Saturday, December 31, 2016

Trump Ain’t Bringing Any Jobs Back— Quite The Opposite


Trump has always made a big deal about how brilliant he is— high IQ, great college education, “all the best words,” etc— but in reality, he has a very average IQ, higher than his supporters, of course, but probably the lowest of any legitimate American president. As for his education… he flunked out of Fordham, which isn’t a top school to begin with, and his daddy then bought him a spot in a "special" real estate program at Wharton, where he failed to make any kind of impression on anyone for the months he was there. And, it isn’t likely he learned much at Wharton or in the greater University of Pennsylvania environment it is part of. For a final post of the wretched 2016, I want to reference the current work of Wharton’s Art Bilger, a venture capitalist and board member at the business school. He sees massive disappearances of jobs over the next couple of decades. Massive.
The Trump campaign ran on bringing jobs back to American shores, although mechanization has been the biggest reason for manufacturing jobs’ disappearance. Similar losses have led to populist movements in several other countries. But instead of a pro-job growth future, economists across the board predict further losses as AI, robotics, and other technologies continue to be ushered in. What is up for debate is how quickly this is likely to occur.

Now, an expert at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania is ringing the alarm bells. According to Art Bilger, venture capitalist and board member at the business school, all the developed nations on earth will see job loss rates of up to 47% within the next 25 years, a statistic from a recent Oxford University study. “No government is prepared,” The Economist reports. These include blue and white collar jobs. So far, the loss has been restricted to the blue collar variety, particularly in manufacturing.

To combat “structural unemployment” and the terrible blow it is bound to deal the American people, Bilger has formed a nonprofit called Working Nation, whose mission it is to warn the public and to help make plans to safeguard them from this worrisome trend. Not only is the entire concept of employment about to change in a dramatic fashion, the trend is irreversible. The venture capitalist called on corporations, academia, government, and nonprofits to cooperate in modernizing our workforce.

To be clear, mechanization has always cost us jobs. The mechanical loom for instance put weavers out of business. But it’s also created jobs. Mechanics had to keep the machines going, machinists had to make parts for them, and workers had to attend to them, and so on. A lot of times those in one profession could pivot to another. At the beginning of the 20th century for instance, automobiles were putting blacksmiths out of business. Who needed horse shoes anymore? But they soon became mechanics. And who was better suited?

Not so with this new trend. Unemployment today is significant in most developed nations and it’s only going to get worse. By 2034, just a few decades, midlevel jobs will be by and large obsolete. So far the benefits have only gone to the ultra-wealthy, the top 1%. This coming technological revolution is set to wipe out what looks to be the entire middle class. Not only will computers be able to perform tasks more cheaply than people, they’ll be more efficient too.

Accountants, doctors, lawyers, teachers, bureaucrats, and financial analysts beware: your jobs are not safe. According to The Economist, computers will be able to analyze and compare reams of data to make financial decisions or medical ones. There will be less of a chance of fraud or misdiagnosis, and the process will be more efficient. Not only are these folks in trouble, such a trend is likely to freeze salaries for those who remain employed, while income gaps only increase in size. You can imagine what this will do to politics and social stability.

Mechanization and computerization cannot cease. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. And everyone must have it, eventually. The mindset is this: other countries would use such technology to gain a competitive advantage and therefore we must adopt it. Eventually, new tech startups and other business might absorb those who have been displaced. But the pace is sure to move far too slowly to avoid a major catastrophe.

According to Bilger, the problem has been going on for a long time. Take into account the longevity we are enjoying nowadays and the US’s broken education system and the problem is compounded. One proposed solution is a universal basic income doled out by the government, a sort of baseline one would receive for survival. After that, re-education programs could help people find new pursuits. Others would want to start businesses or take part in creative enterprises. It could even be a time of the flowering of humanity, when instead of chasing the almighty dollar, people would able to pursue their true passions.

On a recent radio program, Bilger talked about retooling the education system in its entirety, including adding classes that are sure to transfer into the skills workers need for the jobs that will be there. He also discussed the need to retrain middle-aged workers so that they can participate in the economy, rather than be left behind. Bilger said that “projects are being developed for that.” Though he admits that many middle-aged workers are resistant to reentering the classroom, Bilger says it’s necessary. What’s more, they are looking at ways of making the classroom experience more dynamic, such as using augmented reality for retraining purposes, as well as to reinvent K-12 education. But such plans are in the seminal stages.

Widespread internships and apprenticeships are also on the agenda. Today, the problem, as some contend, is not that there aren’t enough jobs, but that there aren’t enough skilled workers to fill the positions that are available. Bilger seems to think that this problem will only grow more substantial.

