Tag Archives: Trump

Heller’s Tele-Somethings Redux

Senator Dean Heller is fond of his Telephone Town Halls, which, as we’ve noted previously are more telephonics than town halls.  [Here, and especially here]

Perhaps he’s addressed the transparency problems associated with his previous telephone conference calls, but maybe not:

“Senator Heller has employed this one in the not so distant past.  It goes like this.  Have a telephone conference call from which questions are solicited from the public.  However, the fog descends almost immediately. Are the questions pre-screened?  There’s no way to know with absolute certainty, but someone has to be taking the calls like a radio call-in broadcast so chaos doesn’t happen.  Thus, it isn’t too hard to imagine that some pre-screening is happening.

These town halls can also be re-cycled.  The contact with the constituent begins with “You are invited to participate in Senator Sludgepump’s telephone town hall. If you have a question for the Senator press (number) and give your name and address…)

It doesn’t take too many conversations to figure out that if Constituent A heard the town hall on Monday evening, and Constituent B heard the same town hall on Tuesday evening, then we can assume people have been listening to a canned recycling of a political campaign pitch.  Hardly a town hall.”

Therefore, a person would be excused from being a little skeptical about the current iterations of Senator Heller’s open mic nights.   Thanks to the Nevada Independent we have a taste of the latest town hall:

“Asked why he supported Trump after the president reportedly called some African nations, Haiti and El Salvador “s**hole” countries, described his forceful sexual advances in an Access Hollywood tape and called outlets such as the BBC “fake news,” Heller told the caller that she probably supported Democratic presidents with similar problems.”

This is nothing more than a thinly disguised “kill the messenger” motif.  Don’t like the message, then play the Whataboutit” card — what about Clinton (inserting the foil of the day) to which one might add what about — Grover Cleveland? Warren G. Harding? Franklin D. Roosevelt?    Thence comes the exceptionally vague pivot:

“What I’m trying to do is get issues done. That’s what I’m looking for is what’s best for the state of Nevada, and whether I’m standing behind the president or whether I’m standing in right field, it doesn’t matter. Literally doesn’t matter.”

I’d assert Senator Heller is, indeed, standing out in right field, but that’s beside the point.  One unfortunate way to translate this Hellerian side step is to assume he means that no matter the moral depravity of the occupant of the White House Heller will support anyone who advocates what Heller believes is in the best interest of the state of Nevada.

The problem is that the reprobate in the Oval Office doesn’t have any clear ideological principles.  How Heller can divine precisely what the administration’s position is on any given topic is beyond most analysts.  We might guess that the administration proposals on immigration range from “a bill of love” to “build a wall.” We might guess that the issues related to banking run the gamut from “take care of the middle class” to “let bankers be bankers.”  And so on.

It should matter to Senator Heller, and to any other citizen of Nevada (and the other 49) whether or not the administration has the moral fiber necessary to inform the proposed policies.  Moral fiber tends to filter out the self-serving, the grifting, and the unconscionable — without the filter there’s little space left for anything other than the moral relativism of pure opportunism.  Surely this is not what Senator Heller has in mind?

 

 

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Of All the Weekends in the World

The President* picks this one to make derogatory comments about people of color, and the nations from which they might have immigrated…. Unbelievable, except this is what we have come to expect.

What is worse in this situation is the further devolution of the Republican Party.  It’s not that we haven’t known since Ronald Reagan chose to open his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi with a tip of the hat to States’s Rights that the GOP was treading in dangerous racial territory.

We’ve known since “law and order” became code for African American incarceration. We’ve known since “welfare queen” became the code for people of color receiving social benefits when whites receiving welfare assistance were “down on their luck,” while people of color were lazy.

We’ve known since racists couldn’t make up their minds.  Were non-white immigrants “lazy” dolts who game the social safety system, or were they so hard-working they were soaking up all the American jobs?

We’ve known since the Paul family newsletter, in which a marginal ideological publication attracted marginal people [Atl], that Senator Rand Paul would be an apologist for the White House.  We’ve known since Senator Perdue reminded us of the meaning of “imprecation” [Atl] that a person who quotes Psalms 109:8 “let his days be few” about President Obama would be an apologist for this Oval Office.

However, of all the weekends in the world, this is the one to remember Dr. King’s movement wasn’t about making people feel comfortable.  It was about making people feel as though progress was not only desirable but necessary.

Progress is still desirable and ever more necessary.

