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Thursday, January 31, 2019

A small circle of friends

by digby

This is nuts:

Jeff Bezos’ top personal security consultant has questioned his mistress’ brother as part of the probe into how the couple’s text messages wound up in the hands of the National Enquirer.

Gavin de Becker, the Amazon chief’s longtime personal security consultant and the point person for the investigation, confirmed to The Daily Beast on Wednesday that his probe has scrutinized Michael Sanchez, the brother of Bezos mistress Lauren Sanchez and a personal and business associate of Trumpworld figures including Roger Stone, Carter Page, and Scottie Nell Hughes.

On Wednesday, The Daily Beast first reported the existence of that investigation, which is taking place independent of Amazon and being funded by Bezos personally. Three sources familiar with the inquiry said it was increasingly probable that whoever leaked the text messages to the Enquirer, which ran a conspicuously large 12-page spread on Bezos’ affair, harbored political animosity towards Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post.

Michael Sanchez’s name bubbled up on the British celebrity news and gossip website Popbitch last week in the context of the Enquirer story. Stone also mentioned Sanchez in an interview with conspiracy theory site Infowars on Wednesday that sought to preempt The Daily Beast’s reporting by falsely claiming that it would accuse him of conspiring with the Trump administration to hack Bezos’ phone.

Asked about Sanchez, de Becker, a former Reagan administration appointee and Justice Department adviser, told The Daily Beast, “Michael Sanchez has been among the people we’ve been speaking with and looking at.” De Becker would not elaborate on their conversations, and stressed that the investigation is ongoing. But he confirmed that “strong leads point to political motives.”

According to two sources familiar with de Becker’s investigation, Sanchez has suggested that the “deep state,” and specifically the National Security Agency, may have been responsible for obtaining text messages from Bezos’ phone. Investigators have not taken that possibility seriously.

Every person in politics and media for the past 40 years is no more than 3 degrees of separation from Roger Stone.


What you watched on TV yesterday was all fake

by digby


Earlier today:
'They said they were totally misquoted and totally taken out of context. What I do, I suggested you call them. They said it was fake news, which, frankly, didn't surprise me at all,' Trump told reporters at the White House after being asked if he'd spoken to them about their testimony to a Senate panel earlier this week.

So he called them into the oval office and made them get their picture taken bowing down to Dear Leader. And they did:

Keep in mind that the testimony was on live television. And the report from which they were all reading was submitted to the president before they testified. He admits that he hadn't read it.

 "So I didn't see the report from the intelligence. When you read it, it's a lot different than it was covered on in the news."

I think there's a 100% chance that he still hasn't read it. And he can tell his followers to read it knowing they won't do it either.


Trouble in the Senate?

by digby

I don't know how meaningful this is but if it reflects a general discontent it could have important reverberations.

Frustrated Republicans say it’s time for the Senate to reclaim more power over foreign policy and are planning to move a measure Thursday that would be a stunning rebuke to a president of their own party.

GOP lawmakers are deeply concerned over President Trump’s reluctance to listen to his senior military and intelligence advisers, fearing it could erode national security. They say the Senate has lost too much of its constitutional power over shaping the nation’s foreign policy and argue that it’s time to begin clawing some of it back.

“Power over foreign policy has shifted to the executive branch over the last 30 years. Many of us in the Senate want to start taking it back,” said a Republican senator closely allied with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

They plan to send Trump a stern admonishment by voting Thursday afternoon on an amendment sponsored by McConnell warning “the precipitous withdrawal” of U.S. forces from Syria and Afghanistan “could put at risk hard-won gains and United States national security.”

The resolution also expresses a sense of the Senate that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al Qaeda pose a “continuing threat to the homeland and our allies” and maintain an “ability to operate in Syria and Afghanistan.”

It’s a pointed rebuttal to the claim Trump made on Twitter in December that “we have defeated ISIS in Syria.”

Speaking on the Senate floor, McConnell said his amendment “simply re-emphasizes the expertise and counsel offered by experts who have served presidents of both parties,” a subtle rebuff of Trump’s tweets from earlier in the day mocking his intelligence advisers as “naive.”

Keep in mind that the Senate is where an impeachment trial will be held.
"Thank me for making the sun come up this morning"

by digby

There is nothing he won't take credit for.

I think the obnoxious, dishonest bragging is the single characteristic I find most unbearable about listening to him. (The blaming and whining is a close second.) Bragging about things he had nothing to do with and the inane assertions of his own brilliance and prowess go way beyond the current cultural demands for self-promotion. It reaches a level of such extreme delusion that it makes me feel as if I'm losing my mind. It's way beyond gaslighting. It's a straight up dominance play --- "I'm blatantly lying and cheating and there's nothing you can do about it."

Five plus years of this are going to have an extreme effect on our culture, I'm afraid. I worry about the lingering effects of such a powerfully ignorant, narcissistic, phony constantly being in our faces for years on end. Unless he is brought low and completely repudiated, I can't see how the negative consequences of his overwhelming daily presence in our national consciousness won't be profound.

Schultz's little white slip slips

by digby

I'm beginning to rethink the idea that this asshole will take Democratic voters. It appears he's not only spending all his time criticizing liberal ideas, he's also competing with Trump for his racist sexist base:

Howard Schultz, the former Starbucks CEO who has floated an independent run at the White House, deleted a tweet Wednesday in which he praised a column that insulted other 2020 contenders. 
In the now-deleted tweet, Schultz linked to a piece that called Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) “shrill” and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) “Fauxcahontas,” a reference to her claims of Native American heritage. 
“Thank you @Rogerlsimon for a thoughtful analysis of what’s possible. #ReimagineUS,” Schultz tweeted, along with a link to “Howard Schultz Could Actually Win the Presidency,” from PJ Media. 
“Current frontrunner Kamala Harris is far from reassuring,” Roger L. Simon writes in the column. “She’s a shrill (see the Kavanaugh hearings) quasi-socialist promising pie in the sky — Medicare-for-all, debt-free college, guaranteed pre-K, minimum basic income, confiscatory taxes — and she’s just getting started. Bernie and others will soon be following suit. Fauxcahontas already has, competing in a game of socialist one-upmanship.”
He's deleted the retweet. But it shows that he's reading PJ Media, which nobody but wingnuts read. And, at best, he didn't think calling a woman "shrill" or using a racial slur was off-putting. (At worst he agreed with the sentiments.)

Fox News is kissing his feet as they, like everyone else, clearly believes he is the bigger threat to Democrats. They love to own the libs. But maybe they're being too clever by half ...