But would those who drive for a living, say long haul truckers and cab drivers, really find a place in the new economy with retraining, once self-driving vehicles become pervasive? No one really knows. Like any major shift in society, there are likely to be winners and losers. This pivot point contains the seeds for a pragmatic utopia, or complete social upheaval, but is likely to fall somewhere between.

Bilger ended the interview saying, “What would our society be like with 25%, 30% or 35% unemployment? … I don’t know how you afford that, but even if you could afford it, there’s still the question of, what do people do with themselves? Having a purpose in life is, I think, an important piece of the stability of a society.”
Tough times ahead-- just when we desperately need extraordinary leaders... instead of the exact opposite. Trump's economic team is the worst I've ever seen in my lifetime. They will be incapable of doing anything but making everything that comes down the pike manifestly worse. And the quality of the opposition-- think about the reptilian Chuck Schumer and a tired and confused Nancy Pelosi isn't any better (even if, at times, arguably better-intentioned). Happy New Year!

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Happy New Year from all of us here at DWT!


by Ken

For this new year, I thought I'd bring back a Sunday Classics triple toast (with trimmings) I whipped up for last New Year's, with assists from assorted participants in that greatest of operettas, Johann Strauss Jr.'s Die Fledermaus, beginning with this immortal (if hard to translate-in-song) pearl of wisdom:

Richard Leech (t), Alfred; Kiri Te Kanawa (s), Rosalinde; Vienna Philharmonic, André Previn, cond. Philips, recorded November 1990

[in English] Richard Tucker (t), Alfred; Marguerite Piazza (s), Rosalinde; Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy, cond. Live performance, Jan. 20, 1951
[Note that the English translation doesn't even attempt to retain the sense of the original. But just listen to the sounds being made by the young Richard Tucker! Note that he's also the Alfred of American Columbia's recording of Fledermaus based on this Met production.]


Three New Year's toasts from Die Fledermaus, starting with the one in Act I that's excerpted above, with this invaluable lesson taught by the Alfred, a tenor (yes, in "real" life) who never lets anything get him down. But first, in accordance with what was common Sunday Classics practice, we start at the beginning, with the Overture.

J. STRAUSS Jr.: Die Fledermaus: Overture

Vienna Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan, cond. Decca, recorded June 1960

Vienna Philharmonic, André Previn, cond. Philips, recorded, November 1990

Philharmonia Orchestra, Otto Ackermann, cond. EMI, recorded June 1959

Bavarian State Orchestra, Carlos Kleiber, cond. Live performance, Dec. 31, 1974

We've heard all of these performances before, but let me say again -- as I do each time the Karajan-Decca Fledermaus comes up -- that it's one of the handful of recordings I would offer in evidence of Karajan's greatness as a conductor, along with, I think, his first DG Beethoven symphony cycle (you can hear how hard he worked on that set, not in the effort but in the results), the DG Ring cycle, and the EMI Fidelio.


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Elizabeth Warren Fires A Shot Over The Bow Of The Fakest "Progressive" In Congress


Elizabeth Warren Fires A Shot Over The Bow Of The Fakest Progressive In Congress We’ve written a lot lately about how right-wing opportunist Tulsi Gabbard, a classic Fox News Dem, is not, despite her commendable backing for Bernie during the primary, a progressive. As we’ve discussed before, Gabbard’s record in the Hawaii legislature was pitiful and her record in Congress has earned her an “F” from ProgressivePunch. What few on the mainland understand— but what everyone who follows politics in Hawaii does know, is that the ravenously ambitious Gabbart plans to challenge progressive U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono in a primary. Republicans already know Tulsi is their gal and she doesn’t have to campaign directly for their votes. Instead, she’s hoping to catapult herself into the Senate— and beyond— by combining the mindless support she gets from the crackpot Chris Butler cult in Hawaii and the naive Bernie supporters on the mainland.

It seems unfathomable to Bernie fans that their hero, Gabbard, has a putrid conservative record going back for years and years. Just during her time in Congress, while Mazie Hirono has earned a solid “A” in the Senate and a lifetime crucial vote score of 96.39, bested only by Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey (chart above), the same algorithm gave Gabbard a 73.75 lifetime crucial vote score—and in one of the safest, bluest districts in America. She votes with the Wall Street-owned New Dems, not with progressives.

Someone must have alerted Elizabeth Warren to what Gabbard is up to because on Friday she sent her supporters a note about Mazie Hirono, asking them to support the woman with the third most progressive voting record in the Senate. No mention of Gabbard’s planned primary, just a subtle shot across the bow for the devious Hawaiian crony of Trump political agent, Steve Bannon. “There's only one way we're going to stop Donald Trump,” wrote Warren— By standing together. All of us. That's why I'm proud to stand alongside my friend, Senator Mazie Hirono.” Except for the most politically astute among them, most Berniebots who worship Gabbard have probably never heard of Maize Hirono. They will once the 2018 primary draws closer.
Hard-working families in Hawaii and all across the country can count on Mazie and me to fight for them in the U.S. Senate, every single day -- and to stand up to Donald Trump's dangerous policies that threaten America.