 

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Breadcrumbs: Notes on Russian donations to American politicians

Dallas Morning News: December 15, 2017

“McConnell surely knew as a participant in high level intelligence briefings in 2016 that our electoral process was under attack by the Russians. Two weeks after the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement in October 2016 that the Russian government had directed the effort to interfere in our electoral process, McConnell’s PAC accepted a $1 million donation from Blavatnik’s AI-Altep Holdings. The PAC took another $1 million from Blavatnik’s AI-Altep Holdings on March 30, 2017, just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey publicly testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s interference in the election.”

I’m poking around into the FEC reports for 2016, and some reports from 2017.  This really isn’t a “blog post” in the standard sense.  It’s more like a log of information from the poking.

I just find it interesting that McConnell accepted the Blavatnik donation AFTER he’d been briefed on Russian interference.

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Watching Circling Wagons and Flighty Chickens

The wagons are circling.  The panic thermometer is rising.  The GOP is behaving like panicked chickens with a fox in their midst.   House Republicans are trying to sabotage  any meaningful investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election in the Judiciary Committee  and by the House Intelligence Committee. [LAT]  Senators of the Republican persuasion are covering themselves in ignominy (and not just a little bit of hypocrisy) as Senators Grassley and Graham want to launch a criminal investigation into British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. [BI]

Meanwhile the Diversion, Distraction, and Delusion of the administration is on full display as the GOP/Trump haul out the long debunked “Cllinton foundation investigation” and the….wait for it….Clinton E-mails.   It can’t be too long before the Republicans start investigating Benghazi again.  In short, this is a very limited amount of ammunition being expended as the hordes (of investigators working for Special Counsel Mueller) press against the castle walls.

First, I’m noticing that there is nothing new on offer.  There is absolutely nothing new about investigating the Clinton Foundation, a charity with some of the highest ratings granted by those organization which track such things.  The charges were bogus to begin with, the “linkages” so tenuous that only great leaps of faith (and fevered conspiracy dreams) can make them whole, and the topic has been done to death.  The Emails?  They aren’t missing, they aren’t important, and they too have been overcooked in the fevered imagination of right wing Republicans.

Secondly, the attack on the former member of British intelligence is too obvious.  Let’s allow the participants to speak for themselves:

“Based on the information contained therein, we are respectfully referring Mr. Steele to you for investigation of potential violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1001, for statements the Committee has reason to believe Mr. Steele made regarding his distribution of information contained in the dossier.”

The criminal referral does not pertain to the veracity of the dossier’s claims and “is not intended to be an allegation of a crime,” a press release from the committee says. [BI]

Regarding his distribution of information…” we might interpret this to refer to statements Steele may or may not have made to members of the press?  Frankly, it isn’t clear.  And then there is that press release — “...is not intended to be an allegation of a crime…”   So, the Senators are not “alleging” any crime took place but they’d like the Department of Justice to investigate to see if there might be one?  Somewhere, anywhere,  anything. Please!  Further, what do we make of “The criminal referral does not pertain to the veracity of the dossier’s claims,” other than we (the GOP) don’t want to touch the substance of the assembled memos with a barge pole but we will gleefully attempt to sully the reputation of the person who shared the information with US law enforcement officials.

Aside from being gratuitous and almost silly, the “referral” on Mr. Steele sounds like GOP attempting to argue that instead of investigating the person who tried to burn your house down the authorities should be investigating possible criminal charges against the person who called the fire department.

There will be a steady drumbeat of GOP talking points,  most of which are as old as the lyrics to Mariah Carey’s rendition of Dream Lover, some of which are manufactured from the whole cloth by which the GOP would veil the antics of a failing, flailing, presidency.

Meanwhile, this nation is no closer to answering some truly crucial questions:

(1) By what means did the Russians attempt to interfere in US elections?  Are those means still being employed today?

(2) What steps should be taken by US election officials to protect our physical election systems and databases from interference in future elections?

(3) What assistance can and should be made available from the Federal government to state and local election officials so that future attempts to interfere are prevented?

 

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The Amazing Invisible Infrastructure Plan

On December 7, 2017  the White House said it was going to release its infrastructure plan in January 2018.   As usual from this administration it’s vague:

“The president aims to release a detailed document of principles, rather than a drafted bill, for upgrading roads, bridges, airports and other public works before the Jan. 30 State of the Union address, said the administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the details aren’t public. Naysayers should wait until they see the details and how the legislative process unfolds, the official said.”