Wishing for Another 9/11 

by tristero

Holy moly, there is something seriously wrong with this man (not that that's news, but it bears repeating over and over). It takes a very bizarre human being to wish out loud for a second 9/11:
“I would love to be able to bring back our country into a great form of unity,” Trump said. “Without a major event where people pull together, that’s hard to do. But I would like to do it without that major event because usually that major event is not a good thing.”


Something more to make you shiver

by Tom Sullivan

Live cam outside National Sports Center, Blaine, Minnesota, 7:38 a.m. CST.

Celsius or Fahrenheit, it doesn't matter in International Falls, Minnesota as I write this. Outside it is -40 on both temperature scales. But there's no wind. Small blessings.

Good thing U.S. adversaries are not feeling an itch to disrupt the power and gas infrastructure across the Midwest just now. A Russian cyberattack in Ukraine turned off the power for a quarter million people in Kiev for hours in December 2015 and again in 2016. The U.S. is not immune.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats released on Tuesday his annual Worldwide Threat Assessment this week. In its summary, the report issues warnings that the U.S. utility infrastructure is similarly vulnerable.

"China has the ability to launch cyber attacks that cause localized, temporary disruptive effects on critical infrastructure—such as disruption of a natural gas pipeline for days to weeks—in the United States." (pg. 5)

"Russia has the ability to execute cyber attacks in the United States that generate localized, temporary disruptive effects on critical infrastructure—such as disrupting an electrical distribution network for at least a few hours—similar to those demonstrated in Ukraine in 2015 and 2016. Moscow is mapping our critical infrastructure with the long-term goal of being able to cause substantial damage." (pg. 6)

Iran, too. (pg. 6)

The Intelligence Community this year has dropped language about the threat being theoretical, the Wall Street Journal's Rebecca Smith told "The Rachel Maddow Show" Wednesday.

"No longer is the federal government describing these things as a hypothetical," Smith said. "Now they are saying the Russians and the Chinese are in our networks and they can shut things down if they wish to."

Moreover, "Moscow and Beijing are working together now than they have in decades," Smith said of Dan Coats's testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

Need more? Discussion with FBI Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats included the growing threat of videos generated "by machine-learning programs that seem to depict something that didn't actually happen," also known as "deepfakes."

Imagine if Orson Wells' Mercury Theatre on the Air used real-seeming video from Grover's Mill, New Jersey. Congress and states are now considering laws against AI-altered videos and audio.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has jumped in early with proposed legislation, Axios reports, "to criminalize the malicious creation and distribution of deepfakes." Expect the 1st Amendment and civil liberties challenges to be knotty:

But, but, but: Some are less convinced that Congress should step in. David Greene, civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says making malicious deepfakes a federal crime may hamper protected speech — like the creation of parody videos.

Reality check: New laws would be a last line of defense against deepfakes, as legislation can’t easily prevent their spread. Once the law gets involved, “the harm is so out of the bag and it’s viral,” [University of Maryland law professor Danielle] Citron says. The holy grail, a system that can automatically detect forgeries, is still well out of reach.
Keeping the Russians out of our power grids, social media, or the White House is still out of reach. For that matter, so is keeping an emotionally stunted, deeply uninformed, career con man out of the White House.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

One good thing to come out of the shutdown

by digby

The AP reports:

A colony of elephant seals took over a beach in Northern California during the government shutdown when there was no staff to discourage the animals from congregating in the popular tourist area, an official said.

About 60 adult seals that have birthed 35 pups took over a beach in Point Reyes National Seashore, knocking down a fence and moving into the parking lot, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Wednesday.

The park north of San Francisco is home to a colony of about 1,500 elephant seals that tend to frequent another beach with 100-foot-tall (30 meters) cliffs that keep the animals protected and mostly hidden from the public, said park spokesman John Dell’Osso.

Dell’Osso said it’s likely the recent storms and high tides inundated the animal’s normal habitat with water and so they sought a wider swath of dry land around the corner.

“Sometimes you go out with tarps and you shake the tarps and it annoys them and they move the other direction,” he said.

But since nobody was at work to address the seal migration, the animals took over. One seal even adventured under a picnic table near a cafe, the newspaper reported.

The elephant seals were lounging in the sand after the park reopened Sunday, leading staff to temporarily close the road to the beach.

Officials have no plans to move the animals while some of the elephant seals nurse their pups.

Staff is considering offering guided tours of the elephant colony, Dell’Osso said.

Personally, I think they should shake the tarps at humans and make them move along.

We have had these seals come up on our beach in Santa Monica from time to time and they always put out signs telling people that they are just resting and to leave them alone. And I have inevitably come upon assholes pestering them, poking them with sticks, kicking them, kids throwing sand on them etc.

It is infuriating. They need to do whatever it takes to keep humans away from them. They cannot be trusted. My personal tactic is to run up and tell these idiots that the seals are carrying a rare disease that is contagious and if they stand too close they'll catch it. Since most of the monsters who are messing with them are not the sharpest knives in the drawer, they'll often take off.

Mmmmm, Trump's boots taste sooo delicious

by digby

This guy ...

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham wants the FBI to explain why President Donald Trump’s longtime associate, Roger Stone, was arrested in the early morning hours last week and whether the media was tipped off beforehand.

In a letter sent to FBI director Christopher Wray Wednesday, Graham (R-S.C.) to explain whether the arrest was consistent with arrests of “similarly charged individuals.” He also asked why the FBI arrested Stone at his home instead of working through his lawyers “to permit him to surrender voluntary.”

“The American public has had enough of the media circus that surrounds the Special Counsel's investigation,” Graham wrote, referring to Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. “Yet, the manner of this arrest appears to have only added to the spectacle. Accordingly, I write to seek justification for the tactics used and the timing of the arrest of Mr. Stone.”

Roger Stone is a professional liar and self-proclaimed dirty trickster who is caught up in a possible plot with a foreign power. That Graham is advancing the story that this miscreant should have been handled differently than anyone else in a similar situation tells you everything you need to know about the GOP's recent conversion to civil liberties.

Graham is going to be a real piece of work these next two years.

"An election like we have never seen before"

by digby
The blue line indicates support for a Democrat in  2020

That is from the new Democracy Corps poll about where the 2020 election looks like at this moment:
The despair with politicians and their handling of the shutdown ... is not producing despair with politics. Exactly the opposite. This first national poll looking at the 2020 General Election finds an electorate that is even more polarized, politicized, and determined to vote at levels we have never seen before in our polling. Just months after the midterm, voters look set to finish the job. Voters on both sides of the political spectrum are putting their heads down and pushing ahead to join what all hope is the last battle.
President Trump has the support of 40 percent of the country no matter what. In our poll, 42 percent approve of his performance in the midst of the shutdown, and that has been in his default number in nearly all of our polls from the beginning of his presidency. The Republicans base of the Tea Party, Evangelicals and conservative Catholics know that the President is their last hope in the war against PC-thinking and a multicultural, immigrant America. If a wall with Mexico is what he wants, then get out of the way, they say.