Mazie is one of my closest allies in the Senate, and she needs our support to get her reelection campaign off to a strong start.

…Mazie and I both arrived in the Senate in 2013 at the start of President Obama’s second term. Since then, we've been allies on issue after issue -- fighting to advance comprehensive immigration reform, defend Obamacare, protect women's health, raise the minimum wage, and ensure equal rights for all Americans.

And we're going to keep up that fight, with your help.

Over the past eight years, our country has made incredible progress. We have boosted the economy with more than 15 million new jobs, delivered quality, affordable healthcare to more than 17 million Americans, and fought to defend civil liberties for countless more.

But too many Americans still feel like the system is rigged for the millionaires and billionaires and giant corporations – and as Donald Trump prepares to take office (as much as it pains me to say that), that feeling will only get worse. All our progress hangs in the balance. We must fight to protect what we have won, and must fight our way forward.

That's why we need to keep Mazie Hirono in the Senate.
So far, Warren has only contacted her list for 3 senators— 3 absolutely staunch progressives, two, Tammy Baldwin and Sherrod Brown, who will face conservative Republicans, and one, Mazie, who will face a more insidious threat: a poisonous conservative posing as a progressive (Gabbard).

In a separate e-mail, she warned her supporters that in November “right-wing Super PACs drowned our Democratic Senate candidates with nasty attacks this election cycle – and many of our candidates couldn’t recover.” She knows conservatives will do the same thing again— Republican conservatives opposing Baldwin and Brown and shadier conservatives against Hirono.

Gabbard’s Republican opponent this year was a severely mentally ill Trumpist, Angela Aulani Kaaihue, who spent less than the $5,000 that would trigger an FEC report and won just 18.8% of the vote. Nonetheless, Gabbard was fundraising like a mad dog— not for Bernie or for progressives who needed help, but for herself. She spent $1,136,832 and as off November 28 had $2,123,367 in her campaign war chest. That— and the money from the crazy cultists who have financed her political career— is what she plans to use to attack Mazie from the left, something that is not just dishonest but patently absurd.

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Wassermann Schultz And The Rest Of The Democratic Grandees Gave Trump The Perfect Foil— The Only One He Could Have Beaten?


The Democratic Establishment hates Thomas Frank the way a 4 year old hates his cough medicine. In his day-after-election day OpEd in The Guardian Frank blamed them for the ascension of Trump to the White House and made the always obvious— now provable— point that “Clinton was exactly the wrong candidate: a technocrat who offered fine-tuning when the country wanted to take a sledgehammer to the machine.” They should have been reading his books and listening to him on Tom Hartmann’s radio show. Should have been— but with an open mind that might not be in their own personal financial interest.

“The woman we were constantly assured was the best-qualified candidate of all time,” he wrote, “has lost to the least qualified candidate of all time.” Trump’s taking over and “let’s not deceive ourselves. We aren’t going to win anything. What happened on Tuesday is a disaster, both for liberalism and for the world. As President Trump goes about settling scores with his former rivals, picking fights with other countries, and unleashing his special deportation police on this group and that, we will all soon have cause to regret his ascension to the presidential throne.”
What we need to focus on now is the obvious question: what the hell went wrong? What species of cluelessness guided our Democratic leaders as they went about losing what they told us was the most important election of our lifetimes?

Start at the top. Why, oh why, did it have to be Hillary Clinton? Yes, she has an impressive resume; yes, she worked hard on the campaign trail. But she was exactly the wrong candidate for this angry, populist moment. An insider when the country was screaming for an outsider. A technocrat who offered fine-tuning when the country wanted to take a sledgehammer to the machine.

She was the Democratic candidate because it was her turn and because a Clinton victory would have moved every Democrat in Washington up a notch. Whether or not she would win was always a secondary matter, something that was taken for granted. Had winning been the party’s number one concern, several more suitable candidates were ready to go. There was Joe Biden, with his powerful plainspoken style, and there was Bernie Sanders, an inspiring and largely scandal-free figure. Each of them would probably have beaten Trump, but neither of them would really have served the interests of the party insiders.

And so Democratic leaders made Hillary their candidate even though they knew about her closeness to the banks, her fondness for war, and her unique vulnerability on the trade issue – each of which Trump exploited to the fullest. They chose Hillary even though they knew about her private email server. They chose her even though some of those who studied the Clinton Foundation suspected it was a sketchy proposition.