And, there’s a kicker:

The guiding principle of the plan is to shift responsibility for funding from the federal government to states and localities — which own or control most assets — by providing incentives for them to generate their own sustainable funding sources and work with the private sector.

Now, how do we translate “generate their own sustainable funding sources?”   The easiest way is to say “privatization.”   As in work with private corporations for the construction of toll roads, toll bridges, increased airport fees, and other forms of “sustainable funding sources?”

This notion is buttressed by the President’s budget.   In the aftermath of the Washington Train Wreck the President was probably ill-advised to tout his infrastructure “plan,”

“For that matter, if Trump wants to talk about his interest in this issue, perhaps we can start with his White House budget plan, which called for slashing federal aid to U.S. rail systems, including a dramatic cut in grants for Amtrak routes.

“As for the president calling on policymakers to “quickly” approve the White House infrastructure plan, now seems like a good time to point out that it does not currently exist.  In early April, Trump boasted, “[W]e’re going to have a very big infrastructure plan. And bill. And it’s going to come soon. And I think we’ll have support from Democrats and Republicans.” That was eight months ago. There’s still no plan.”

So, this week we have a middle class tax cut that doesn’t help the middle class nearly as much as it assists corporations and wealthy Americans.   And, now we have an infrastructure “plan” which doesn’t fund infrastructure.  Oh well, what we seem to have is an administration remarkably unwilling to govern and a Congress equally uninterested in representing their constituents.

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Representative Government?

Not that popular polling is always the best way to govern, but the current capacity of the Republican controlled federal government to ignore public opinion is amazing.  For example, the Republican tax plan has a 26% approval rating [PR] 91% of Democrats, and perhaps more importantly, 61% of independent voters disapprove of the plan.  66% of Republicans approve of the plan, but we have to remember 37% of the American public identifies with the GOP. [HP]

While we’re remembering the horror at the Sandy Hook Elementary School five years ago (and not forgetting the massacre at the Las Vegas music concert) we know that 32% of Republicans, 83% of Democrats, and 62% of independents support stronger guns laws in this country. Overall support for stricter control of firearms stands at 60%. [PR]

The FCC decision to eliminate the net neutrality rules, some of which go back to the less than golden age of dial up, isn’t popular either.  Polling found that 83% of registered voters disliked the idea, 75% of whom were Republican and 89% of Democrats.  86% of registered voters who were independent didn’t like the idea either.   However, the FCC marched on with a 17% approval rating for its new “light touch” policy.

It seems that whenever the President* starts feeling the heat from Congressional, popular, or media sources he retreats to his anti-immigration rhetoric.  The Wall seems either literally or metaphorically important to him, but it isn’t all that much in the eyes of the nation he’s supposed to be leading.  36% of registered voters support The Wall, while 62% oppose it. [PR]   Voters were given three choices about Dreamers, stay and apply for citizenship, stay but not as citizens, or leave the country.  The December Marist poll found 58% supporting the stay/citizenship option, 23% supported stay but not as citizens, and only 15% supported deportation.   As of the week of December 6th the Quinnipiac Poll found 77% supporting the stay/citizenship application option, 7% supported the stay with no citizenship option, and only 12% supporting the deportation option.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen polling about Vladimir Putin, the other half of the Trump-Putin bromance.  There was some polling done last Summer which might be instructive.  Last July only 15% of Americans had a positive feeling about Putin, and as of late June 2017 approximately 50% of Americans felt the President* was too friendly with the Russian leader. [PR]

A person might think that a leader who isn’t stone deaf to public sentiment or stonewalling to protect his self image might want to consider how best to reach toward a broader audience, and to cultivate something more than a 32% approval rating.  Apparently that consideration isn’t getting much traction in the current White House.

Nor does it seem like the first session of the 115th Congress is paying much attention either.  In fact, it looks like the GOP is doing the drafting of the Democratic Platform for 2018 — Net Neutrality, DACA, common sense gun regulation, immigration reform, and real tax reform for working Americans.  The 32% President and his 37% party are perhaps doing the best they can to elevate the Democratic Party in the mid term elections?

