Saturday, August 31, 2019

When it comes to flipping the US Senate, 'This is no time to be on the sidelines'

This is an all-hands-on-deck moment for American democracy writes columnist Dana Milbank in the Washington Post. “This is no time to be on the sidelines.” Excerpts and comments follow.

Consider: Milbank identifies six Senate seats now held by Republicans - and not a single Democrat running for them. Here are three candidates for Georgia, Colorado, and Texas who, it seems, are putting their own ambitions first. I’ll enumerate the Senate seats.

(1) Stacey Abrams: Stand up and be counted. “I do not want to serve in the Senate,” says the hugely popular former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee.

(2) Steve Bullock: Stand up and be counted. “My talents are best suited” to an executive role, says Montana’s well-liked Democratic governor.

(3) Beto O’Rourke: Stand up and be counted. “That would not be good enough” to serve in the Senate, says the gifted former Democratic congressman from Texas.

Sorry, but what’s not “good enough” are those answers …

Some sunshine soldiers have already let down the cause, declining Democratic entreaties to run for the Senate in states such as Iowa and North Carolina, where Trump-enablers (4) Joni Ernst and (5) Thom Tillis, respectively, seek reelection. But none of those prospects had the potential to transform races in the way Bullock, Abrams and possibly O’Rourke could.

With the retirement of the ailing (6) Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), both Georgia Senate seats will be on the ballot next year. And the Democrats’ best candidate won’t run for either? That’s a gift to Trump’s enablers.

Back on the ranch, Mark Kelly is campaigning for the AZ Senate seat now held by (unelected) Martha McSally. The pundits have changed their estimation of this race from leaning Republican to toss-up. It’s winnable. McSally has a primary challenger that is further to the right than she is, quite possibly dragging her even more rightward and bucking demographic trends. That makes seven possible Senate seats for Dems to pick up and flip the Senate.

Here’s the thing.

… these are not ordinary times. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment not just for Democrats but for American democracy. If the anti-Trump majority doesn’t prevail next year and resoundingly repudiate the hatred, isolation and drift toward autocracy, it won’t much matter what happens later. Abrams, Bullock and O’Rourke owe it to the country to end the reign of President Trump’s enablers in the Senate.

… The Senate has become a toxic workplace, and service there unrewarding. That’s thanks in large part to the amorality of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The majority leader and his caucus could have stood up to Trump’s indecency. Instead, he, and it, pursued power with no principles: breaking Senate rules, allowing Russia’s ongoing interference in U.S. elections, refusing to even consider legislation that could stop the mass shootings that are terrorizing America’s children. They have shown that they are too cowardly and too self-interested to be a check on Trump’s abuses.

But that’s all the more reason to run. If Trump somehow prevails next year, it’s crucial he not have a McConnell-led Senate to ratify his ruinous ways. And if Trump is to be defeated next year, it will be because the most capable people stepped up to challenge him — at all levels. Trumpism must be defeated resoundingly, and that means holding to account Republicans who failed to follow their conscience.

Even now, with still-strong employment numbers, polls show Trump’s Democratic challengers defeating him. If the economy tanks before the election (it’s only a matter of time because of the damage Trump has added to the nation’s finances, his politicization of monetary policy and his destabilization of international trade), there is the possibility of a thunderous repudiation of Trump — but only if Trump’s opposition goes all-in.

The message to these (and other) possible Senate candidates is this: you can’t catch the (Blue) wave if you’re not surfing.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Trump's war on agriculture - the bread basket might, finally, turn on Trump

Last night (August 29) Rachel Maddow reminded us of one thing that the Trump administration did that harms farmers. Remember that a while back the Ag Secretary, Sonny Purdue, started to move two Ag research units out of DC and into Kansas City. The move was brutal. The scientists were given a short time to voluntarily retire or be fired. The net results was that many of those scientists quit - and are not coming back. So what about the work they did? It turns out, as Rachel reported, that the Ag Department is no longer able to produce reports required by statute that help Congress decide on Ag policy. Here is her 8/29 show on YouTube. The hot stuff previewed here starts at around 21:10.

Here is more on the war on agriculture waged by the Trump administration.

Ag chief: Farmers are whiners

Farmers Hit Back as USDA Chief Sonny Perdue Mocks Those Harmed by Trump Trade War as ‘Whiners’. “He doesn’t understand what farmers are dealing with, and he’s the head of the Department of Agriculture. He’s supposed to be working for farmers.”

Yeah, he really said that.

Farmers facing record bankruptcies and collapsing incomes due to President Donald Trump’s escalating trade war with China were not amused by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s joke about their economic pain during an event in Minnesota last week.

“I had a farmer tell me this in Pennsylvania,” Perdue told an audience of thousands of farmers gathered in a barn near Morgan, Minnesota. “What do you call two farmers in a basement? A whine cellar.”

Some laughed at the agriculture secretary’s joke, but other farmers booed and denounced Perdue’s wisecrack as callous and tone-deaf mockery of the real hardship caused by the Trump administration’s trade policies.

“It was definitely not an appropriate thing to say,” Gary Wertish, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union, told HuffPost on Monday. “It was very insensitive. It took everyone by surprise. He doesn’t understand what farmers are dealing with, and he’s the head of the Department of Agriculture. He’s supposed to be working for farmers.”

Then Perdue’s offending attitude went national.

A market lost by trade war

National Farmers Union Head Scorches Trump: He’s Offended ‘Pretty Much Every Ally’ On Earth. China is a now a “lost market” for agriculture, said Roger Johnson as he sounded the alarm on U.S. farmers’ dire situation in Trump’s failing trade war. Snippets follow.

Trump has “offended the leaders of pretty much every ally we have on Earth,” and America’s reputation in markets around the world has taken a long-lasting hit, Johnson said in an interview on KFGO radio in Fargo, North Dakota. “It’s going to take much different behavior from future presidents in order to repair this damage,” he said.

And he’s saying it in a rather Red agricultural state.

As for how Trump is dealing with China, Johnson added: “I don’t think you can expect to make the fundamental changes that are being asked of China while every other day you’re offending them, you’re forcing them to lose face. No country’s going to make changes when they’re embarrassed along the way. That’s just not how you do things.”

He called many of Trump’s policy decisions “very harmful to agriculture; all the trade disruption has been enormously damaging.”

Johnson said the U.S. will suffer “reputational damage … for literally decades.” He also noted that “trade actions that this president have taken have done damage to lots of other parts of the economy” as well.

Johnson slammed the decision by the Environmental Protection Agency — reportedly ordered by Trump — to grant waivers to 31 petroleum refineries effectively exempting them from having to use more corn-based ethanol in their products. It was yet another blow to struggling corn farmers in deference to what Johnson called the “wealthiest oil companies on the face of the planet.”

KFGO interviewer Joel Heitkamp noted: “You can see how mad ag producers are when they see that big oil got the exemptions … it’s like the light finally got turned on and some of these guys woke up.”

Farmers “are in a lot of financial stress right now; net farm income is half of what it was six years ago,” said Johnson.

“This is really tough,” he warned. “We’re in a really, really difficult spot right now.

The farmers should try relieving their stress at the ballot box. They helped put Trump in the White House. They can darn well help getting him out.

Thanks to our Roving Reporter Sherry for her tips.

Trump administration sentences sick kids to death

Not exactly, but deporting them amounts to the same thing by depriving them of care and medicines they need. You know that the administration is serious, and fancies itself imperially impervious to consequences of this action, when they turn it over to ICE.

Common Dreams reports on A Death Sentence’: Trump Reportedly Moving to Deport Kids With Cancer, HIV, and Other Deadly Illnesses. “This is a new low for Trump. The administration is now literally deporting kids with cancer.”

Trump's immigration czar
Trump's immigration czar looks on

The Trump administration has reportedly ended a program which allowed immigrants with serious illnesses to temporarily remain in the U.S., a move by the White House that rights advocates decried as “a death sentence” for children receiving treatment for cancer, HIV, and other life-threatening diseases.

Reporting from local NPR affiliate WBUR said the “medical deferred action” program permitted immigrants to stay in the U.S. for two-year periods if they could demonstrate “extreme medical need.”

“Many of the people affected by the policy change came to the U.S. through a visa or other permitted status and are requesting to stay beyond those terms to receive medical treatment,” WBUR reported Monday.

Immigrants living and receiving medical care in Massachusetts learned of the Trump administration’s policy change when they received letters from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services earlier this month warning them they will be deported if they don’t leave the country in 33 days. [Scriber: See sample letter below.]

According to CommonWealth Magazine, the immigrants facing deportation include children with “children with cancer, cystic fibrosis, HIV, and other illnesses.”

Ronnie Millar, executive director of the Irish International Immigrant Center, which represents immigrants affected by the change, called the Trump administration’s move “inhumane and unjust” in an interview with CommonWealth Magazine.

During a press conference on Monday, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) blasted the Trump administration’s “inhumanity” and characterized the change in policy as an effort to “terrorize sick kids with cancer who are literally fighting for their lives.”

“This is a new low for Trump,” said Markey. “The administration is now literally deporting kids with cancer.”