To try to put over such a nominee while screaming that the Republican is a rightwing monster is to court disbelief. If Trump is a fascist, as liberals often said, Democrats should have put in their strongest player to stop him, not a party hack they’d chosen because it was her turn. Choosing her indicated either that Democrats didn’t mean what they said about Trump’s riskiness, that their opportunism took precedence over the country’s well-being, or maybe both.

Clinton’s supporters among the media didn’t help much, either. It always struck me as strange that such an unpopular candidate enjoyed such robust and unanimous endorsements from the editorial and opinion pages of the nation’s papers, but it was the quality of the media’s enthusiasm that really harmed her. With the same arguments repeated over and over, two or three times a day, with nuance and contrary views all deleted, the act of opening the newspaper started to feel like tuning in to a Cold War propaganda station. Here’s what it consisted of:
Hillary was virtually without flaws. She was a peerless leader clad in saintly white, a super-lawyer, a caring benefactor of women and children, a warrior for social justice.
Her scandals weren’t real.
The economy was doing well / America was already great.
Working-class people weren’t supporting Trump.
And if they were, it was only because they were botched humans. Racism was the only conceivable reason for lining up with the Republican candidate.
How did the journalists’ crusade fail? The fourth estate came together in an unprecedented professional consensus. They chose insulting the other side over trying to understand what motivated them. They transformed opinion writing into a vehicle for high moral boasting. What could possibly have gone wrong with such an approach?

Put this question in slightly more general terms and you are confronting the single great mystery of 2016. The American white-collar class just spent the year rallying around a super-competent professional (who really wasn’t all that competent) and either insulting or silencing everyone who didn’t accept their assessment. And then they lost. Maybe it’s time to consider whether there’s something about shrill self-righteousness, shouted from a position of high social status, that turns people away.

The even larger problem is that there is a kind of chronic complacency that has been rotting American liberalism for years, a hubris that tells Democrats they need do nothing different, they need deliver nothing really to anyone – except their friends on the Google jet and those nice people at Goldman. The rest of us are treated as though we have nowhere else to go and no role to play except to vote enthusiastically on the grounds that these Democrats are the “last thing standing” between us and the end of the world. It is a liberalism of the rich, it has failed the middle class, and now it has failed on its own terms of electability. Enough with these comfortable Democrats and their cozy Washington system. Enough with Clintonism and its prideful air of professional-class virtue. Enough!
Proof of Frank’s thesis: the Senate Democrats have chosen Chuck Schumer to head their decrepit minority. Pelosi was reelected to run the House Dems feeble efforts and she immediately engineered another term for the incredibly incompetent Ben Ray Lujan to head the DCCC. Even Obama, in announcing his anti-gerrymandering project named one of the nation’s least capable operatives, Kelly Ward, former DCCC executive director— personally responsible for 3 cycles of catastrophe and the loss of over 70 seats— to head it, guaranteeing before it’s even launched that it will fail miserably and absolutely and that every dime contributed to it will find its way into the pockets of her sleazy friends and colleagues all of whom will work their asses off to guarantee the Republicans win and win and win and win.

Obama blithely buys into the congenital failure

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Would The Senate Democrats Be Better Off With Schumer Or With A Steaming Pile Of Pig Poop As A Leader?


I don’t remember Jason Zengerle having been at James Madison High School in Brooklyn. In fact, even if he did go to school there, it would have been many years not just after Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Bernie Sanders, but many years after I went was there at the same time as Norm Coleman and Chuck Schumer. And in his new feature for New York I don’t think he meant too write a story about what an inadequate pile of crap Schumer is for the job of Democratic Senate Leader. I suspect it was meant to be a paean to the retiring Harry Reid— trying to prepare his Democratic colleagues to battle Trump without him— another slimy character, like Schumer, but one with , unlike Schumer, some saving (political) graces. “Shell-shocked Democats,” he wrote, “wouldn’t have Harry Reid around anymore to help them deal with this new nightmare” of Trump, McConnell and Ryan running there entire show. “To Democrats, Reid was indispensable — not only the man who helped them win back control of the Senate in 2006 but also the party insider who encouraged Barack Obama to run for president and, later, the parliamentary wizard who helped pass Obama’s legislative agenda.”

