of its negative tone,” Patterson wrote.

Regarding their fitness for office, they were treated identically? In retrospect, that’s madness. It should have been in real time, too. But we fell prey to a habit that can’t be repeated when we compare the new crop of Democratic challengers to Trump and to one another. We interpreted fairness as a similarly apportioned mix of complimentary and derogatory stories about each contender, no matter how different one contender’s qualifications, accomplishments and liabilities were from another’s. If we were going to pile on Trump, we had to pile on Clinton — or, rather, keep piling on her.

That would be the “false equivalence” I mentioned above. In spite of a lopsided percentage of false claims (70% false for Trump, 70% true for Clinton), for each false claim by Trump, the media sought a false claim made by Clinton thereby implying a 50–50 equivalence.

During the election I took issue with such reporting. For example, on Friday, September 23, 2016, I posted Journalism in the age of Trumpiness: A tale of two narcissists. Think of my post as a listing of lots of things the media must not repeat in this new election cycle. The full text of the post is reprinted in full below (sans links to cited sources, with some added emphases).
Edward R. Murrow? Walter Cronkite? Dan Rather? Bill Moyers? Two are dead and the others are not exactly competing in the same arena as CNN, Fox, and the other main networks. I know, there are good people doing solid investigative reporting, for example, Rachel Maddow, and our own John Dougherty. But, with apologies, they are not playing in the same league of audience share as the big networks mentioned above. That means that truth gets transformed into truthiness and ultimately replaced by Trumpiness. This state of affairs has not escaped notice among media critics.

So, you listen to me. Listen to me: Television is not the truth! Television is a God-damned amusement park! Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, side-show freaks, lion tamers, and football players. We’re in the boredom-killing business! So if you want the truth… Go to God! Go to your gurus! Go to yourselves! Because that’s the only place you’re ever going to find any real truth. Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch).

You’re television incarnate, Diana: Indifferent to suffering; insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality. War, murder, death are all the same to you as bottles of beer. And the daily business of life is a corrupt comedy. You even shatter the sensations of time and space into split seconds and instant replays. You’re madness, Diana. Virulent madness. And everything you touch dies with you. -Max Shumacher (played by William Holden).

Those are harsh words from the 1976 academy award winning movie, Network.

The great journalist Edward R. Murrow put it more succinctly but no less critically. He predicted accurately how the media is complicit in spreading misinformation: “The speed of communications is wondrous to behold. It is also true that speed can multiply the distribution of information that we know to be untrue.” That rapid distribution likely amplifies the conference of referential validity. Hasher, Goldstein, and Toppino (1977) showed that “repetition of a plausible statement increases a person’s belief in the referential validity or truth of that statement.” The media’s 24x7 barrage of untruths, partial truths, and lack of context thus distorts the informational environment of the audience.

The media’s consistent search for “balance” is another way in which the media distorts the truth. For example, the reporting in 2016 has been portraying the political world as 50–50 when in fact is it 70–30 (70% truth from Clinton and 70% lies from Trump). Regardless of the base frequency of true and false statements, the media, finding one falsehood for one candidate, will seek evidence for another falsehood spoken by the other candidate. That leads to the illusion that both candidates are similar in their treatment of truth.

At least from my limited vista, some in the media are finally waking up to the fact that the media has been a willing partner with Donald Trump. Eric Alterman exposes the media’s attempt to make Trump appear “normal.”

Harry Enten of Nate Silver’s titled a recent post “The More ‘Normal’ Trump Can Make This Race, the Better His Chances.” This is obviously true, and hence every effort by the media to treat Donald Trump as a “normal” presidential candidate brings us closer to the potential destruction of our democracy. And yet we can see it taking place at virtually every level of our media.

Silver recently estimated Trump’s chances of victory at about one in three. Remember, we are talking about a psychopathic narcissist whose alt-right agenda offers so many threats to the well-being of our country and the world, they defy simple enumeration or categorization. Even Republican political professionals are amazed. Scott Reed, chief strategist for the US Chamber of Commerce — who also managed Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign, among others — finds it “really quite amazing that after the Trump adventure this is still a competitive race.”

The media deserve a good deal of blame here, not only because of the billions of dollars’ worth of free airtime television networks have given to Trump but also because of their insistence — against all evidence — that he is someone other than the person he clearly presents himself to be.

Paul Waldman at the Washington Post charges the media with “journalistic malpractice” and predicts “History will not be kind to the mainstream media.”

And just this morning the Daily Star ran an editorial by Harvard Professor Thomas Patterson, If Clinton loses, blame the media.

If Hillary Clinton loses the presidential election in November, we will know the reason. The email controversy did her candidacy in. But it needed a helping hand — and the news media readily supplied that.

Patterson provides evidence for the media’s drumbeat negative slant on Clinton from his analyses of media content. For example,

Few presidential candidates have been more fully prepared to assume the duties of the presidency than is Clinton. Yet, her many accomplishments as first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state barely surfaced in the news coverage of her candidacy at any point in the campaign. She may as well as have spent those years baking cookies.

How about her foreign, defense, social or economic policies? Don’t bother looking. Not one of Clinton’s policy proposals accounted for even 1 percent of her convention-period coverage; collectively, her policy stands accounted for a mere 4 percent of it. But she might be thankful for that: News reports about her stances were 71 percent negative to 29 percent positive in tone. Trump was quoted more often about her policies than she was. Trump’s claim that Clinton “created ISIS,” for example, got more news attention than her announcement of how she would handle the Islamic State.

Patterson then concludes:

Decades ago, the Hutchins Commission on Freedom of the Press concluded that reporters routinely fail to provide a “comprehensive and intelligent account of the day’s events in the context that gives them some meaning.” Whatever else might be concluded about the coverage of Clinton’s emails, context has been largely missing. Some stories spelled out how the merging of private and official emails by government officials was common practice. There were also some, though fewer, who tried to assess the harm, if any, that resulted from her use of a private server. As for Clinton’s policy proposals and presidential qualifications, they’ve been completely lost in the glare of damaging headlines and sound bites.

Perhaps most seriously is Brian Beutler’s conclusion that the “false balance” coverage of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is all about the press’s self-interest. And that pairs one narcissist (the press) with another (Trump). Changing the mores of an institution the size of the conglomeration of modern news networks would be a monumental effort.

Judging from the recent polls, we seem to be a country on the verge of making a horrible mistake, aided and abetted by the mainstream media - electing a man characterized by his connections to the mob, Moscow, and madness. Will the press forgive his violation of campaign finance laws if he does assume the presidency? Will they finally expose his alleged tax evasion? If not, then what?

Has America come to this, a welcoming of a narcissistic bully as the representative of our national ideals? If so, the blame will fall heavily on the modern media. I’ll then end with another quote by Edward R. Murrow because it too is an apt message to America. Good night, and good luck.