They are determined to vote to defend their President in 2020: an amazing 81 percent of those voting for Donald Trump in 2020 put their level of interest at the highest point on the one-to-ten ladder scale, 6 points more than for those voting for the Democrat in 2020.

But the bigger bloc of voters is determined to resist Donald Trump’s Republican Party, and they seem set on disrupting electoral politics in their own way, accelerating the trends that were so evident in the 2018 blue wave. That disruption is clear even now in these powerful developments:
• The Democratic margin is growing. Democrats prevailed by 8.6 points nationally in 2018, and in this first poll of 2019, the Democratic candidate for President is ahead by 10 points, 51 to 41 percent, with 5 percent volunteering third party candidates. (Just 3 percent are undecided in a generic presidential ballot against Trump.) That leaves the Trump vote 5 points short of 2016, which would push him back dramatically back behind the Electoral College blue wall. He is losing independents by 11 points and is losing a quarter of moderate Republicans.
• Voters are nationalized politically. Fully 92 percent of those who voted for Democrats in 2018 are voting for a Democratic presidential candidate, and 90 percent of those who voted Republican in 2018 are voting for Donald Trump in 2020. All voters of both camps have fully polarized and translating their preferences nationally.

• The re-alignment continues. The Democratic candidate is winning Hispanics 62 to 32 percent, millennials 64 to 26 percent, millennial women by a daunting 79 to 16 percent, unmarried women 71 to 22 percent, and even white unmarried women by a two-to-one margin (62 to 30 percent). Every one of those numbers in the Rising American Electorate pushes the 2018 blue wave a step further.

• White working class women are sending a message. They currently give the Democrat a 3-point lead over Donald Trump, 49 to 46 percent.

• Historic level of engagement already. The most stunning development is the historic level of voter engagement in the first month of the election of the cycle. The percentage who say they are following the election at the highest possible level is already higher than in the last months of 2018 midterms that produced historic levels of off-year turnout. The high level of engagement recorded here for registered voters exceeds what we received for likely voters in 2016. So, by our standard definition of likely voters in a presidential election, we show virtually all registered voters as likely voters. This suggests an historic level of turnout in 2020.

Based on the results of this first survey of 2019, the battle of 2018 will carry forward with an even more engaged, more re-aligned and politicized country, to produce an election like
nothing we have seen before.

The election is a long way away. Anything can happen. But this is a very good starting position for the Democrats.

Newly minted civil libertarians

by digby

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: Right, and we talked about that on radio as well at the time. Now, are there any, is -- look, we all forget things. But these are pretty -- given the nature of this investigation, might you have forgotten other things?

ROGER STONE, FMR. TRUMP ADVISOR: To the extent that I made mistakes of memory, they would be without intent, and it would be inconsequential. They would not be material under the law.

For any legal expert to look at these little excerpts without reading four and a half hours of testimony to see the context, the questions before and the questions after, would be irresponsible. But you can watch CNN and see the indictment is a slam dunk. My attorneys don't think so.

INGRAHAM: A former FBI assistant director, Frank Figliuzzi, was talking about your only hope now being a pardon. Let's watch.


FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE AT THE FBI: I’m a strong advocate of the theory that stone is positioning himself for a pardon and that it's likely the only hope he has. He seems driven and motivated merely by absolute publicity, absolute being in the center of things, regardless of whether it’s bad publicity or good publicity. He needs to be there and he seems to be shaded toward the negative.


INGRAHAM: Is that it? Is -- your only path outcome according to these characters on TV?

STONE: You know, I don’t know --

INGRAHAM: You're appearing to talk to the president through our show to get a pardon?

STONE: I don't know many FBI agents who know much about politicians, public relations, or the law in many cases. The truth of the matter is, if you read my book, "Stone’s Rules," I believe when you're falsely accused of something, and you say nothing, you say no comment, or Roger Stone was unavailable, most Americans assume you are guilty.

The whole purpose of this over-the-top raid on my house, in which they sent in more men then were used to protect our compound in Benghazi, was to paint a picture of me coming to poison a jury pool --

INGRAHAM: It was so ridiculous.

STONE: -- as public enemy number one.

INGRAHAM: I -- it was one of the more ridiculous things. And it was offensive. It’s offensive to me.

Regardless of what goes down here, that -- it was like Elian Gonzalez times 29 or times 28. It was absurd.

It's great to see these Republicans all become civil libertarians, worried about the overreach of America's police apparatus.  Still, and all this handwringing is little bit weird coming from people who hysterically scream the words "lock her up!" every time they are in the presence of their Dear Leader is just a tad incongruous. But who knows,  maybe someday they'll be as concerned about the civil liberties of their political rivals and people of color as they are of rich, white right-wing political operatives.


Sure they'll run from him if he loses. We can't let them do that again. They own him.

by digby

Yesterday former Obama official Austan Goolsbee said this on Lawrence O'Donnell's show:
Remember in the [2016] campaign we had the conversation, and I said we needed to start following what I called the "Trump Policy Directive," which is we should not spend any more time talking about Trump's policy ideas than he spent coming up with them. And at the end of this sentence, we've already violated that directive.

Throughout the campaign, it was totally obvious that what he was saying was complete nonsense. It's a fraud wrapped in quackery inside of a bamboozle. The things that he promised were self-contradictory. And there are people that wanted to believe, and I think now, as various parts of what has been a strong economy start to slow down, we start to see some yellow lights, people even talking about the dreaded "r" word of recession, I think a lot of those people that wanted to believe are by the end of his term going to be acting like they never knew him, they had nothing to do with him, just like no one remembers having voted for Richard Nixon.

They'll try for sure.

14 years ago I discussed how the Republicans were turning on George W. Bush and how that was entirely predictable.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

An Observation From Highpockets 

by digby  
[John Hindraker or the conservative Powerline blog] wrote: 
For reasons I don't fully understand, there is something about "leaders," especially self-appointed leaders, and most especially those who are drawn to intensive participation in organizations, that tends toward liberalism. We see this in politics all the time, of course: it is one thing to vote for conservatism, something else entirely to get it from our elected leaders.

All of which makes me especially thankful, this year, for democracy, limited government and free enterprise: the best measures yet devised to protect us from our leaders.

I'm seeing a lot of this lately. Movement conservatives are getting ready to write the history of this era as liberalism once again failing the people. Typically, the conservatives were screwed, as they always are. They must regroup and fight for conservatism, real conservatism, once again. Viva la revolucion!

There is no such thing as a bad conservative. "Conservative" is a magic word that applies to those who are in other conservatives' good graces. Until they aren't. At which point they are liberals.