Compounding the loss of Reid is the sack of garbage he’s leaving behind: Schumer, a ruthless and corrupt congressman who became the single most corrupted Wall Street stooge in history. He’s taken more in legalistic bribes from the banksters than any non-presidential candidate ever. These are the current totals (since 1990) of Finance Sector “contributions” to their half dozen biggest puppets in Congress:
Chuck Schumer- $26,213,631
Mitch McConnell- $11,890,851
Paul Ryan- $9,261,692
Rob Portman- $9,013,382
Richard Shelby- $8,446,508
John Cornyn- $8,303,966
I’m sure you noticed that the sleazy Schumer has taken more in schmears from the banksters than Majority Leader McConnell and House Speaker Ryan combined— $26,213,631 to their $21,152,543. Wall Street is careful with their investments; they know which crooked politicians they’re buying and where they’ll get value. Reid didn’t take nearly as much Wall Street bribery— “just” $6,263,688 (almost $20 million less than Schumer). “In many ways,” continued Zengerle, “Schumer was the perfect complement to Reid. ‘Senator Reid never cared about messaging and he sure as hell didn’t care about polls,’ says Jim Manley, Reid’s former communications director, ‘but Schumer certainly thrives on that stuff.’ Unlike Reid, Schumer also had good working relationships with many of his Republican colleagues. More than anything, though, Reid — who grew up in abject poverty and moonlighted as a Capitol police officer to put himself through George Washington law school — admired Schumer’s hustle.” And then came the “but.”
But the job that Reid had in mind for Schumer when he anointed him as his successor isn’t the one Schumer will actually be doing. “Schumer would be a very good majority leader under President Hillary Clinton, and that’s what he thought he was signing up for,” says one prominent Democratic strategist, noting how aggressively Schumer waded into several Democratic Senate primaries in 2016. “He made the calculation that he wanted to win the Senate with people who were easily tamable and then he could be a majority leader like LBJ, just ramming things through.” As a minority leader with a Republican in the White House, however, Schumer will have a very different task — and there’s concern among some Democrats that he might not be cut out for it. “Chuck will go to the ramparts on an issue when it’s polling at 60 percent, but as soon as it gets hairy, he’s gone,” says one senior Democratic Senate aide. “Chuck wants issues to have no negatives, but it’s the Trump era. He’s looking at polls ­showing 60 percent for the Carrier deal” — in which Trump persuaded the company to keep a furnace plant in the U.S. in exchange for $7 million in tax breaks — “and thinking to himself, Maybe we should support that.”

Indeed, in the days immediately after Trump’s victory, Schumer sought common ground with the president-elect. Other Senate Democrats soon followed suit. Even Elizabeth Warren, who had spent the presidential campaign taunting Trump, pledged to work with him on increasing economic security for the middle class. Much of this was, presumably, typical morning-after posturing, but Reid was nonetheless alarmed. Three days after the election, he released a statement branding Trump “a sexual predator who lost the popular vote and fueled his campaign with bigotry and hate.”

“What I was trying to say,” Reid told me, “is, ‘Be careful, because this is not all fun and games. The stuff he has said has been hateful and disruptive and crude and not helpful to anybody, and so be careful what you agree with him about.’ ” Adam Jentleson, a top Reid adviser, puts it more bluntly: “He was standing athwart the normalization of Trump, yelling ‘Stop!’ He wanted to show Democrats that this is how you should be approaching things.”

The message was delivered, but even though Senate Democrats, including Schumer, have since struck a more defiant tone toward Trump and the GOP, they haven’t been as defiant as Reid might have hoped. Schumer, in particular, has continued to signal a willingness to work with Trump. “We’re not going to say no to something just because Trump’s name is on it,” says Matt House, a Schumer aide. “If people are concerned we’re going to work with Trump, they’re concerned we’re going to work with Trump on things Democrats have been fighting for for a long time. People need to pay attention to the nuances.” But the question remains whether those nuances will be lost on some of Schumer’s Democratic colleagues.

Nearly two months after the election, Senate Democrats are by all accounts unprepared and without a coherent strategy when it comes to opposing Trump’s agenda. Should they obstruct at all costs, even if it grinds government to a halt, and risk criticism that they’re just as partisan and ruthless as Republicans were under Obama? Should they partner with Trump in areas where he disagrees with GOP orthodoxy and hope that voters reward them as the party out of power? Should they prioritize delegitimizing Trump and winning 2020 — or defending vulnerable Senate seats in 2018? It is in the Senate where, theoretically, Democrats have the best shot at countering almost total Republican dominance of Washington. But to be effective they will need to be ­tactical and tough, and it’s likely they will be missing Harry Reid a lot.

One of Reid’s greatest skills as his party’s leader in the Senate was keeping his caucus unified. That’s a task that will be especially crucial under Trump: With ten Democratic senators from states Trump won up for reelection in 2018, the temptation for some of them to peel off and vote with Republicans — to demonstrate they can be reasonable — will be strong.

…Had Reid decided not to retire, it’s quite possible the upcoming term would have been the most significant of his career. Trump’s claim of a mandate notwithstanding, significant parts of the GOP agenda remain unpopular, from privatizing Medicare to deregulating Wall Street. Reid would have led the fight against the president. “It would have been two guys who don’t really care about, to borrow the phrase, ‘traditional norms’ and customs going at it,” Jim Manley muses. “It really would have been something to see.”