The ACLU of Massachusetts vowed to take legal action to stop the Trump administration’s latest attack on immigrants.

“We will take this fight to the courts,” said Carol Rose, executive director of ACLU Massachusetts. “Lawyers are analyzing options right now.”

Deportation letter
Deportation letter

The NY Times reports on this action and provides a case study in Sick Migrants Undergoing Lifesaving Care Can Now Be Deported.

Maria Isabel Bueso was 7 years old when she came to the United States from Guatemala at the invitation of doctors who were conducting a clinical trial for the treatment of her rare, disfiguring genetic disease. The trial was short on participants, and thanks to her enrollment, it eventually led the Food and Drug Administration to approve a medication for the condition that has increased survival by more than a decade.

Now 24, Ms. Bueso, who had been told she likely would not live past adolescence, has participated in several medical studies. She has won awards for her advocacy on behalf of people with rare diseases, appearing before lawmakers in Washington and in Sacramento. Over the years, her parents have paid for the treatment that keeps her alive with private medical insurance.

But last week, Ms. Bueso received a letter from the United States government that told her she would face deportation if she did not leave the country within 33 days, an order described by her doctor, lawyer and mother as tantamount to a “death sentence.”

"I have been feeling super scared and overwhelmed,” said Ms. Bueso, whose lower body is paralyzed from the disease, an enzyme disorder that inhibits cells from processing sugars. “The treatment that I receive keeps me alive.”

It has been 16 years since Ms. Bueso began receiving weekly infusions of the approved drug, Naglazyme. She has built a productive life despite the crippling disease. Last year, she graduated summa cum laude from California State University, East Bay, where she worked with the school to start a scholarship for students with rare diseases.

Neither the drug nor the medical care that she requires is available in Guatemala. Without the drug, her health is expected to quickly deteriorate. Her breathing could become belabored; she could suffer cardiac arrest and become susceptible to infections.

When Mr. Lawler, the family’s lawyer, told them about the government’s decision last week, Ms. Bueso began to shake uncontrollably.

“We were crying with the nurses, doctors, everyone,” her mother, Karla Bueso, said. “Without her treatment, it’s like a death sentence. It has been hard to process.”

A spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Services said requests for deferred action must now be made to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency responsible for removing people from the country.

What could be more inhumane than that?

Must watch - Randy Rainbow's 'Cheeto Christ Stupid-Czar'

Cheeto Christ Stupid-Czar is Randy Rainbow’s best of the best in which he skewers Trump as God.

The HuffPost reports on ’Cheeto Christ’ Trends After Randy Rainbow Releases Video Mocking Trump’s God Complex. “Cheeto Christ Stupid-Czar” is the comedian’s take on Trump calling himself the chosen one — set to the tunes of the “Jesus Christ Superstar” musical.

Last week, Rainbow said in an interview with CNN that he saw his political satire as a means of healing with humor during turbulent times.

“I understand now that what I’m doing is really even more important than I knew. I think it’s just a testament to how healing and important — especially in times like this — humor is.”

Watch the full “Cheeto Christ Stupid-Czar” music video linked in the HuffPost review.

Thanks to Roving Reporter Sherry for this excellent tip.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

I don't want no Trump exhaustion

With apologies to the Rolling Stones and their song Satisfaction:

We don’t want no Trump exhaustion, I don’t want no Trump exhaustion
Cause I try and I sigh and I cry might I die
Before I get some Trump exhaustion, Just don’t want no Trump exhaustion

When I started posting the Mournday Mourning Illustrated Gnus, based on the compilation of political cartoons by the AZ Blue Meanie, I found the toons funny for the most part. Every third or fourth toon I had to stop and cackle and even guffaw. But I’ve had an insight during the last couple of months. I no longer find them funny. They’re just news, mainly bad news, and sad commentaries about our democracy, its economy, and the freak show that passes for government in the age of King Donald the Crazy.

Let me be clear. I’m not complaining about political cartoonists. They are doing what they always have done. It’s the subject matter that has changed. It’s what our nation “under” Trump has become.

Or, it may be that all of us, me included, have changed. That’s a real possibility considered by NY Times columnist Frank Bruni who says that Donald Trump Has Worn Us All Out. But he sees a light at the end of this dark tunnel: And maybe our exhaustion spells his end.

Donald Trump’s presidency has baffled me, enraged me and above all saddened me, because I’m a stubborn believer in America’s promise, which he mocks and imperils.

But last week his presidency did something to me that it hadn’t done before. It absolutely flattened me.

I woke up Saturday, made my coffee, shuffled to my computer, started to glance at the news and suddenly had to stop. I couldn’t go on. Trump had yet again said something untrue, once more suggested something absurd, contradicted himself, deified himself, claimed martyrdom, blamed Barack Obama, made his billionth threat and hurled his trillionth insult.

That was all clear from the headlines, which were as much as I could take. He had commandeered too many of my thoughts, run roughshod over too many of my emotions, made me question too many articles of faith.

I was sapped — if not quite of the will to live, then of the will to tweet, to Google and to surf the cable channels, where his furious mien and curious mane are ubiquitous. What I was feeling was beyond Trump fatigue and bigger than Trump exhaustion. It was Trump enervation. Trump enfeeblement.

And within it I saw a ray of hope.

Until now it has been unclear to me precisely how Trump ends. His manifestly rotten character hasn’t alienated his supporters, who are all too ready with rationalizations and fluent in trade-offs. They’re also unbothered by many of his missteps, because he has sold those to a cynical electorate as media fables and rivals’ fabrications. He’s so enterprising and assiduous at pointing the finger elsewhere that many voters have lost their bearings. Defeat is victory. Oppressors are liberators. Corruption is caring. Mar-a-Loco is Shangri-La.

But Americans of all persuasions recognize melodrama when it keeps smacking them in the head, and he has manufactured a bruising degree of it. They’re not keen on Washington or politics, so they don’t care for the way in which fevered discussions of both have become so pervasive as to be ambient.

They’re woozy and wiped out, and they can’t lay their depletion on the doorsteps of frustrated Democrats and Fake News. The president’s tweets speak for themselves, in both volume and vitriol. The president’s thunder is deafening without any amplification by CNN or MSNBC.

The turnover in his White House and the bloat of a Trump-administration diaspora can’t be dismissed as the detritus of disruption, the flotsam and jetsam of an unconventional management style. They’re what happens when you place a cyclone at the Resolute Desk. Everything splinters and screams, and you can’t find a safe space.

“Even Trump’s Supporters Are Getting Tired of His Daily Drama” was the headline on Jim Geraghty’s Monday column in National Review, which sometimes travels fantastically creative routes to reach the sunny side of Trump. Geraghty wrote that the publication’s editors “are exhausted with presidential tweets, from asking whether Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell or Chinese leader Chairman Xi is the bigger enemy, to ‘hereby ordering’ private companies to look for alternatives to operations in China.”

He linked to a lament by the conservative writer Rod Dreher, who, he noted, “is exhausted from the president behaving like ‘a clown who refuses to meet with the prime minister of Denmark because she won’t sell him Greenland.’”

Notice a theme? Apparently weariness with Trump’s wackiness does something virtually unheard-of in the United States circa 2019: It transcends partisanship.

Trump’s instinct and strategy are to conquer by overwhelming. But there’s a difference between wearing people down and wearing them out. He’s like the last seasons of “House of Cards” — a riveting spectacle devolved into a repellent burlesque, so unrestrained in its appetites that it devoured itself.

I wouldn’t be surprised if voters consciously or subconsciously conclude that they just can’t continue to live like this and that four more years would be ruinous, if not to the country as a whole, then to our individual psyches. By the time Election Day rolls around, they may crave nothing more electric than stability and serenity. That wouldn’t be a bad Democratic bumper sticker. It’s essentially the message of Joe Biden’s campaign.

Playing the numbers

According to Morning Consult’s tracking poll, Trump’s approval rating in vital swing states has declined significantly since he took office. Take Wisconsin: His approval rating in January 2017 was 47 percent, and his disapproval rating was 41, for a net plus of six percentage points. Now his approval has fallen to 41 while his disapproval has climbed to 55, for a net minus of 14.

We can reduce that still further to a single number - the distance from +6 to –14 is a drop of 20 points for a score of minus 20. I did that for several states for the changes from January ’17 to July ’19.

For example, the rust belt states that handed Trump the election, Michigan: –20, Ohio: –26, Pennsylvania: –17, and Wisconsin: –19, all went for Trump - but no longer according to these polling data.

New York ( –32 ) started 2017 with a slight positive approval but made a huge reversal by 2019.

That pattern holds for California ( –24 ), a state that started out disapproving of Trump in 2017.

The pattern also holds for those states (for example, West Virginia: –19, North Dakota: –18, Texas: –14) that still give Trump net approval in July 2019.

And here at home, Arizona started with a 20-point net approval in January 2017. By July of this year Arizona flipped to a net disapproval of minus 7. That’s right. AZ did a 27-point reversal.

So, according to the Morning Consult, the nation as a whole has soured on Trump. Whether that translates to a Blue wave in 2020 depends on lots of other things- like who the Dems pick, and the amazing ability of Trump voters to rationalize his worst, even likely criminal, behaviors.