Get used to the hearing about how the Republicans failed because they weren't true conservatives. Conservatism can never fail. It can only be failed by weak-minded souls who refuse to properly follow its tenets. It's a lot like communism that way. 

A year later, it was building:

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Back To Their Natural State

by digby
Peggy Noonan is signaling (along with a lot of others) that it's time to purge the Bushmen:
There remains a broad, reflexive, and very Republican kind of loyalty to George Bush. He is a war president with troops in the field. You can see his heart. He led us in a very human way through 9/11, from the early missteps to the later surefootedness. He was literally surefooted on the rubble that day he threw his arm around the retired fireman and said the people who did this will hear from all of us soon.

Images like that fix themselves in the heart. They're why Mr. Bush's popularity is at 38%. Without them it wouldn't be so high.

But there's unease in the base too, again for many reasons. One is that it's clear now to everyone in the Republican Party that Mr. Bush has changed the modern governing definition of "conservative."

He did this without asking. He did it even without explaining. He didn't go to the people whose loyalty and support raised him high and say, "This is what I'm doing, this is why I'm changing things, here's my thinking, here are the implications." The cynics around him likely thought this a good thing. To explain is to make things clearer, or at least to try, and they probably didn't want it clear. They had the best of both worlds, a conservative reputation and a liberal reality.

And Republicans, most of whom are conservative in at least general ways, and who endure the disadvantages of being conservative because they actually believe in ideas, in philosophy, in an understanding of the relation of man and the state, are still somewhat concussed. The conservative tradition on foreign affairs is prudent realism; the conservative position on borders is that they must be governed; the conservative position on high spending is that it is obnoxious and generationally irresponsible. Etc.

This is not how Mr. Bush has governed. And so in the base today personal loyalty, and affection, bumps up against intellectual unease.

"He did it without asking." Poor Peggy, she was given a political Roofie and taken against her will. I've said it before but I'm going to say it again. Conservatism can never fail, it can only be failed. 

The Republicans have fielded five presidents since 1968 and only one of them can be considered politically successful. One out of five. The rest have crashed and burned each time on incompetence, corruption or some combination of the two. I think it's fair to say that neither the modern Republican party or the conservative movement is capable of governance. And there's a reason for that.

I wrote this a while back:
The movement conservatives are not really very comfortable on the inside. Witness their absurd appeal above. It's all about the "permanent revolution" for them, even to the extent that they could ridiculously defend Tom DeLay as innocent, upright and under seige from powerful liberal factions less than a year ago. They seem to have realized that it won't work any longer and it's time to begin the conservative purification rituals if they want to keep the revolution alive.

This is why I don't want any of us to think for a moment that winning and losing elections means the same thing to us as it means to them. Democrats believe in government and they want to make it work. Republicans see government purely as a means to exert power. Unfortunately, they are not very good at that because in the modern world sheer, dumb might is no longer possible. The best they can do is loot the treasury and leave the rest of their mess to be cleaned up by the Democrats. 

What they really excel at is politics. Governance just hangs them up. And don't think for a moment that they will be chagrined or ashamed and crawl off into a hole to lick their wounds. Being defeated liberates them to do what they are really good at --- destroying the opposition and pushing their agenda with sophisticated, scorched earth political rhetoric. It's not natural for them to be on the defense and they don't like it. They are going back to their natural state --- victimhood and the aggressive attack. 

Get ready. The Democrats will not only have to govern, but they will have to fix all the problems they've created while fighting them every step of the way. They're not going away. And they will pull out every stop to win every election, not because they necessarily want to govern but because that's how you keep score. For a long, long time they've been able to get their way whether they win or lose and they see no reason to doubt that will continue. And unless we put a stop to this they might be right.

This is why Trump really needs to be pursued to the ends of the earth and the Republicans must be made to own what they have done. If the Democrats don't do it this time, the GOP will just do what they always do. Considering the fiery trainwreck in the current White House and congress, this time we might not survive.

What is this inequality you speak of?

by digby

Via Crooks and Liars, watch a couple of skunks distrupt the Davos garden party:

A panel on economic inequality went off script this weekend, as the participants told the gathered billionaires that their philanthropy and pet projects for the poor were not the answer to economic world justice.

This wasn't what Davos had in mind.

The panel was billed by the organizers as "Economic inequality continues to drive a populist backlash against a status quo that favours elite. How can policy changes and technological innovations change this dynamic?"

In other words, not how do we change policy to bring economic equality, but how do we stop the populist backlash against the status quo?

This panel wasn't playing at that.

Historian Rutger Bregman was adamant: the wealthy need to stop avoiding taxes.

"This is my first time at Davos, and I find it quite bewildering, to be honest. I mean, 1500 private jets have flown in here to hear Sir David Attenborough, you know, talk about how we're wrecking the planet. And, I mean, I hear people talking the language of participation and justice and equality and transparency but then, I mean, almost no one raises the issue of tax avoidance, right? And of the rich just not paying their fair share. I mean it feels as if I'm at a firefighter's conference and no one is allowed to mention water, right?"

Bregman noted that high marginal tax rates worked in the United States in the 1950s under Republican President Dwight Eisenhower.

When former Yahoo CEO Ken Goldman (a Charles Dickens character name if ever there was one) made the case that unemployment numbers are so great we shouldn't focus just on taxes, Director of Oxfam Winnie Byanyima put it bluntly. The United States is home to chicken processing plants where women workers must wear diapers because they are not allowed to take bathroom breaks. It's not job numbers, it's the type of jobs that people are forced to take and those workers' lack of power in the workplace that matters.

They don't like being told they can't have ALL the money.


Trump vs His Intelligence Chiefs

by digby

My Salon column this morning:

If President Trump is innocent of any collusion with the Russian government, you have to wonder how he would act if he were guilty. Despite his defenders' best efforts to imply that he's just too inexperienced or naive to know that his repeated overtures toward Russian President Vladimir Putin create suspicion, at this point it's impossible to believe anyone could be so, well ... dumb. Trump knows perfectly well that he's under intense scrutiny on this issue and he just keeps behaving in ways that make him look as if he has something to hide.

On Monday, the Financial Times reported yet another meeting between Trump and Putin that had not been fully revealed. You'll recall that the two were originally scheduled to meet at the G20 in Argentina in November but the White House canceled the meeting, ostensibly because of the standoff between the Russian and Ukraine navies that was happening at the time. Most observers felt that was a pretty thin excuse. The cancellation was more likely related to the optics of holding meeting in the immediate wake of Michael Cohen's sentencing, which had revealed that plans for a Trump Tower Moscow were being negotiated much longer into the 2016 campaign than anyone knew. It seemed to be one of the rare occasions when Trump listened to his political advisers, who were undoubtedly apoplectic at the thought of another Helsinki at that moment.