Instead, we are about to witness the most significant term of Schumer’s career. He has already earned the allegiance of Democratic senators by naming a number of them to newly created leadership posts. (“It’s like Oprah,” jokes one Senate aide. “You get a new leadership post! And you get a new leadership post!”) And it’s likely that Schumer will hold the caucus together during the confirmation process for Trump’s nominees. Senate Democrats appear to be unanimous in their opposition to Tom Price, Trump’s choice for Health and Human Services secretary, and they hope to raise such a ruckus about Medicare during Price’s hearings that at least three Republicans decide to vote against Price, too, thus handing Democrats their first scalp of the Trump era.

According to various Senate aides, Schumer doesn’t believe his party has a chance of torpedoing any other Trump nominees, but he hopes to make their confirmations as bruising — and, with smart floor management, as prolonged — as possible. (Schumer himself declined to comment.) “The goal will be to show the public how controversial these nominations are,” explains a Senate Democratic aide. Similarly, Schumer can expect to have the unanimous support of his caucus in pushing for a select committee to investigate Russian hacking of the election, and thanks to his bringing several Republicans onboard for that effort, he’s made it more ­difficult (or at least more uncomfortable) for Mitch McConnell to stop them.

But those are the easy parts. The battlefield becomes more perilous for Schumer as Trump and his party move on to other parts of their agenda. Again and again, the New York senator will be faced with the question of where and how often to use intransigence as a strategy. That his primary congressional adversary will be McConnell raises the stakes further, as the Kentucky senator has proved to be an even more ruthless majority leader than Reid was before him. It was McConnell’s singular insight that, even if Republicans were responsible for the lack of bipartisanship and the resulting gridlock, it would be the party that controls the White House that takes the blame for it. This nuclear strategy won back all parts of government from a president and party that was historically popular at the time McConnell cooked up his plan. But will Democrats have the stomach to stymie Trump in the same way McConnell and his fellow Republicans blocked Obama?

Schumer has signaled that he’s open to backing Trump’s infrastructure package — in part on the merits (this country could use some infrastructure spending) and in part because it might turn off enough Republicans that Schumer will have some leverage over a president eager to get points on the board. “Infrastructure will really test how much Democrats are willing to hold out for a good deal versus any deal,” says one Senate Democratic aide. Obamacare will be another tricky fight. Schumer and the Democrats will obviously oppose any effort to repeal the health-care law, but the crucial battle won’t occur until Republicans try to replace it. Some Democrats are already dismayed that Schumer hasn’t done a better job of firming up commitments from Senate Democrats that under no conditions will they vote for an Obamacare replacement. “You’ve got to establish your leverage early and make it clear to Republicans that it’s a ‘You break it, you bought it’ situation,” explains the same aide. “If you don’t lock down Democrats on that position early, before the repeal bill passes, you leave yourself vulnerable to things developing in such a way that makes it harder for Democrats to maintain their opposition.”

And then there’s the budget. Trump has promised to increase defense spending; it’s likely he won’t propose a similar increase in domestic spending, and it’s possible he’ll actually seek cuts. Schumer will face an agonizing choice in how he tries to get Democrats to respond: Go to the mat in opposing such a budget and threaten to shut down the government — knowing full well that by doing so, Democrats will run the risk of losing seats in 2018 in the states Trump won? Or acquiesce?

“You can get talked out of each individual fight, and you can make the case that in every one of these instances, Democrats should cave under pressure and go along,” says the aide. “But if we do, we’ll have allowed Trump to have a functional first year that completely devastated Democratic priorities in the process.”

“The problem with Democrats is that we believe in legislating,” laments Jim Manley. It’s a sanctimonious thing to say. But would Democrats really vote against an Obamacare replacement — as bad as it might be — to spite Trump if by doing so they’d throw the American health-care system into crisis? Would they vote against a budget bill that slashes domestic spending if it meant shutting down the government?

Sometimes. And sometimes they won’t. The question confronting Democrats is whether Schumer will demonstrate instincts as canny as Reid’s. And when a fight is engaged, who will emerge as a leader who can see it through? “There’s no natural person,” concedes a senior Democratic staffer in the Senate. “It’s not Chuck’s nature. Both Bernie [Sanders] and Warren are more interested in shaping the party and the fights that we choose” — which means they’ll often be battling with Democrats as much as Republicans—“and Durbin has an instinct, but we’ll see how much he’s able to rally other people.” Reid, who’s reluctant to offer much advice to his fellow Democrats (at least publicly), nonetheless recognizes the urgency of the issue. “Senator Schumer — or somebody — will have to be willing on a consistent basis to say no,” Reid told me. “You know, stand up there and say, ‘I object.’ ”