You can work up some of the other states using the interactive graphics at the Morning Consult’s tracking poll.

Bruni concludes:

Maybe that reflects voters’ economic worries. I suspect it’s just as much about their exhaustion. They’ve binged on Trump and now they’re overstuffed with Trump, and if Democratic candidates are smart, they’ll not dwell on his mess and madness, because voters have taken his measure and made their judgments, and what many of them want is release from the incessant drumbeat of that infernal syllable: Trump, Trump, Trump.

They’d like a new mini-series with a different cast, and Democrats aren’t giving them that if they keep putting Trump’s name above the title. On Saturday and then again on Sunday, I turned the whole damn show off and fled to the park for fresh air. I pray that’s some sort of omen.

If we can get beyond Trump, if our nation survives another year or so, I might recover from my exhaustion and laugh at the toons once again.

Thanks to our Roving Reporter Sherry for pointing us at the Bruni essay.

Imagine another Senator named McCarthy - this time challenging McSally

Yesterday we learned from The Hill that McSally gets new primary challenger. That’s not good news for McSally and it’;s not even good news for the rest of us. Read on to see why.

Daniel McCarthy, a Phoenix businessman, announced his challenge to Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), setting up a potentially bruising and expensive Republican primary in a state the GOP is eager to hold in 2020.

McCarthy announced his intention to seek the Republican Senate nomination in an interview with Phoenix-area television station ABC 15 set to air later on Wednesday.

Speculation has swirled for months that McCarthy, a cosmetics company executive, could enter the Senate race.

McCarthy was scheduled to meet with Arizona’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday, but said earlier this week that he had canceled the meeting, citing Ducey’s support of so-called red-flag laws that allow law enforcement officials to temporarily confiscate firearms from people deemed a danger to themselves and others.

“I look forward to communicating with the Governor and all of Arizona about how dangerous this type of policy is,” McCarthy said in a statement Tuesday. “Right now, I am on a listening tour across Arizona. When discussing Red Flag Laws, the consensus is that they are a slippery slope.”

Scriber thinks that’s a reds flag on this guy’s candidacy. It sets up a contest between the current right-winger and an even more extreme right-winger.

Imagine the deliciousness of a guy named McCarthy in the Senate. As McCarthy tried to attack the supporters of background checks and red flag laws, as in the Army-McCarthy hearings: Welch responded with the immortal lines that ultimately ended McCarthy’s career: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.” When McCarthy tried to continue his attack, Welch angrily interrupted, “… You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”

This morning the AZ Blue Meanie at Blog for Arizona had more to say in Martha McSally gets a second primary challenger, meet Daniel McCarthy.

Citing the report in the Arizona Republic:

McCarthy casts himself as conservative more aligned with the conservative base in today’s Republican Party than McSally. In interviews and Facebook posts, he has supported the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the 2017 Republican tax law, and Trump’s signature border wall plan.

McSally has a history of supporting all of those policies, in one form or another.

In recent weeks, McCarthy has attacked McSally over her comments that she is “open” to to act on warnings of violent tendencies or activities by people who may have access to guns.

Larry Sabato, the political scientist who directs the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said McCarthy could complicate McSally’s efforts to woo more moderate voters.

“He can spend some bucks and he can make some damaging attacks, and all in all that’s bad news for her,” Sabato said. “He may drive her to the right while the Arizona electorate is clearly moderating” to a more purple status.

After an event in Scottsdale, McSally downplayed the news of drawing a primary challenger. Kelli Ward, her 2018 primary opponent who now serves as the chair of the state Republican Party, stood behind her in solidarity.

“When it comes to the campaign, which will come later, we are unified,” McSally said. "I’m endorsed by President Trump. We are unified in the Republican Party. We are working together and we are going to make sure that we hold this seat up and down the ticket for Republicans for our future. And that’s our focus."

And that’s that.

Thanks to Roving Reporter Sherry for The Hill citation.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Making America crazy - part 3 - America IS crazy

Trump's rapture
Trump's rapture:
Making America Gaga Again

Previously I posted on the real problem with Trump. He’s a symptom of a deeper disease. Or, if you prefer, he’s a symbol of something amiss in our society. For example, More on the psychology of Trump voters - why nothing shakes their faith. “The real story I continue to claim is not Trump but what he represents - a large proportion of the electorate which is prepared to believe his lies and who seem immune to rational thought. They will still be here after Trump, hopefully, is dumped. They will still vote for the Republican candidates who deliver them nothing but robbery to pay for tax cuts for the rich.”

AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona made similar point this morning: Donald Trump is unfit for office, but it’s America that needs an intervention. He cited this report from salon.com: Nuking the hurricane: Diagnosing Trump’s apparent mental illness isn’t the point. We don’t need a medical diagnosis to understand that the guy who wants to nuke hurricanes is unfit for office. Here I’ll follow up with snippets from the salon.com article by Amanda Marcotte.

[Psychologists like] Dr. Allen Frances, a former chair of psychiatry at Duke University, continue to argue that this discussion only serves to stigmatize people with mental health conditions, most of whom are not raving monsters set on destroying the country in order to bolster their own egos.

“Calling Trump crazy hides the fact that we’re crazy for having elected him,” Frances argued to [Brian] Stelter on CNN.

Frances’ comments point to the larger problem with this endless debate: Whether Trump is actually a diagnosable sociopath or whether he’s just providing an Oscar-worthy multi-decade performance for the cameras may not really be a meaningful distinction. What matters is that so many Americans are willing — and even eager — to vote for someone who acts this way.

Trump’s approval ratings never drop much below 40%. He got nearly 46% of the vote — less than Hillary Clinton did, but enough to win a majority in the Electoral College. A huge percentage of Republicans, who have disproportionate representation, are fully aware that Trump is a vile person in every way, and are not only fine with it, but actually seem to like him better because of that. for it. After all, putting a racist, misogynist ignoramus who appears to have no regard for any other person than himself in the highest office in the land is triggering the liberals, big-time. And making liberals cry is the central organizing principle of the modern American right.

Trump’s fans already know he’s a confessed sexual predator and compulsive adulterer, and many of them have created elaborate justifications for why that makes him more, not less, qualified to be president. If the fact that someone is a sexual predator who has been credibly accused of rape isn’t a deal-breaker, than a formal diagnosis of a serious mental-health condition is unlikely to make a difference. It’ll just be dismissed as fake news, quibbled to death …

The cause of Trump’s behavior — whether he is actually a sociopath or just so pampered and privileged that he acts like one — is ultimately not the real issue here. Even after he’s out of office (10 or 14 years from now, ha ha) we still have the problem that 40% of the American electorate country eagerly supported a man whose entire personality could be described as “unfit.” They did so for the ugliest possible reasons: Racism, sexism and a willingness to end democracy rather than share power with people who look different or come from different backgrounds. Even if we could get a diagnosis for Trump, what do we do about all the people who love him?

We can start by beating their Representatives and Senators at the ballot box. Every single one of them.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Crazy - the intro

Willie Nelson, back in 1961, wrote “Crazy”, a song made popular by singer Patsy Cline. I’ve provided the links to their recordings. Now I’ll take some liberties with the lyrics.

Crazy, I’m crazy for having such power
Driven crazy by my hate for those Blue
Voters love me so long as I make Fox News
But when will they elect somebody new?

Worry, so insecure I must worry
Wondering what to the world should I do?
Thinking that my bullying could hold you
I’m crazy for grabbing and crazy for groping

And I’m crazy for lying to you

The next two posts make the case that when Trump is not lying, he’s crazy.

Making America crazy - part 1

Make America Crazy Again

Scriber’s Usually Unreliable Sources are said to have uncovered the back story of Trump’s campaign slogan, Make America Great Again.“ The logo is MAGA. Trump, embracing his own mental instability actually is claimed to have wanted MACA - short for ”Make America Crazy Again." Some staffer mistook G instead of C. Observe that the difference is just two keystrokes.

What’s the evidence that Trump meant Crazy (and not Great)? There are numerous examples in this post and elsewhere in my postings (www.skyislandscriber.com). In particular I remind you of my simple formula, X/AntiX that describes how Trump has staffed the various positions, departments, and agencies (X) with leaders, AntiX, who are fiercely committed to destroy what they are responsible for. The leader of EPA is its enemy. The leader of Education wants less of it. The AG, head of the Justice Department, has perverted it in service of Trump. Then you have his compulsive lying. President Trump has made 12,019 false or misleading claims over 928 days. His average is 13 per day but now it’s closer to 20. That’s one an hour even while he sleeps. Those lies are indicative of Trump’s dissociation from reality. He’s given the boot to competent advisors who, forlornly, tried to restrain Trump’s insane impulses. He’s pretty much trashed relations with our strongest allies. And he has embraced dictators of our adversaries as bosom buddies.

So, onward with other views of Trump’s “unraveling”, what is at the root of it, and what must be done about it.

Trump unraveling

Michael Gerson (Washington Post) wrote [Last week proved it, Trump is unraveling][gerson].