As it turned out Trump just couldn't stay away from Putin. We had been told before that they had spoke informally during the Buenos Aires summit but as it turns out, that was a much more substantive and lengthier meeting than before. And once again, there was no staff or American interpreter on hand. According to the Times, all the leaders had attended an event at the 19th-century Teatro Colón, and as they all streamed out of the building at the end of the evening, Donald and Melania Trump sat down at a table for a private chat alone with Putin and his interpreter. They were among the last to leave.

What makes this story particularly interesting, aside from the fact that he did it again, is that the source for the story is a Russian government official who told the Times that the two leaders spoke about "a number of foreign policy issues." Why this Russian official decided to discuss this meeting at this particular moment is unclear. But you can't blame people thinking it might be meant as a message to the president. (Perhaps Trump's aggressive stance in Venezuela, in direct conflict with Russian interests, isn't going over well?)

It should be absurd to even think such a thing. But that's what happens when the president repeatedly meets with Putin on the sly with no record of their conversations, and behaves in the Russian leader's presence like a fawning fanboy. Even if there's nothing untoward going on, he's giving the Russian government leverage just by acting as if there is.

On Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee took testimony from the leaders of all the intelligence services as they presented their annual "Worldwide Threat Assessment." The list of threats will come as no surprise to most of you. However, Trump would have been brought up short if he ever read it, which he almost assuredly did not. It was pretty much a rebuke of virtually everything he's said and done over the past two years.

For instance, the intelligence community says that North Korea “is unlikely to give up all of its WMD stockpiles, delivery systems, and production capabilities.” This would be in direct contrast to the president who insists that he and Korean dictator Kim Jong-un are "in love" and that North Korea is "no longer a nuclear threat."

The intelligence chiefs also claim that despite the U.S. pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, the Iranian government is still abiding by it and “is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities.” Trump had called the deal "defective at its core," when he unilaterally pulled out.

The threat report confirms that global warming is contributing to ever increasing “climate hazards such as extreme weather, higher temperatures, droughts, floods, wildfires, storms, sea level rise, soil degradation, and acidifying oceans." Trump thinks people should rake the forests to prevent wildfires and bizarrely believes that “the ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now. But now they’re setting records. They’re at a record level." Just this week, we saw this one from the president:

And what about Trump's declaration of victory against ISIS? According to the threat assessment, it was just a tad premature. It reports that the Islamic State “still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria” and around the world, and “will exploit any reduction in counterterrorism pressure to strengthen its clandestine presence and accelerate rebuilding key capabilities."

And needless to say, despite the "very strong" assurance from Trump's good buddy Putin that his government was absolutely not meddling in America's elections, the U.S. intelligence community believes that “Russia’s social media efforts will continue to focus on aggravating social and racial tensions, undermining trust in authorities, and criticizing perceived anti-Russia politicians” as part of an ongoing campaign “to influence US policy, actions, and elections” They made it abundantly clear that Russia had interfered in 2016 and 2018 and they assumed it plans to so again.

As for all those private meetings between Trump and Putin? Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., asked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats about the fact that Trump didn't share with anyone what was said in those meetings: "would this put you in a disadvantaged position in terms of understanding Russia’s efforts to advance its agenda against the United States?" Coats replied, "Senator, clearly this is a sensitive issue, and it’s an issue that we ought to talk about this afternoon. I look forward to discussing that in a closed session.”

It's fair to say that this would be the first time such a question was asked about any American president. And it's unbelievable that the director of national intelligence couldn't answer it directly and in public.

But for all that, perhaps the most disturbing assessment in the report was the one which found that American trade policies and “unilateralism” have strained traditional alliances and prompted foreign partners to seek new relationships. The report shows that the world is obviously full of dangers and challenges. But thanks to Trump's reckless, makeshift approach to policy, it looks as though the U.S. will be facing them alone.

And by the way, Trump's No. 1 security threat, the one that may require him to declare a national emergency? The "invasion" at the southern border? It didn't even make the list. Imagine that.

Here's the president responding on twitter this morning with his usual dignified, measured rhetoric:


The firefighter in the room

by Tom Sullivan

I'm all right, Jack, keep your hands off of my stack. - Pink Floyd, "Money"

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is getting considerable free press for talking about running for president in 2020. Mostly, he's afraid he'll be running for his tax accountant.

“If he runs against a far-left progressive person who is suggesting 60, 70 percent tax increases on the rich and a health care system we can’t pay for, President Trump is going to get re-elected,” Schultz told ABC’s “The View” on Tuesday.

Developed countries around the world provide universal health care, yet the U.S. cannot afford it, Schultz believes. What he means is members of his tax class don't want to help pay for it. They are "job creators." Isn't that enough? People should be bowing lower.

Exchanges from the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting last week in Davos, Switzerland illustrate the point. Clearly, Michael Dell did not think much of the proposal to set the top tax rate at 70 percent.

Dell preferred talking about his philanthropy.

A later panel entitled "The Cost of Inequality" focused on tax structures and the distribution of wealth. Historian Rutger Bregman criticized the rich for tax avoidance and the hypocrisy of the conference itself.

Bregman observed, “Fifteen-hundred private jets have flown in [to Davos] to hear David Attenborough speak about how we’re wrecking the planet.” And for all the conversation about "participation and justice and equality and transparency," no one addresses the real issue: tax avoidance.

“I feel like I’m at a firefighters’ conference and nobody is allowed to talk about water,” Bregman said. The scale of the climate crisis, for example, is so vast that what we need is much higher taxes on the wealthy. Philanthropy alone will not solve it.

Ken Goldman, former CFO of Yahoo and clearly irritated, asked why there was not more discussion of creating wealth rather than taxing the rich.

"I have to say, honestly, this is a very one-sided panel ... The U.S. basically has the lowest unemployment rate ever, the lowest black unemployment rate ever, the lowest youth unemployment ever," Goldman began. "We've actually reduced poverty around the world. No one's talking about that at all." Or about how much the world owes to job creators. Like Dell, he wanted more attention on billionaire philanthropy.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, noted how wealth taxes across the planet have been slashed and even abolished in some places. Loopholes have prevented taxes from being collected and put back into people's health and education. Thus, inequality widens (emphasis mine):
"[Oxfam] also works with poultry workers in the richest country in the world, the United States. Poultry workers. These are women who are cutting the chickens and packing them and we buy them in the supermarkets. Dolores, one woman we work with there, told us that she and her co-workers have to wear diapers to work because they're not allowed toilet breaks ...