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Friday, December 30, 2016

The Poor People Who Voted For Trump And For Republicans May Soon Learn What That Means To Their Families


Going into 2017, the Christian Science Monitor reminded its readers that boosting low wages has become less controversial as conservatives looked elsewhere to inflict their deadly ideology on working families. 19 states are about to see a rise in the minimum wage, causing the pay of more than 4 million workers go upon one fell swoop. Conservatives still make the same discredited, utrterly false argument about the minimum wage they’ve been making since the Black Plague decimated the English working class in 1348, prompting King Edward III to set a maximum wage, making it illegal to pay laborers too much. Real minimum wage proposals gained steam in the early 1800s and the first minimum wage laws were passed in 1894 (New Zealand), 1896 (Australia) and 1909 (England). The first national minimum wage law came to the U.S. in 1938, accompanied by predictions of the end of the world by conservative politicians and the businessmen who finance their shameful careers. They were wrong, of course, but that hasn’t discouraged conservatives to roll out the same arguments and baseless scare tactics every time there was an attempt to increase the minimum wage.
Debates surrounding the pros and cons of minimum wage raises have reverberated through society in “Fight for $15” protests and state capitals around the nation. While those on the left have said wage hikes will pull some of the nation’s most vulnerable low-income workers out of poverty, conservatives have argued that increased costs for businesses will hamper the economy and have harmful fallout for the very workers they purpport to help.

But in 2017, several reliably red states will join liberal havens like Massachusetts and California in increasing wages for their workers after voters approved ballot initiatives. In others, indexing will provide the increases.

Altogether some 4.4 million workers are expected to see their hourly wages go up.

In places like Arizona, where voters chose to send President-elect Donald Trump to the Oval Office, they also voted for wage increases, crossing over partisan lines to take on an issue from a more traditionally liberal perspective.

…In cities around the country that set the trend of increasing wages, fears of price shock or businesses losses have proved largely unfounded, with localities seeing little impact on their economies. Still, more conservative state governments, like that in Arizona, are pushing back, with state’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry filing a lawsuit to challenge the increase, which is slated to raise the minimum wage from $8.05 to $10. On Thursday, the Arizona Supreme Court refused to temporarily block the measure.

Low-wage workers largely have activists to thank for the change, but note there’s still a long way to go. As states and cities move to raise their wages, the contrast between places still abiding by the federal minimum of $7.25 last raised in 2009 becomes more pronounced.
Seattle recently raised the minimum wage-- conservatives were ready to perform the last rights. Instead, standards of living have risen and unemployment rates-- rather than the sky-- have fallen. Take look:

A few days ago, Kali Holloway, demonstrated one of the places conservatives are seeking to harm the working class instead— the food stamps program. Fox News, the far right’s fake news source, is, as usual, the mouthpiece for plutocracy, greed and hatred. “Pathologizing poverty,” she wrote, “has been a long-term, ongoing—and sadly, highly successful—project of the right in this country.” She cites Wisconsin Koch puppet Scott Walker and his recent appeal to Trump to allow his beaten-down state to drug-test food-stamp recipients, as well as another Wisconsinite, Paul Ryan, and his plans to make it harder, nationally, to qualify for aid. As has always been the case with conservatives, “the goal is to punish and stigmatize the poor while eliminating programs that help lift them out of poverty.”

As the el Presidente-elect Señor Trumpanzee made clear in another one of his idiotic tweets yesterday, Fox is the Republican Party’s vision of state TV, something Holloway remarked on as well, reminding her readers it “essentially functions as the media arm of the Republican Party, and on Wednesday it did its part to undermine a program that helps 44 million poor Americans. To that transparent end, an episode of Fox & Friends featured a segment titled, “Food Stamp Fraud at All-Time High: Is It Time to End the Program?” The piece goes on to claim that USDA figures reveal “$70 million of taxpayer money was wasted in 2016 due to food stamp fraud.” Kevin Drum’s response: Fox News Screws Up It’s Latest Lie. Fox’s point was basically a question “Food Stamp Fraud at All-Time High: Is It Time to End the Program?”
Now, the obvious response to this is twofold. First, they're just lying, aren't they? And second, this is like a headline that says, "Traffic Deaths at All-Time High: Should We Ban Cars?"

But at this point the story takes a strange turn. First, I have no idea where Fox's $70 million figure comes from—and I looked pretty hard for it. The Fox graphic attributes it to "2016 USDA," but as near as I can tell the USDA has no numbers for SNAP fraud more recent than 2011.