Historians studying the Trump presidency will have a prodigious amount of digital material that demands examination but defies explanation. The president’s Aug. 21, half-hour, South Lawn press availability deserves to be at the top of that list.

With the whir of a helicopter engine in the background, President Trump veered from topic to topic with utter confidence, alarming ignorance, minimal coherence and relentless duplicity.

For example:

Of the wounded and grieving families Trump visited following recent mass shootings: “The love for me,” he boasted, “and my love for them was unparalleled.” And this was demonstrated by “hundreds and hundreds of people all over the floor.” No one draws a bigger crowd in an intensive care unit.

On pursuing the trade war with China, Trump called himself the “chosen one.” This came within hours of retweeting the claim he is loved like “the second coming of God.”

What to make of this? First, the Trump presidency is not just unfolding, it is unraveling. All narcissists believe they are at the center of the universe. But what happens when a narcissist is actually placed at the center of the universe? The “chosen one” happens. Trump is not just arguing for an alternative set of policies; he is asserting an alternative version of reality, in which resistance to his will is disloyalty to the country.

Second, the president has systemically removed from his circle anyone who finds this appalling. Every president has the right to advisers who share his basic worldview. But Trump appears, on many topics, to have stopped taking advice altogether. His counselors are now flunkies. The proof of their loyalty is not found in the honesty of their opinions but in the regurgitation of his insanity.

Third, the president is increasingly prone to the equation of the national interest with his personal manias. [Scriber: That’s a theme elsewhere in this post.] He is perfectly willing to threaten relations with Denmark — or to force the Israeli government into a difficult choice — if it serves his tweeted whims. This approach is more characteristic of personal rule than democratic leadership. Self-worship is inconsistent with true patriotism.

Trump’s promotion of moral and political chaos puts other members of his party in a difficult position. Difficult, but not complicated. It is their public duty to say that foolish things are foolish, that insane things are insane, that bigoted things are bigoted. On growing evidence, their failure to do so is abetting the country’s decline into farce.

Trump’s fundamental confusion causes delusion

Or so I think based on NY Times columnist Charles M. Blow’s opinion of Trump’s Paradigm of the Personal and how “He confuses the way he thinks he is treated with the well-being of the country.” (h/t Roving Reporter Sherry).

For Donald Trump, all is personal.

And in his view, he is not the executive of the company. He is the embodiment of the country. He runs the country the way he ran his business, as the curating and promotion of his personal brand.

The people who support him are customers — people to be sold a vision and a dream. The people who criticize or oppose him threaten the brand and must be dealt with.

For Trump, everything is image-based and rooted in the appearance of personal relationships. When the Danish prime minister rebuffed his overture about buying Greenland, calling the idea “absurd,” Trump threw a tantrum and canceled his visit to Denmark.

Trump discussed the episode at one of his press gaggles, calling the prime minister’s response “nasty’ and saying, “We can’t treat the United States of America the way they treated us under President Obama.” He went on to say: “She’s not talking to me. She’s talking to the United States of America. You don’t talk to the United States that way, at least under me.”

“under me”? Trump’s instincts are monarchical, autocratic, but not democratic.

Everything in Trump’s view is about whether someone is nice or nasty to him. It’s not about the country at all. It’s not about historical precedent or value of continuity.

His dislike of his predecessors — Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and even Jimmy Carter — is personal, not rooted in policy. He has a particular obsession with Obama, and has set about to undo everything Obama had done.

It’s petty and small and beneath the presidency, much like Trump himself.

[Including Kim and Putin] Everyone around Trump knows his weakness: He is a bottomless pit of emotional need, someone who desperately wants friends but doesn’t have the emotional quotient to know how to make and keep them. So, they flatter him and inflate him.

That “everyone” includes members of his administration for whom the flattering is a survival mechanism.

In George Washington’s farewell address of 1796, he said:

“The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.”

Trump is trying to embody the country and to lead it astray in the way that Washington warned against. Trump is a slave to his emotions, and this impulse is doing great harm to the nation, both internally and on the world stage.

I’m not sure that damage is irreparable. Our democracy, though fragile in many ways, has proved remarkably durable in others. But there is no doubt that the damage Trump is doing is deep and will take time and effort to undo.

Trump’s personal problems will leave a national scar.

What can be done …

… about a crazy president? Apparently not much. Supposedly many in the administration and congress have an understanding of the problem but for various reasons are not inclined to any productive course of action.

Jennifer Rubin (Washington Post) has some ideas in Stop the craziness.

Democrats should not get down in the mud with Trump. They should not spew obscenities, cruel remarks and bigoted stereotypes. However, they do want to name Trump’s greatest weakness and create an easy-to-remember message associated with the Democratic nominee. I humbly offer: “Stop the Craziness” (or “Stop the Crazy” or “End the Crazy,” if you want to fit it on a hat).

After all, Trump’s most defining feature these days is a frightful, manic personality more detached from reality than ever before. On Sunday, newly announced candidate Joe Walsh described the phenomenon that most of us have observed but too few say out loud: “We’ve got a guy in the White House who’s unfit. Completely unfit to be president. … ”Everybody believes — in the Republican Party, everybody believes that he’s unfit.” He continued, “The country is sick of this guy’s tantrum. He’s — he’s a child. Again, the litany — he lies every time he opens his mouth. Look at what’s happened this week. He is — the president of the United States is tweeting us into a recession. I can tell you … that most of my former colleagues up on the Hill, they agree privately with everything I’m saying.” He reiterated, “You can’t believe a word he says. And again, I don’t care your politics, that should concern you. He’s nuts. He’s erratic. He’s cruel. He stokes bigotry. He’s incompetent. He doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

We don’t need a medical diagnosis or the 25th Amendment to conclude Trump is crazy in the colloquial sense — cuckoo, nuts, non compos mentis, off his rocker, unhinged. Even Republicans who like the tax cuts or the judges at some level understand this is not normal behavior and, at key moments, feels downright scary.

Name his greatest weakness. Say out loud what’s in the thought bubble above everyone’s head. And you can be certain between now and Election Day 2020, he will say and do things that confirm he is unfit and unstable. Crazy Trump.

This is crucial: It’s one thing to be mean and corrupt. His defenders say lots of politicians are. It is quite another to say he’s so erratic, so unhinged, so crazy that he sends the economy into a tailspin and risks international conflict (or capitulation to enemies such as Kim Jong Un, who Trump — crazily — believes likes him). Tying Trump’s unfitness to dangers to the country and to voters’ personal safety and prosperity should be a key objective for the eventual nominee. Unlike in 2016, “Crazy Trump” doesn’t make a moral judgment. It’s a statement of fact, a highly inconvenient fact for his apologists.

And one doesn’t have to operate in hypotheticals to see the damage he is already doing. His white-nationalist language has fortified and energized violent white nationalists who quote back his catchphrases and pay homage to him. How many other mass killers is Trump going to set off in his culture warfare, which he uses to rile up his base?

Likewise, his escalating trade war, on-again-off-again tax cuts and “order” for American businesses to stay out of China have sent markets plummeting, paralyzed business decision-making and hiked the chance of a recession. His craziness is both dangerous and destructive.

"Stop the Craziness” also suggests something more prevalent and equally upsetting. Trump’s craziness provokes gaslighting and excuse-mongering from his allies and prompts us all to check our social media once a minute to make sure something calamitous hasn’t occurred. His constant lying — claiming victory in the midst of obvious defeat and rewriting history — infuriates those who know better and suggests to them that his followers are dim or deluded or both. Pretending he is a normal president, which his party and too often the media do, is, well, crazy. It’s all that craziness we want to end, too.

Making America crazy - Part 2

Jennifer Rubin has more: When Trump’s not lying, he sounds crazy. Scriber thinks he doesn’t just sound crazy …

Apparently, President Trump will lie about anything. He lies that his wife has gotten to know North Korea President Kim Jong Un. They’ve never met. He lies that Russia was excluded from the Group of Eight (now Group of Seven) because Vladimir Putin got the better of former president Barack Obama (and then lied that the other members agree with him); in fact, the members collectively threw Russia out for invading and occupying Ukraine. (“Asked why he continued to falsely blame Obama for the annexation of Crimea, as he did almost a dozen times Monday, the president suggested that he knew the black journalist asking the question, Yamiche Alcindor of PBS News, had an ulterior motive.”) He lied that he had concluded a trade deal with Japan when in fact there was only a deal “in principle.”

CNN’s Daniel Dale, who tracks Trump’s untruths, counted “at least 8 false claims in his G7 presser, plus at least 5 more misleading/questionable/lacking in key context. (Those included his suggestion that doing mandatory environmental impact statements as a developer makes him an environmentalist.)”

And those were on top of the 12,000+ false claims and outright lies just since he was elected.

When he is not lying, Trump sounds crazy. (“He described both Iran and North Korea in terms of their real estate potential, saying the countries would want to deal with Trump because they sit on valuable, or gentrifying, properties… . He showed no concern that the North Korean dictator had violated U.N. resolutions by firing missiles, instead saying that Kim would not personally disappoint Trump.”) He wants to consider extending loans to the mullahs. (Yes, he keeps claiming Obama “gave” Iran $150 billion, which itself is false.)