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More Drivel: Trump, Trade, and Unicorns

For those who haven’t had enough of the Trumpian penchant for stringing together cliches, generalizations, buzz words, dog whistles, and nonsense, there’s a heavy dose of all the above in the Pensacola Speech…including “America First” isolationism.  Evidently, the United States of America will be “great again” when we posture, pose, and pound our way to the elimination of international trade agreements.  Gone the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Lovely.  The TPP was a flawed proposal, but it was a close version of what the Chinese thought it was — a way to contain Chinese influence in the region.  So, instead of ongoing negotiations we have the increasing importance of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership spearheaded by (Guess Who?) China. [CNBC]

“The mainland is already the biggest trading partner for the bulk of Asian countries, but it’s gradually increasing its political and economic sway by leading projects that impact the region. Those included the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the “One Belt, One Road” infrastructure program.”  [CNBC]

The Australians have figured this out, with one analysis observing the TPP model was better fitted to large developed economies (read: US, Australia, Japan) but without US participation and leadership, the Chinese version RCEP is currently the only game in town.

“We will hopefully keep NAFTA…” he said in Pensacola, but the talks are stalled.  As of November 22, 2017 the outlook wasn’t all that optimistic healthy:

“The United States, Mexico and Canada failed to resolve any major differences in a fifth round of talks to rework the NAFTA trade deal, drawing a swift complaint from the Trump administration on Tuesday that the lack of progress could doom the process.” [Fortune]

And more:

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw from NAFTA unless he can rework it in favor of the United States, arguing that the pact has hollowed out U.S. manufacturing and caused a trade deficit of over $60 billion with Mexico.  The U.S. official expressed frustration that Mexico and Canada were not engaging in talks on the auto content proposal and others aimed at “rebalancing” trade in the region. [Fortune]

Here’s a Pro Tip:  In order to negotiate you have to have a partner.  In this case, partners. If the partners are not at the table then instead of a “reworked” agreement in favor of the US we have nothing.   Trump is also wrong to assume that NAFTA is the only game in town:

“This year, for the first time, 94% of goods moved tax-free across borders in the Pacific Alliance, a trading bloc that includes Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Peru. Formed in 2011, it accounts for half of all trade in the region and covers about 200 million people.

“We are trading as a group of countries in agreement on free trade,” Mexico’s foreign minister, Luis Videgaray,said Wednesday evening in New York. Videgaray spoke alongside the presidents of Colombia and Chile, as well as a Peru’s trade minister.” [CNNMoney]

In other words, watch what happens in the Pacific Alliance, and the South American trade bloc Mercosur.   And, the current  trade negotiations between Mexico and Argentina likely aren’t founded on Mexican reaction to Trump’s continual references to His Wall, but are more likely the result of comments like the ones he made in Pensacola — that NAFTA should benefit the US, and everyone else gets the hind quarters.  Moving from the general to the specific issues with agricultural trade between Mexico and South American nations:

“Mexico bought 100,800 tonnes of yellow corn from Brazil in September and 41,000 from Argentina — a drop in the ocean compared with the 10.5m tonnes bought from the US. But so far this year, it has bought 11 per cent more of the commodity from the two South American countries than in all of 2016, according to government data.” [FinancialTimes]

Pro Tip Number Two: Always assume a negotiator has a back up plan, and it probably won’t be the one you want.  Are we Great yet?  Have we rounded up all those Unicorns Trump said we were going to get?

Unicorn driven negotiations aren’t successful.  The Trump administration appears to believe a tenuous notion: if you start with a Unicorn then you can negotiate your way into getting the Unicorn.  Unicorn 1: The US gets 80+% content on cars in NAFTA (even though auto manufacturers say this will make their autos noncompetitive in the marketplace.}  Saying, “I want my Unicorn, and I’m walking away if I don’t get it,” assumes there’s a Unicorn in the first place, and you can get the thing in the second.

Those who persist in believing there are Unicorns may explain their elusiveness by saying they must all be grazing somewhere else.  Fine.  However, the Trump administration chasing its trade Unicorns would be well advised to remember that if they exist but are elusive it’s because they have other pastures in which to play.  The Chinese are more than willing to step in to fill the vacuum created by the loss of American leadership in the TPP, and the Mexicans are perfectly willing to increase their trade with Pacific Alliance and Mercosur partners in South America.  They’ve already done so.

The rhetorical sound track of Trump speeches in which we are promised Unicorns (American Made, America First, American Work) is a thin and tinny cover for inept trade talks during which bluster replaces substance and the Unicorns are no more substantial than the empty promises.

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