Those are the jobs we've been told about, that globalization is bringing jobs. The quality of the jobs matter. It matters. Those are not jobs of dignity. In many countries workers no longer have a voice. They're not allowed to unionize, they're not allowed to negotiate for salaries. So we're talking about jobs, but jobs that bring dignity ... So don't tell me about low levels of unemployment. You're counting the wrong things. You're not counting dignity of people. You're counting exploited people."
It is a mistake to underestimate the power relative status holds over the human animal, whether she/he is the "lowest white man" or a billionaire with a private jet. Status is worth more to them than money (almost). It could be white workers worried that raising the minimum wage will raise the status of black and brown people to rival theirs. Or it could be billionaires feeling disrespected by those beneath them on the social ladder when asked to pay more in taxes.

Venture capitalist Nick Hanauer pointed out the dynamic at work with the rich in 2012. Fellow plutocrats were not happy when at a TED conference Hanauer explained:
Significant privileges have come to capitalists like me for being perceived as "job creators" at the center of the economic universe, and the language and metaphors we use to defend the fairness of the current social and economic arrangements is telling. For instance, it is a small step from "job creator" to "The Creator". We did not accidentally choose this language. It is only honest to admit that calling oneself a "job creator" is both an assertion about how economics works and a claim on status and privileges.
No wonder Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other freshman Democrats have Schultz and Dell and Goldman so uneasy. When the rich find they will not bow before the power of the Rich Side, count on it, they will try to turn them.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

This is just sad

by digby

I know the types who did this. It's usually a bunch of white yahoos running around in off-road vehicles tearing up anything they see. I usually see them going down to Mexico to do it where there aren't so many restrictions. They have no respect for the land, for animals and certainly not for their fellow humans. It's sickening.

The partial government shutdown ended last week after 35 days, but conservationists have warned that its impact may be felt for hundreds of years in at least one part of the country: Joshua Tree National Park.

The Southern California park, which is larger than Rhode Island and famed for its dramatic rock formations and the spiky-leafed Joshua trees from which it takes it name, had only a skeleton crew of workers during the shutdown.

With most of its park rangers furloughed, vandals and inconsiderate guests ran amok. Gates and posts were toppled, new roads carved through the desert by unauthorized off-road drivers, and a small number of the park’s thousands of Joshua trees were outright destroyed, conservationists said.

Pictures posted to social media showed trees that were chopped down or that appeared to have been driven over by cars. The sensitive ecosystem of desert and craggy rock formations that surrounds them was littered with garbage and other telltale signs of illegal camping...

“Because these trees are so big and they grow so slowly, it can take hundreds of years for a tree to mature,” Mr. Lauretig said. “We say they grow an inch a year, and in a wet year it might grow five inches or a foot but in a dry year it might not grow at all.”

At a rally on Saturday near the park, Curt Sauer, the former park superintendent who retired in 2010, agreed.

“What’s happened to our park in the last 34 days is irreparable for the next 200 to 300 years,” he told the crowd, according to The Desert Sun, a local newspaper. Mr. Sauer did not respond to messages seeking comment, nor did David Smith, the park’s current superintendent.



Gingrich vs Coulter

by digby

Newtie on Fox News last night:

“[Trump] should not pay any attention to Ann Coulter. Ann Coulter’s never run for office. She doesn’t know anything about how you put a majority together. She’s off here in some fantasy land where she gets to be noisy, which helps her sell books.”

Wicked burn! But he should have known that she wouldn't take that lying down:

Come on Newt. You may be a nasty piece of work. But don't ever think you can best the Queen of Mea

It will be interesting to see if this ever becomes a real fight within the GOP, though. So far, Coulter and former White House aides are out there all by themselves.


Roger Stone is very proud

by digby

One might even call him a proud boy:

When Roger Stone waived his Nixonian salute on the steps of a federal courthouse in Florida last week following his arrest on the orders of Robert Mueller, he was joined by some unusual supporters: the Proud Boys.

On Tuesday, Stone was arraigned in a Washington, D.C. courthouse on charges he lied about dealings with WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign in 2016. Stone has spent the past two years as the most outlandish character in the Trump-Russia saga, with his colorful quotes and flamboyant wardrobe. At the same time, he’s grown tighter with the violent ultra-nationalist group, hiring them as security and participating in the group’s videos—even repeating its slogan.

With Trumpworld distancing itself from Stone, it was up to Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio to defend him.

“This whole investigation started with the Russia collusion thing. These charges today are just obstruction, nothing to do with that… I believe nothing’s gonna come of it. I believe some of it is manufactured,” Tarrio told The Daily Beast in Florida on Friday.

On Tuesday morning in D.C., a handful of Proud Boys gathered outside, holding signs “Roger Stone did nothing wrong” and promoting InfoWars. The Proud Boys got in arguments with Stone hecklers and were separated by police.

Oh good.

In case you are unfamiliar with the Proud Boys:

The Proud Boys are a neo-fascist group that glorifies violence against opponents, particularly on the left. Designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the group and its members have been involved in a series of bloody brawls across the country over the past three years, leading to the recent departure of founder Gavin McInnes.

Taking McInnes' place is Tarrio, who is especially close to Stone. They appeared together on Friday outside of court. On Sunday, Tarrio was photographed entering Stone’s house. Last month, Stone filmed a video with Tarrio where he told the group to “keep the faith.”

Tarrio’s Proud Boys count Stone as one of their own. The group posted a video last February showing Stone completing what has been described by the group as a low-level initiation. “Hi, I’m Roger Stone. I’m a Western chauvinist. I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.”

Stone denied being a Proud Boy in a text message to The Daily Beast: “For the record I am not a member. If fact I would never belong to an organization that would have someone like me as a member (Groucho Marx).”

When asked whether the Proud Boys mischaracterized his “1st degree” initiation in the video, Stone accused this reporter of being a member of the Communist Party and did not return further questions.

Some Proud Boys view Stone as an “influencer,” said Samantha Kutner, a University of Nevada researcher studying violent extremism. Kutner has conducted extensive interviews with Proud Boys. At one point during McInnes’ tenure, Stone was “one of the three approved media figures allowed to speak” about the group, she said.

Stone’s video represented the lowest of four “degrees” of Proud Boy initiation. The first degree comes with dubious membership. To reach the next level, initiants must shout the names of breakfast cereals while Proud Boys punch them.

“Anyone can post a video claiming their allegiance to the group in that fashion,” Kutner said of Stone. “I don’t know if there’s video of the cereal beat-in, but that is recognized among members as the way to consider yourself an official Proud Boy. You’re not given any rights at council meetings and don’t really have a say in the group until you get your second degree, which is the cereal beat-in.”