The Post’s View: Trump gives a stunning display of incoherence at the G–7

Stephen Roach, a senior fellow at Yale University and the former Morgan Stanley Asia chairman, said on CNBC, “The president has almost become unhinged in dealing with China on a day-to-day basis… . Having gone through this back and forth on the on again-off again trade deal, the president and his advisors have really lost their credibility in assessing the state of play in this trade conflict.”

He is certainly not alone. The Associated Press quotes a toy company CEO: "We are on Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride. Never have we ever experienced such an unhinged practice of governance. It’s out of control and outrageous.”

Trump uses the press conference to do an infomercial for his Doral golf club, suggesting he will host the next G–7. He calls climate change a “niche” issue and describes himself as an environmentalist despite rolling back Environmental Protection Agency regulations, allowing energy development on former public lands, rolling back the Endangered Species Act and championing coal.

The good news is that mainstream news organizations are calling out the lies and pointing out the crazy talk. Now they need to start asking each and every Republican whether they agree with his assertions and/or think the trade negotiations are in good hands. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) once said he feared giving Trump the nuclear codes. What about now?

We know that if he were the CEO of a public company,he’d have been relieved of his duties weeks if not months ago. However, Republicans are too embarrassed or too delusional to put an end to this dangerous, frightful situation. They even want to give him another term. That might be even crazier than Trump.

And that is why former Congressman David Jolly says that we must beat every single Republican in 2020. That’s the only way to stop the craziness of Trump brought to us and sustained by the GOP.

FEC renamed Federal Election Corruption

Nah, no one did that. But some one should. America, you see, has accepted institutionalized corruption as a driving force in its electoral policies and practices.

Judd Legum blows the whistle on the Federal Election Commission in An election without rules (Subscribers Post at popular.info). Here are excerpts.

The 2020 presidential election is just 17 months away, and soon the United States will not have an agency capable of enforcing its election laws.

Today, Federal Election Commission (FEC) Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen announced he was stepping down, effective August 31. That will leave the FEC with just three commissioners. The FEC is supposed to have six commissioners. But, by law, it needs at least four commissioners to operate. Petersen’s resignation will leave the commission without a quorum.

That means the FEC will not be able to conduct meetings, issue fines to rule-breakers, vote on the outcome of investigations. If you are running a federal campaign, it’s open season.

Individuals can donate unlimited funds to Super PACs, which are often endorsed by the candidate, and the Super PAC and campaign can coordinate their spending without any real danger the FEC taking action. This was true before Petersen’s resignation. Now campaigns that flout the rules really have nothing to worry about.

A broken system is about to get worse. After Commissioner Petersen steps down, the FEC won’t be able to issue any fines whatsoever. This is not a theoretical problem. In June, FEC Treasurer Bradley Tate sent the Trump campaign a 236-page document listing donors who made “apparent excessive, prohibited, and impermissible contributions.” Starting in August, the Trump campaign won’t have to worry about being fined for these or future violations.

The underlying issue, however, is the weakness of election law itself – particularly after Citizen’s United. Even robust enforcement of existing law would not create a system free from corrupting influences. But the failure to enforce the modest laws that are in effect has made the situation even worse.

Just this last week I posted how AZ Republican Senator Martha McSally screws up campaign finances again. Why can’t she learn. With the functional demise of the FEC, now she will not have to.

Monday, August 26, 2019

‘a gorgeous, beautiful song …’

… is how country music star Taylor Swift described it in a 2011 concert. She was referring to one of the Dixie Chicks’ signature songs, Cowboy take me away. Here is Swift doing an acoustical version..

And here are the Dixie Chicks doing the original version with lots of backup.

Disclosure: My little piece of culture was motivated by today’s Washington Post story, Why Taylor Swift’s collaboration with the Dixie Chicks is so significant (August 26).

But there is more to the story.

The short story

You may recall that lead singer of the Chicks Natalie Maines took George W. Bush to task for starting the Iraq war. She did that publicly on stage in London in 2003. She was right and Dubya was oh so wrong. The Chicks took a big hit for their criticism of a war based on cooked up intelligence. (Think not? Watch the movie about Dick Cheney, Vice.) Their fan base dried up as the cowboy hat types left and abandoned them.

The longer story

From the Post’s story last year: After the Trump-Putin news conference, here’s why people are talking about the Dixie Chicks.

For those who don’t recall the controversy: In March 2003, the Dixie Chicks — Natalie Maines, along with sisters Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire — were one of the most successful acts in country music history. While on tour in London promoting their hit album “Home,” Maines started bantering with the audience at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. It was the eve of the Iraq War.

“Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all,” Maines said to the crowd. “We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.”

The Guardian published her comments, and when the quotes made their way back home to the United States, they caused a firestorm. Country radio stations were deluged with phone calls from fans to stop playing their music. Some protesters destroyed their CDs. Their tour sponsor dropped out. They got death threats.

The trio, who released one more Grammy-winning album (with the pointed song “Not Ready to Make Nice”) before going their separate ways, was effectively blacklisted by the country music industry.

… the one element that really struck a nerve was the fact that Maines had criticized a U.S. president while abroad. …

After President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s news conference Monday in Helsinki, in which Trump called the United States “foolish” and sided with Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies that said Russia interfered in the 2016 election, social media had plenty to say. …

So now that Trump has openly criticized U.S. intelligence agencies while in Europe, the comparisons are rolling in. …

For example: “Remember when Republicans were incensed about American citizens criticizing America on foreign soil? I bet The Dixie Chicks do. I know I do.”

… Maines is still defiantly talking about politics.

“You are guilty of something,” she wrote on Twitter on Tuesday, linking to a picture of Trump. “So arrogant and scared. A weak coward. Admiring and capitulating to a much smarter dictator.”

The first reply: “And to think you guys were vilified for something that pales in comparison to what he did today.”

All that may be why I have such a strong attachment to that song.

Rumor has it that the Chicks are working on their first album in 13 years.

Me to DNC - Why can't we have a candidates debate on climate change

Judd Legum at popular.info reports on the Democratic response to severe climate change, like the burning of rain forests, in his post Burning down the party.

The Amazon is burning. July was the hottest month in recorded history. And the scientific consensus is that the world has little more than a decade to avert catastrophic global warming.

The leaders of the Democratic Party, however, are worried about giving the issue of climate change too much attention.

On Saturday, members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) voted 222 to 137 “to reject a resolution that would have effectively allowed the party’s presidential candidates to hold a debate dedicated solely to climate change.” Instead, the DNC wants candidates only to participate in climate-focused discussions at forums where candidates appear one at a time – events that tend to attract far fewer viewers.

… A June poll found that 73% of Democrats thought it was “very important” that the candidates discuss climate change during the debates. (In the debates held so far, climate change has only been a topic of discussion for a few minutes.) It is the number two issue overall among Democrats, trailing only health care. All the major candidates, including Biden, Warren, Sanders, and Harris, have publicly supported a climate debate.

So what gives with the DNC?

DNC chair Tom Perez and others warned that if they allowed a climate debate, they would be forced to hold debates “on civil rights, guns, poverty and issues affecting older Americans.” The horror!

So, gee! Democrats might have to take a stand on these issues? Or might have to educate America about them?

Or, maybe, it’s time to follow the money.

Every leading Democratic presidential candidate has pledged to reject corporate PAC money and donations of over $200 from fossil fuel executives. (The exceptions are all polling at less than 1%.) This consensus reflects a desire among Democratic voters for a candidate who is not beholden corporate interests, particularly corporations that are blocking action to curb global warming.

But while Democratic candidates have rejected corporate and fossil fuel money, the same is not true of DNC members. There are numerous members of the DNC who work for lobbying firms, including those that represent the fossil fuel industry.

One of the delegates opposing the resolution to allow for a climate debate is Maria Cardona. “It will take away time from their knocking on doors, going to all of your states to be able to campaign,” Cardona said.

Cardona is a principal at Dewey Square Group, a DC “public affairs” and lobbying firm. Dewey Square represents fossil fuel companies. In 2017, for example, Dewey Square was paid $800,000 by FirstEnergy Solutions, a now-bankrupt utility company that operates coal plants, to support a bill in Ohio that would “effectively kill Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards.” Since Dewey Square generally operates such that it does not have to disclose its clients publicly, it is unknown who Dewey Square represents now.

The DNC itself has accepted at least $60,750 from fossil fuel executives since January. A member of the DNC leadership, Associate Chairman Jaime Harrison, is a former lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry who worked to oppose the Obama administration’s Clean Power plan.

How Democrats could hold a climate debate anyway

The DNC’s threat to exclude any candidate from future debates can work against one candidate. It cannot work against all of them. If the top three candidates in the polls – Biden, Sanders, and Warren – all announced that they would participate in an upcoming debate on climate, the DNC would not exclude them from future debates.

On September 4, ten Democrats will appear at a “Climate Crisis Town Hall” sponsored by CNN. The plan now is for them to appear on stage one at a time. What would happen if they all came on stage together and held a debate?

Congressman Tim Ryan, a presidential candidate with little traction in the polls, said the DNC’s vote should be ignored. “The DNC got it wrong. We need a climate debate,” Ryan said.

What would we gain from more debates?

There are several advantages to holding more debates. Candidates still end up spending most of their fundraising dollars on TV advertising. Debates are typically watched by millions of people, giving candidates the ability to spread their message for free. (The first two Democratic debate this year drew a combined 50 million viewers.) Perhaps more importantly, each debate gives candidates a chance to hone their message and respond to attacks. Obama was seen as a fairly weak debater in the early debates of the 2008 campaign, but by the time he reached the general election, he had improved greatly. More debates could help the Democratic field, many of whom are running for the president for the first time.

There is no reason not to have more debates. Let’s howl a bit at the DNC. We might get an answer to Butch Cassidy’s question: Who are those guys?

Mournday Mourning Gnus dump - if they're not yet extinct

What the residents think of Trump buying Greenland.

Greenland
Greenland
Greenland

Here are some of the other themes, schemes, memes, and falemes in this edition of the Illustrated Gnus (inspired by cartoons from AZ Blue Meanie at Blog for Arizona).

ca·pri·cious
/kəˈpriSHəs,kəˈprēSHəs/
adjective
given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behavior.
“a capricious and often brutal administration”
synonyms: fickle, inconstant, changeable, variable, unstable, mercurial, volatile, erratic, vacillating, irregular, inconsistent, fitful, arbitrary
example:

Trump projects uncertainty over China trade war.

Asked during a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson if he had any second thoughts about escalating the trade conflict, Trump told reporters, “Yeah. For sure.”

He added, “I have second thoughts about everything.”

Hours later, the White House backpedaled. Press secretary Stephanie Grisham issued a statement saying the press had “greatly misinterpreted” Trump’s comments. She said the president only responded “in the affirmative - because he regrets not raising the tariffs higher.”

  • Trump is OK with background checks - as long as they are written by the NRA specifying “pay to the order of Donald Trump”.
  • Tump, “The chosen one”, ascended Mount Sinai and encountered a burning bush which said to Trump: “No, I’m not God you fool. I’m the economy burning up.”
  • Trump descended the mountain with a stone tablet tabloid with his edicts. One read: “Thou shalt have no other God before ME.”
  • Trump imagines himself to be the Messiah. The rest of us think of him as the MESS-iah.
  • Differing approaches to fixing the economy: “Fix the fall, guys.” (Obama) “Find a fall guy.” (Trump)
  • Trump’s 2020 campaign slogans: No Collusion, No Obstruction, No Recession. Do you believe any of them?
  • With his Greenland acquisition thwarted, Trump is thinking about other islands. Is he thinking about Hawaii? (He’ll pay for the Hawaii purchase with sales of US public lands to drillers and miners.) If not, maybe he will settle for Epstein’s island.

Parting thoughts shots

While Amazonia burns, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) refuses to have a presidential candidate debate on climate change. Who are those guys? I’ll tell you in another post.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

McSally screws up campaign finances again. Why can't she learn.

David Nir (Daily Kos Elections) reports on Sen. Martha McSally’s finances in Vulnerable Republican senator from Arizona fined for campaign finance violations—yet again.

Either she or some of her staffers have a learning disablity. The just do not learn from their mistakes.

Republican Rep. Martha McSally, who faces a difficult re-election campaign as Arizona’s junior senator next year, has once again been fined by the FEC for failing to properly disclose past campaign donations—the second time this summer she’s been hit for the exact same violation.

The latest instance, reports Dan Desai Martin at Shareblue, concerns some $54,000 that McSally raised in the final two weeks of her successful 2014 campaign for the House. During that timeframe, all federal candidates are required to report any donations of $1,000 or more within 48 hours, but McSally, of course, did not file those 48-hour notices. As a result, she was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine to the FEC—a payment she cutely labeled as “compliance fees” in an April report she filed on behalf of her otherwise defunct House committee.

Last month, McSally told the FEC she’d pay an even larger fine of $23,000 because she’d taken $319,000 in excess contributions during that same 2014 race, exceeding the $2,600 per donor limit in effect at the time. The commission also found that McSally, who has a very long history of serious campaign finance violations, hadn’t correctly disclosed $33,000 in donations from PACs during that campaign.

As we noted last time, McSally unseated Democratic Rep. Ron Barber by just 167 votes out of 219,000 cast in 2014, making hers the closest House race in the entire nation that year. We’ll never know if McSally’s improper fundraising made the difference, but we can certainly say that it might have.

Why should we be surprised, I hear you ask. The Trump culture is one in which the rule of law holds weakly if at all. One possibility is that McSally’s poor reporting record indicates intentional evasion. But that sounds too much like a conspiracy theory. I favor another explanation.

Wikipedia has some things to say about incompetence in government. For example a kakistocrat is “A very poor ruler; a member of a kakistocracy” which “ is a system of government that is run by the worst, least qualified, and/or most unscrupulous citizens.” McSally shows signs of being a kakistocrat - which would put her squarely at the nexus of the other incompetent AntiXers. Someone in her camp (she or her staffers or both) is seriously negligent either by accident or design.

Either way, like a leech in an infested swamp, McSally has a firm hold on Trump and what he stands for.

BTW: Some of this I posted on a Washington Post report back in February of this year in McSally runs afoul of campaign finance laws - again. But this is one story that needs to be raised again and again as we move toward 2020.

Donald Trump to America - ‘You Like Me! You Really Like Me!’ America to Trump - 'no we don't!'

That quote, “You Like Me! You Really Like Me”, is attributed to actress and 1984 Oscar winner Sally Field. But, as "The Cut explains in The Science of ‘You Like Me! You Really Like Me!’, that was not what she said.

Even if you’ve never seen the 1984 film Places in the Heart, in which actress Sally Field portrayed a 1930s southern widow trying to keep her farm out of foreclosure, you no doubt are familiar with Field’s acceptance speech for the Academy Award the role won her. “You like me,” she declared. “You really like me.” With the strong emphasis on the word really, it’s a classic example of the adulation that actors crave.

There are two errors in the previous paragraph, one more important than the other. The minor error: Sally Field did not actually say this line in her acceptance speech. The real line in her speech was, “I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me.” We probably misremember the quote because of the other, more important error. It isn’t just actors who are primarily motivated by being liked; we all are. The misquote is so sticky because it exemplifies a central human need.

We all have a need to belong. Signs that others like, admire and love us are central to our well-being. But until very recently, we had no idea how the brain responds to these signs. …

And Donald Trump has that need more than any other creature on this planet. So “You Like Me! You Really Like Me” expresses something that Trump might have said, and something that he desperately wants to be true, and may even believe to be true. The problem for Trump going into the 2020 election is that it is not true of wide swaths of the electorate.

Large and growing numbers of voters from important blocks really, really, REALLY, REALLY don’t like Trump and see him as unfit for the office. They may not want impeachment, but they really want him gone in 2020.

Lest you think I’m indulging a fantasy, consider the numbers that Jennifer Rubin reports in the Washington Post, Trump may be a lot more vulnerable than you think.

President Trump may have had the worst fortnight of his presidency. His most cringe-worthy moments came during his horrific visits to El Paso and Dayton, but his most revealing episodes came this week with his multiple outbursts and head-spinning reversals. He has been at his emotionally and mentally shakiest, and perhaps a growing share of Americans simply cannot ignore it.

The Aug. 15–19 Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found that just 36 percent of Americans approve of how Trump is doing his job, and 62 percent disapprove. He’s even in negative territory on the economy (46 percent approve, 51 percent do not), and draws at least 60 percent disapproval on health care, immigration, guns and foreign policy.

With similar findings, the latest Monmouth University poll tells us: “Trump’s overall job rating stands at 40% approve and 53% disapprove, which is similar to his 41% to 50% rating in June. … The usual demographic clefts remain present — men are divided on the president’s job performance (49% approve and 43% disapprove) while women are decidedly negative (31% approve and 62% disapprove). White Americans without a college degree tend to approve of Trump (55% approve and 37% disapprove), while the reverse is true among white college graduates (38% approve and 57% disapprove).”

While most Americans oppose impeachment, the Monmouth poll says, “A majority (57%) of registered voters say it is time to have someone new in the Oval Office, while just under 4-in–10 (39%) feel that Trump should be reelected in 2020.” He is losing support just about everywhere. [For example:] In approximately 300 “swing” counties, accounting for about one-fifth of the total U.S. electorate, only 35% back the incumbent’s reelection compared with 60% who want a new occupant in the White House.

This should provide a few takeaways for the 2020 election.

First, if he is less popular in red counties, blue counties and purple counties, the chances of winning the electoral vote and losing the popular (as in 2016) would seem unlikely. We see that phenomenon in some swing states where Democrats haven’t recently won electoral votes. (“Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are statistically tied with President Trump in Arizona, a state that hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in a quarter century, according to a new poll.”)

Second, the notion that “nothing matters” — a cynical expression of conventional wisdom — is dead wrong. He’s losing support all over the place, especially among women. …

Third, the intensity of opposition to Trump is through the roof. In the mid-August Morning Consult/Politico poll, his strongly disapprove number (43 percent) is nearly 20 points higher than the strongly approve number (24 percent). While the country doesn’t want him out by impeachment, a remarkably high percentage really, really want him gone after 2020.