She added that she would characterize first-degree Proud Boys as “sympathizers. They have expressed enough commitment to the group to make a video claiming their allegiance, but they haven’t taken the next step to officially become a member. They could be considered a non-committal member of the Proud Boys.”

Indeed, Stone has repeatedly used the Proud Boys as a security force, sometimes with other Republicans’ blessing. The organizer of a GOP conference in Oregon last March defended Stone’s decision to bring the hate group, telling Willamette Week that Stone “was worried about getting killed… He gets death threats constantly.”
They are just a bunch of violent gang members. I'm not sure why we need to think of them as anything else. 

Stone is affiliated with them for the same reason anyone affiliates with the alt-right types: it's transgressive and threatening. And that's what Stone is all about.

This says it all:

QOTD: Roger Stone

by digby

This is a doozy, but I'm sure the Hannity audience ate it up with a spoon:

Today Stone's fans were gathered outside the courthouse where he was being arraigned and one of the signes was "Free Stone, Jail Hillary."

They just can't quit her ...


Great plan. Graham wants Trump to hold the debt ceiling hostage too.

by digby

... for that stupid wall. This is like giving a toddler a can of gasoline and butane lighter to play with after he just got a spanking for playing with matches:

An influential Republican senator is urging President Donald Trump to up the ante in talks over his border wall: To push for an increase in the national debt limit as part of a legislative package to avert another government shutdown in mid-February.

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close ally of the President, told CNN that he spoke with Trump at dinner Monday night about "what would a good deal look like" as lawmakers attempt to negotiate an agreement to stave off another government shutdown -- and floated the possibility that raising the debt limit could be part of the negotiation.

Graham, the senior senator from South Carolina, said he is "hopeful we can solve more than one problem" and added "I think the President understands we need to raise the debt ceiling. It comes due in March, so why not just expedite things."

Taking such a step would amount to a dramatic move by the President: He could dare Democrats to block funding for the border wall and risk sending the country into default in the process. Graham said agreeing to one big package could clear the decks of the thorny issues facing Congress in the weeks ahead.

Congressional negotiators are racing against the clock to strike a deal that would avert another shutdown after the President signed into law a stopgap funding bill last week that put an end to the longest federal government shutdown in US history. The shutdown was triggered by a standoff between congressional Democrats and the President over Trump's demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall, which Democrats have refused to agree to.

It is unclear whether a deal can be struck to avoid the government shutting down once again as the President remains firm in his demand. The stopgap bill to reopen government provides funding through February 15, leaving a narrow window for negotiation.

Sometime in the second half of 2019, the Treasury Department will lose the ability to borrow if Congress and the President can't agree on how to get around the cap. The current suspension of the debt ceiling, which was quietly agreed to last year, will expire on March 1. But the Treasury will be able to cover its bills at least into mid-summer by moving money around — a series of maneuvers formally designated "extraordinary measures."

Graham said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made the case for raising the debt limit at their dinner. The senator would not discuss what Trump said about the idea.

"His wall money is necessary. His barrier money," Graham said. "We've got to raise the debt ceiling in March. So Mnuchin was there telling us about that. We've got to come up with a budget agreement. If you want to continue to get the military refurbished and rebuild it, then we need to end the last two years of sequestration."

He added, "so there's a package we could put together that would solve several problems. My thought is while we're talking about all these things that are coming due pretty soon, let's think bigger rather than smaller."

When asked if the President wants to include the debt ceiling as part of a broader agreement, Graham said, "I don't speak for him. I'm just saying, we talked about a package and I think the President basically believes that his priority of barrier funding can be achieved solving other problems also."

Graham is Trump's Rasputin. And we know how that went.

This is a terrible idea and I'm frankly a little bit surprised that Graham suggested it. He loves to lick Trump's boots but he's not usually completely insane. The idiotic wall is not worth this kind of chaos and he knows it.


Bill Barr's Catch-22

by digby

"A concern:

A planned Senate Judiciary Committee vote on William P. Barr’s nomination to serve as attorney general has been delayed for a week, as Democrats continue to raise concerns about whether he would allow special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to finish his probe and publicize the results unimpeded.

The delay, which is customary for high-profile nominations, is not expected to impede Barr’s chances of being confirmed by the full Senate. But it is the latest reflection of the deep partisan tension surrounding Barr’s nomination, most of which centers on Democrats’ desire to protect Mueller’s probe from being unduly constrained.

The committee postponed its vote on Barr as one of 46 nominations the panel was scheduled to vote on Tuesday but decided to delay until its next meeting.

In both his public testimony and his written answers to senators’ questions, Barr has repeatedly refused to give senators any firm guarantee that he will release Mueller’s report to Congress and the public free of redactions. In similar fashion, he has only promised to ask for, but not necessarily heed, the advice of the Justice Department’s ethics counsel on the matter of whether he should recuse himself from oversight of the probe.

That has particularly frustrated Democrats, who take issue with a memo Barr penned last year arguing that in scrutinizing the actions of the Trump campaign, Mueller appeared to be interpreting an obstruction of justice statute too broadly. Democrats fear the memo is evidence that Barr, who served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush during the early 1990s, might seek to limit the scope of Mueller’s probe.

Though Barr has said that, as a former attorney general, he often weighs in on topics of the day, he acknowledged in written answers to lawmakers that he could not recall another case in which he sent the Justice Department such a memo.

Barr’s written answers also sparked bipartisan concerns about how much information he might allow Mueller to release specifically concerning Trump. In an answer to Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), Barr said that “it is Department policy and practice not to criticize individuals for conduct that does not warrant prosecution.”

On Tuesday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) pointed out that if Barr decided to follow department legal guidance that a sitting president could not be indicted — or, by extension, prosecuted — it could keep Trump out of the report entirely — even if Mueller found concerning information about the president.

Panel chairman Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) agreed that possibility was concerning.

“If you agree you can’t indict the president, it’s probably not a good reason not to share with us the derogatory information,” Graham said, promising to pursue Barr on that point. He also pledged to ask Barr whether he would let Trump claim executive privilege to muzzle portions of the report.
Yeah, that's a problem. If everyone assumes that a sitting president can only be impeached, not indicted, then the standard rule that you don't reveal any evidence about subjects you don't indict means the Justice Department cannot share evidence of Trump's criminality with the congress. In other words, the congress would have to develop all the information on its own, without any of the resources of the Justice department and, in this case, the intelligence community, to determine whether the president is a criminal or a traitor.

The congress has certain power. It can subpoena witnesses and documents. But it depends upon the Justice Department for enforcement purposes. This won't work.

But I don't expect this will make a difference. If Bill Barr decides that his job is to protect the president, that's probably what will happen. We only have two years.

If this happens, we'll end up with the vague conclusion that Trump is just a moron, which could easily be interpreted as exoneration. I mean, everyone knows he's a moron. I don't think that's a deal breaker, frankly. Reagan and Bush weren't exactly intellectual giants. This country is fine with that.


Telling him what he wants to hear

by digby

Here's yet another poll showing Trump's approval rating really is falling:

The new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows the 35-day partial government shutdown took a toll on Trump’s overall performance ratings. While presidential approval has fluctuated only slightly throughout Trump’s two years in office, he neared his lowest marks this month, slipping from December.

Here’s how the nation assesses Trump’s performance:

The poll finds 34 percent of Americans approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president, compared with 65 percent who disapprove.

Trump’s current approval rating nears the lowest measured in an AP-NORC poll since he took office. Still, Trump has seen remarkable stability in his ratings throughout his presidency, with his approval falling in a narrow range across most polls, from the mid-30s to the mid-40s.

In December, 42 percent expressed approval of Trump, while 56 percent disapproved.

Meanwhile, his courtiers are still telling him that his clothes are just beautiful:

President Donald Trump’s political team has concluded that shutting down the government hasn’t damaged his 2020 prospects — if anything, they’re convinced it’s bolstered his standing in key electoral battlegrounds.

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale commissioned a survey taken during the final days of the shutdown that was conducted by respected GOP pollsters Neil Newhouse and Robert Blizzard. The poll, surveying 10 GOP-leaning House districts that Democrats won in the 2018 midterms, found that a plurality of voters blamed Trump for the shutdown. But a plurality of voters also supported his push for a border wall.

Trump is expected to be briefed on the new numbers on Monday evening, according to a person familiar with the plans.

Here's the funny part:

Isenstadt, in turn, was given their full write-up of the poll and posted it online for everyone to see. The weird thing about it is that while it would be pretty easy to fake a poll and stuff it full of good news for Trump, they didn’t. They just took a poll that’s full of bad news for Trump — like that his approval rating is probably 13 points underwater nationally and he’s less popular than Democratic House incumbents who are holding down Trump-voting districts — and wrote it up as if it’s good news for Trump.
What the RNC polled and what it said

Instead of conducting a valid survey of national opinion, Newhouse and Blizzard polled 10 House districts. Not 10 random House districts or 10 representative House districts, but 10 districts that Trump won in 2016 but that are represented in the House today by a Democrat — MN-7, NY-2, SC-1, NY-11, OK-5, PA-8, ME-2, VA-7, NY-3, and NY-19.

This is an interesting thing to look at, but the relevant context is Trump won these 10 districts by an average of 12 points in the context of losing the national popular vote by 2 points. In other words, this swath of America is about 14 points Trumpier than the national average.

And what did they find?

Trump’s approval rating is 49 to 48 percent

Voters say they support Trump’s policies by a 54 to 43 percent margin

“By way of comparison, the average approval score for the Democratic Members of Congress in these districts is 35%-20%.”

So, putting this through the 14-point translator, we get the conclusion that Trump’s policies are unpopular nationally and that his favorable rating is probably -13 nationally. It’s true that -13 is a little bit better than the -15 he’s at in the FiveThirtyEight polling average, but it’s well within the range of other results. In other words, there’s no special good news here.

In fact, the only genuinely new finding this poll offers is its look at the popularity of 10 House Democrats who’ve been given the difficult job of trying to hold down seats that are much redder than the national average. And the news here is good for Democrats — the incumbent House members in these districts are popular. 
None of this is earth-shattering, but it does raise the question of why Trump’s staff seems to be trying to trick him.

There's no question. Trump's staff has learned that he won't tolerate bad news so they're not giving him any. He isn't capable of learning and he can't adjust his behavior so it's no use anyway. It would only make him mad.

Trump buggy whips

by Tom Sullivan

Economic pedants enjoy using buggy whips as an example of a technology that has simply run its course. But like pundits who still red-bait decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, supporters of the U.S. coal industry cannot let it go.

A German commission announced last weekend it would shut down "all 84 of its coal-fired power plants over the next 19 years" to keep its international commitments to reduce climate-warming CO2 emissions. The country recently had been lagging in reduction efforts, reported the Los Angeles Times:

“This is an historic accomplishment,” said Ronald Pofalla, chairman of the 28-member government commission, at a news conference in Berlin following a marathon 21-hour negotiating session that concluded at 6 a.m. Saturday. The breakthrough ended seven months of wrangling. “It was anything but a sure thing. But we did it,” Pofalla said. “There won’t be any more coal-burning plants in Germany by 2038.”
Environmentalists nonetheless staged a protest to demand a phase-out by 2030.

Following the 2011 nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, Germany decided it would shutter all of its nuclear plants. Twelve of 19 have closed to date, the Times reports.
The plan to eliminate coal-burning plants as well as nuclear means that Germany will be counting on renewable energy to provide 65% to 80% of the country’s power by 2040. Last year, renewables overtook coal as the leading source and now account for 41% of the country’s electricity
And what of Team USA? The sitting president prefers buggy whips. Donald Trump believes in the heavy industries of his youth, writes Catherine Rampell. "To Trump, any difficulties such sectors face are national tragedies whose reversal demands re-rigging the rest of the economy, regardless of cost," Rampell writes in the Washington Post. Plus, he needs to placate blue-collar supporters in coal-mining states.

Trump blames the decline of coal on regulation. He has rolled back regulations on CO2 emissions, on coal ash disposal, and on mercury emissions. His Department of Energy last week announced $38 million in new funding aimed at keeping online the sort of coal-fired plants Germany is closing. All for naught, Rampell explains:
The U.S. Energy Information Administration, the statistical agency within the Energy Department, just released its annual energy outlook. Lo and behold, it forecasts a 21 percent decline in coal production over the next 20 years. Astoundingly, as the Financial Times points out, that’s an even steeper decline than the agency estimated a mere two years ago — which was back when President Barack Obama’s big, bad, coal-killing Clean Power Plan was still expected to go into effect.
Coal's main challenge is not regulation, but competition from newer technologies. Hydraulic fracturing technologies have improved. Natural gas is a cheaper alternative to coal, one other nations may soon exploit, advises Michael Greenstone, an economics professor at the University of Chicago. Solar and wind power per megawatt-hour are both already cheaper than coal. Prices continue to fall for renewables while the cost of coal-fired electricity has not moved since 2017. Coal-fired plants are no longer competitive, with 15 percent of capacity projected for retirement between 2018 and 2024.

Donald Trump "struggles to understand why he can’t turn back the clock," Rampell concludes. That doesn't mean he cannot fantasize. People in coal (and steel) country are losing jobs and a way of life to changing technology, not just to climate change. Maybe they would be better off if the president were more help finding them a new one.