Fourth, Trump’s numbers have never been good, at best in the middle- or high 40s. It’s hard to imagine circumstances where he suddenly is able to add support after dividing voters for so many years and aiming so intensely at his base. …

Is it time for Madame President?

Trump’s atrocious numbers should also inform Democrats’ decision about who is “electable.” The answer might be “anybody but Trump.” And while plenty of Democrats want to take no chances and go with the perceived “safe” candidate, the uptick in suburban women’s disapproval of Trump and their votes in the midterms might shift the definition of “electable.” The question should not necessarily be who is going to win white voters in the Upper Midwest, but rather who is going to win women everywhere. Harboring a karmic dream of a woman nominee ousting Trump, these are among the most engaged and enthusiastic voters. Perhaps the most electable presidential nominee, like so many of those elected Democrats in 2018, would be a woman with strong appeal to suburban women, college-educated voters, nonwhites and younger voters. As a reminder, three of the 10 candidates to qualify for the third debate are women.

So why is Trump so disliked? Perhaps it is because he doesn’t know sh!t and doesn’t know that he doesn’t know. Hence the increasingly bad news about the economy. Catherine Rampell, also at the Post, explains how Trump’s tendency to double down on bad ideas doesn’t bode well for the economy.

There are lots of reasons to worry about how President Trump would handle a recession, should we tip into one. There’s his incompetent economic team. Or the limited fiscal policy tools at his disposal, given that Republicans already spent nearly $2 trillion on tax cuts. Or his efforts to discredit the Federal Reserve just when we’ll need it most.

One underrated concern: Trump’s tendency to double down on stupid and destructive ideas, despite — perhaps because of? — overwhelming evidence of their stupidity and destructiveness.

Trump’s worst policies, economic or otherwise, tend to follow a pattern. First, he posits something like: Sure, the experts say that has predictably high costs and bad consequences. But ignore them! Believe me, it’s a great idea, and it’ll be completely costless.

To wit: Tax cuts will pay for themselves, without injury to deficits. China will pay all the tariffs, without harm to U.S. importers, manufacturers, retailers, farmers. Mexico will pay for the wall, without costs to U.S. taxpayers or international relations.

Actually, Escalation in U.S.-China trade war threatens global economy, poses Trump reelection risk is a report in marketwatch.com. China targets soybeans, autos and other products in key swing states ahead of 2020 election.

Many countries around the world are closely tied to the Chinese economy, however, and the damage caused by the U.S. trade fight has radiated out and harmed others.

A slowing global economy, in turn, has harmed U.S. exporters and manufacturers. A new survey of manufacturing executives, for instance, suggests the sector contracted in August for the first time since the end of the 2007–2009 Great Recession.

As if all that weren’t enough the Times in its Friday evening briefing email …

President Trump demanded that U.S. companies leave China after Beijing threatened new tariffs on $75 billion of American goods. He also said he would increase tariffs on all Chinese products.

In a series of angry tweets, Mr. Trump said American companies are “ hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing our companies HOME and making your products in the USA.” It was not clear how the president planned to enforce his demands.

U.S. stocks fell more than 2 percent over Mr. Trump’s comments, highlighting the uncertainty stoked by the escalating trade war. The Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell, said the central bank was limited in its ability to offset Mr. Trump’s trade policies. The president responded, “My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or Chairman Xi?”

“hereby ordered”? This is not America. It’s like a communist dictator issuing commands and threats.

In response, the Dow was down this Friday by over 500 points after China’s most recent threatened retaliation in response to Trump’s tariffs - and Trump’s further escalation.

Perhaps that’s a reason why the American voters have reason to say to Trump “We really don’t like you. We really don’t like you.”

But Trump deludes himself about this too. Rampell concludes:

The possibility of a synchronized global downturn would require some sort of coordinated global policy response, just as it did a decade ago during the Great Recession. But rather than evaluating how we got to the present situation, or how to make amends with the allies we might need to help get us out of it, we already know what Trump’s objective will be: proving his very wrong ideas were very right all along.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

The prince of 'petty pique' is frightening

The NY Times Editorial Board asks Trump, Greenland, Denmark. Is This Real Life? and follows with an alternative: Or a Peter Sellers movie? (h/t Roving Reporter Sherry).

I want to buy Greenland, said President Trump. No way, said the Danes and Greenlanders, who share control over the giant frozen island and its rich mineral treasures. Then I’m not going to visit your queen, shot back the self-proclaimed master of the real estate deal, who can’t stand being rebuffed. “Is this some sort of joke?” tweeted Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a former Danish prime minister, speaking for everyone.

That’s the gist of it, one of the more astounding plays by a president who finds new ways to amaze, alienate and infuriate almost daily.

To be fair to the president, acquiring Greenland would be nice for the United States. The island sits atop a trove of rare-earth metals, a category whose mining and export is increasingly dominated by China. It also has national security importance to the United States, which maintains its northernmost missile-warning, space surveillance and deepwater seaport at the Thule Air Base on Greenland’s northwestern coast. China has tried repeatedly to get a foothold on the island, but has been blocked so far by Denmark.

Mr. Trump is not the first American president to seek to buy Greenland; Harry Truman tried and failed in 1946. And earlier presidents did acquire quite a bit of other territories through purchases: Thomas Jefferson concluded the Louisiana Purchase with France in 1803; Andrew Johnson bought Alaska in 1867; and Woodrow Wilson picked up the Danish West Indies, now the United States Virgin Islands, from Denmark in 1917.

So Mr. Trump would have chalked up quite a historic feat had he closed on the acquisition of Greenland. But the United States doesn’t need to own Greenland to maintain a major military base there. More to the point, the world in which major powers deemed it their civilizing mission to conquer or buy territories and colonies is long over — witness the furor over Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea from Ukraine.

“Greenland is not for sale,” declared the Danish prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, calling the idea “absurd.”

“Greenland is not Danish. Greenland belongs to Greenland,” she said. “I strongly hope that this is not meant seriously.”

She added, pointedly: “Thankfully, the time where you buy and sell other countries and populations is over. Let’s leave it there.”

Mr. Trump, responding on Wednesday, called Ms. Frederiksen’s response to his overture “nasty,” and said: “You don’t talk to the United States that way. At least under me.”

What came through in Mr. Trump’s approach was not realpolitik, but a crude and insulting transactional vision of a world in which buying a self-ruled territory and its more than 56,000 people was just another “large real estate deal” — in his view, one that Denmark should welcome because Greenland was purportedly draining $700 million a year in Danish subsidies.

When first reported in The Wall Street Journal last Friday, the idea drew howls of hilarity. But when Mr. Trump made clear he was serious, amusement turned to astonishment and, in Denmark and Greenland, to indignation. Mr. Trump’s claim that “Denmark essentially owns it” overlooked the fact that Greenland effectively runs its own affairs while Denmark, its sovereign owner, takes care of defense and foreign policy.

Foreign leaders from Justin Trudeau to Theresa May have learned that Mr. Trump’s oversize ego does not take rejection lightly. Still, it came as a shock to the Danes when the president abruptly canceled a visit to Denmark scheduled for Sept. 2 to 3, after earlier insisting that buying Greenland was not on the agenda. The insult was compounded by the fact that the visit was to include a formal reception by Queen Margrethe II. Welcoming billboards were already in place proclaiming, “Partner, ally, friend.”

That the president of the United States would demonstrate such willful ignorance of how the world works, that he would treat a territory and its independent people like goods and chattel, that he would so readily damage relations with an old and important ally out of petty pique, is frightening.

The King of Israel speaks in tongues - Delusions of divinity and the wealth of kings

The King of Israel

CNN reports Trump thanks conspiracy theorist for defending his comments about Jewish Democrats.

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump reached for the praise of a conservative conspiracy theorist on Wednesday to defend him amid criticism over his questioning the loyalty of Jewish Democratic voters, something that was quickly criticized as anti-Semitic.

Trump shared quotes of Wayne Allyn Root’s praise, tweeting Wednesday morning: “President Trump is the greatest President for Jews and for Israel in the history of the world, not just America, he is the best President for Israel in the history of the world … and the Jewish people in Israel love him (…) like he’s the King of Israel.

The tweets come a day after Trump got blowback from Jewish leaders for criticizing Jewish Americans who vote for Democrats, saying that “it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

Some argue that President was dabbling in the anti-Semitic trope of “dual loyalty,” which questions the loyalty of Jewish citizens. The comment was part of the President’s response to two Democratic congresswomen being barred for entering Israel over their support for a boycott against the country.

Trump has shared Root’s praise before, calling him “highly respected” in a November 2015 tweet and sharing several opinion pieces written by him over the years.

But Root, a Newsmax host and radio show host, has a history of promoting conspiracy theories and circulating false information. Root has said former President Barack Obama “was sent here to destroy this country.” He has claimed the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas was “clearly” a “coordinated Muslim terror attack” and that the deadly violence at protests in Charlottesville Virginia, was likely perpetrated by “paid actors & infiltrators hired by” Democratic megadonor George Soros.

Less than a year after falsely blaming Islamic terror for the Las Vegas shooting, Root delivered opening remarks at a Trump rally in Las Vegas. At the time, Root claimed he was “personally requested” to speak by the President.

Trump reaffirmed his comments after he was asked about the criticism on Wednesday afternoon. He said Jewish Americans who vote for Democrats are “being very disloyal to Jewish people and … being very disloyal to Israel and only weak people would say anything other than that.”

During the 2018 midterm elections, Jewish Americans voted for the Democratic Party by about a 3:1 margin. According to exit polls, only about 10% of Jewish voters identified as Republicans compared to 64% who identified as Democrats.

“No conservative I’ve ever met commits violence,” he added.

Delusions of Divinity - and speaking in tongues

Using his own wurds Gail Collins (NY Times via Roving Reporter Sherry) reports that Trump Goes Godly. The man in the White House thinks he’s a miracle.

Do you blame God for Donald Trump?

“I am the chosen one,” Trump announced on Wednesday. O.K., he was talking about fighting his trade war with China, not ascending into heaven. It was all a joke, sort of. But we’ve been so far down the megalomania road with this president that it would not be a total surprise to discover he had delusions of divinity.

Maybe at night, when he’s alone with nobody but Fox News to keep him company, Trump envisions a future in which all Americans will appreciate how much he’s suffered for their salvation. He does seem to think of himself as something super-special. And if you listen to him answering questions without the help of a teleprompter, there is a tendency to wonder if he’s speaking in tongues.

Take his interchange with reporters Wednesday. There were, naturally, questions about gun laws — particularly background checks. Trump had wanted to tackle that issue in a big way until he sorta didn’t. Now he’s decided the current system is already “very strong.”

And then he elaborated. Follow along:

“But we are going to be filling in some of the loopholes, as we call them, at the border and will be speaking about it at the border. It would be really nice if the Democrats would indeed fix the loopholes because it would be really nice. But despite that, I want to thank Mexico. They have 26,000 soldiers at our border and they’re really stopping people from coming in. So what happens is with background checks, we’re dealing with Democrats, we’re dealing with Republicans. …”

You will notice that he seems to be mixing up the Mexican border with gun regulation. This may be because he has a godlike ability to see things that no one else can see. In his getting-on-the-helicopter Q&A with the media, he referred twice to the way his great wall has been growing by leaps and bounds. (“The wall is being built — we’re building tremendous numbers of miles of wall right now.”) Mere mortals might wonder where the heck he gets the idea that this is actually happening, but that’s because they lack his miraculous vision.

With that kind of self-image, you could understand why the president feels any criticism reeks of blasphemy. This week he’s been obsessed with the prime minister of Denmark, Mette Frederiksen, who called his idea of buying Greenland “absurd.”

“The prime minister used a terrible word,” our wounded chief executive told reporters. And he vowed there’d be no quick forgiveness for any heads of state who dared send a negative adjective in his direction: “(They) can’t treat the United States of America the way they treated us under President Obama.”

Trump’s obsession with his predecessor is scary. Now he’s at war with auto companies that want to stick close to the 2012 rules on emissions rollbacks. How dare they respect an Obama-era regulation?

And the media thing: Trump sees his story in heroic — if not biblical — proportions, and journalists are always the villains, doing something that needs to be decried. Currently it’s the stories that hospitalized victims of the El Paso mass shooting passed up the opportunity to meet with him when he visited.

"I went to the hospitals — it was totally badly reported,” he complained. The victims and their families, Trump insisted, “love their president and nobody wrote that.” Well, two people who’d been treated and released did come to shake his hand. And some of the stories did focus on the way the president spent part of his mission of mercy bragging to the medical staff about the size of the crowd at his rally. Can’t imagine why.

The nation is still reeling from that tragic weekend of mass shooting. When the cry went up for better gun control, there were lots of stories about Trump’s promise to do something very big when it came to background checks. He is now waffling like a breakfast special. And adopting the National Rifle Association dodge that the only problem is mental health. (“The gun doesn’t pull the trigger, a person does. And we have great mental illness.”)

But about the God complex: Lately Trump has had an obsession with himself as savior of the Holy Land that’s turning downright creepy. “In my opinion, you vote for a Democrat, you’re being very disloyal to Jewish people and you’re being very disloyal to Israel,” he insisted.

Some people wondered if it was a tad offensive to demand that Jews vote Republican or be seen as a traitor to their people.

“It’s only anti-Semitic in your head,” Trump decreed, peering into the minds of his questioners.

Lots of hints here that the president, at least, thinks of himself as someone far beyond mortal men. And then there’s that long, long history of referring to himself in the third person:

"Nobody has been tougher on Russia than Donald Trump.”

“Nobody has more respect for women than Donald Trump.”

“There’s never been a president like President Trump.”

“China has total respect for Donald Trump and for Donald Trump’s very, very large brain.”

Take your pick, people. You can accept the idea that he was sent to us by forces from above, or you can pray that he’ll have to go away in 2020. But remember, he’s always watching.

Oh, yes. About the wealth of kings. Kings have coffers chock full of coinage of the realm. Trump has that. 538 IDs it in the morning significant digits email.

$1 trillion
The U.S. federal deficit is forecasted to reach $1 trillion for the 2020 fiscal year, according to new estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. That debt has been increasing following a $1.5 trillion tax cut and a budget deal that increases government spending by hundreds of billions of dollars. “The nation’s fiscal outlook is challenging,” the director of the CBO said. [CNN]

And now he’s talking about salvaging an economy teetering on the brink of recession. (Remember how he took credit for the growth? Now, past the bump, he’s disowning the slump.) How’s he going to do that? Another tax cut. What could go wrong?

Update: The Wall Street Journal (among other sources) reports that In Reversal, Trump Says He Is No Longer Considering Tax Cuts. President had said Tuesday he wanted to bolster the economy by reducing capital gains, payroll taxes. That was yesterday. Today the economy is “strong”.

President Trump backed away from pursuing new tax cuts to bolster the U.S. economy, a sharp reversal from a day earlier, when he had described several such measures the White House was contemplating.

“I just don’t see any reason to,” Mr. Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House when asked if he was pursuing any tax cuts. “We don’t need it. We have a strong economy.”

What a difference a day makes.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Greenland's melt signals 'the end of the planet' as we know it

AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein explains how Earth’s future is being written in fast-melting Greenland in this morning’s Daily Star. Here are excerpts.

HELHEIM GLACIER, Greenland (AP) — This is where Earth’s refrigerator door is left open, where glaciers dwindle and seas begin to rise.

New York University air and ocean scientist David Holland, who is tracking what’s happening in Greenland from both above and below, calls it “the end of the planet.” He is referring to geography more than the future. Yet in many ways this place is where the planet’s warmer and watery future is being written.

The ice Holland is standing on is thousands of years old. It will be gone within a year or two, adding yet more water to rising seas worldwide.

Summer this year is hitting Greenland hard with record-shattering heat and extreme melt. By the end of the summer, about 440 billion tons (400 billion metric tons) of ice — maybe more — will have melted or calved off Greenland’s giant ice sheet, scientists estimate. That’s enough water to flood Pennsylvania or the country of Greece about a foot (35 centimeters) deep.

A NASA satellite found that Greenland’s ice sheet lost about 255 billion metric tons of ice a year between 2003 and 2016, with the loss rate generally getting worse over that period. Nearly all of the 28 Greenland glaciers that Danish climate scientist Ruth Mottram measured are retreating, especially Helheim.

Let’s take a computational pause. 2003 to 2016 is 14 years. 14 x 255 = 3,570 billion metric tons. Divide that by 400 billion metric tons (flooding Pennsylvania) and we get 8.925 states the size of Pennsylvania (or 8.925 countries the size of Greece). I offer the computation to give you an idea of the magnitudes of the melt we are facing. There’s lots more that would need to be computed to figure out the sea level rise should the entire Greenland ice sheet melt.

Several scientists, such as NASA oceanographer Josh Willis, who is also in Greenland, studying melting ice from above, said what’s happening is a combination of man-made climate change and natural but weird weather patterns. Glaciers here do shrink in the summer and grow in the winter, but nothing like this year.

Holland and team climb out to install radar and GPS to track the ice movement and help explain why salty, warm, once-tropical water attacking the glacier’s “underbelly” has been bubbling to the surface

“It takes a really long time to grow an ice sheet, thousands and thousands of years, but they can be broken up or destroyed quite rapidly,” Holland said.

Holland, like NASA’s Willis, suspects that warm, salty water that comes in part from the Gulf Stream in North America is playing a bigger role than previously thought in melting Greenland’s ice. And if that’s the case, that’s probably bad news for the planet, because it means faster and more melting and higher sea level rise. Willis said that by the year 2100, Greenland alone could cause 3 or 4 feet (more than 1 meter) of sea level rise.

In this remote landscape, sound travels easily for miles. Every several minutes there’s a faint rumbling that sounds like thunder, but it’s not. It’s ice cracking.