But that's not all: $70 million is a startlingly low figure. In the most recent fiscal year, SNAP cost $71 billion, which means that fraud accounted for a minuscule 0.098 percent of the program budget. Even if this is an all-time high, the Fox high command can't believe this is anything but a spectacular bureaucratic success.

And it would be, if it were true. But it's not. If you look at inaccurate SNAP payments to states, the error rate since 2005 has decreased from 6 percent of the budget to less than 4 percent. However, this isn't fraud anyway: It's just an error rate, and most of the errors are eventually corrected. SNAP "trafficking"—exchanging SNAP benefits for cash—is fraud, but it's been declining steadily too, from 3.8 percent in 1993 to 1.3 percent in 2011 (the most recent year for which we have records):

So in any normal sense, the Fox story was a lie. SNAP fraud isn't at an all-time high. It's been declining for years. But here's the thing: The fraud rate in 2011 may have been low, but this was in the aftermath of the Great Recession, when total SNAP payments were very high. So although the percentage is low, the dollar value of fraud clocked in at $988 million. Fox could have used this far higher number, which is, in fact, an all-time high. It's only an all-time high because SNAP was helping far more people, but still. In the Fox newsroom, that would hardly matter.

Bottom line: Yes, Fox is lying in any ordinary sense of the word. But they're also vastly understating the amount of SNAP fraud. Even when they're trying to deceive their audience, it turns out, they're also incompetent.
And this is where Paul Ryan comes in. He and the Republicans, as PBS reported recently, have a plan and they are busy laying the groundwork for a fresh effort to “overhaul” the food stamp program during Trump’s presidency, with new work and stricter eligibility requirements for millions of people.

Right-wing freak Mike Conaway (R-TX) is the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and he’s leading Ryan’s jihad against food stamps, although he noted that the GOP doesn’t want to eliminate the program (which would not be in the interests of the agricultural conglomerates that fund Conway’s shady career). Conaway has taken $2,167,352 in legalistic bribes from AgriBusiness. Democrats don’t even run against him in his central Texas district that includes Midland, Odessa and San Angelo. This cycle his only opponent was a Libertarian. Conaway was reelected with 89.5% of the vote. You think that might influence his priorities? Here’s the list of the 10 most corrupt members of the Agriculture Committee with the amounts of legalistic bribery they have taken in the 2016 cycle.
Mike Conaway (R-TX) $701,773
Jeff Denham (R-CA) $539,848
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN) $484,950
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)- $467,524
David Rouzer (R-NC)- $417,831
Rodney Davis (R-IL) $381,754
Dan Newhouse- (R-WA) $346,442
Frank Lucas (R-OK)- $276,475
Doug LaMalfa (R-CA)- $256,089
Rick Crawford (R-AR)- $255,300
Ryan would love to abolish the program entirely, but understands that isn’t going to happen in the real world, at least not in one fell swoop.
Food stamp policy is included in a wide-ranging farm bill every five years; the next one is due in 2018. It also could be part of a larger effort headed by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to tackle a welfare or entitlement overhaul, if that should happen in the next Congress.

Still, food stamp changes always have been a hard sell in Congress.

Democrats almost unilaterally oppose any changes. Some Republicans from poorer districts are also wary. The 1996 welfare law added some new work requirements, but Congress declined to convert federal food stamp dollars into block grants for the states, a move that would cut spending for the program.

In 2013, House Republican leaders tried to cut the program by 5 percent annually by passing broad work requirements as part of the last farm bill. The House bill also included drug testing for recipients.

The then-Democratic Senate balked, though, and the final bill included a much smaller cut and no allowances for drug testing. Conaway said he’s open to any of those policies, but suggested that block granting the program — a past priority for Ryan — or drug testing recipients are not his priorities.

“We don’t want to be helping folks on drugs, but then again, folks on drugs have children,” Conaway said.
One thing can be sure, though— for as long as the Republicans control the House: more pain and suffering is headed towards the poor. In the end, isn’t that the heart, the soul and the essence of modern conservatism?

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A cartoonists' eye view of 2016: great moments from the "New Yorker" "Daily Cartoon's"


"I blame the media."

by Ken

"It's definitely been one year," concedes The New Yorker's Colin Stokes as he looks back on 2016 in introducting "2016: The Year in Cartoons, a slide show drawn not from the heap of cartoons published in the magazine but from the website's "Daily Cartoon" blog, for which, on a rotating basis, stalwarts from the magazine's Cartoon Corps stand watch over the cartoonable universe, "getting up every day, " notes Colin, "reading the news, and forming it into a cartoon." It has to be, you would think, a markedly different process from their normal creative process, knowing that each day during their watch they have to come up with something worthy of blogposting.

If I recall correctly, David Sipress -- one of the current elite members of the New Yorker cartoon fraternity -- was the first Daily Cartoonist, and the medium seems to suit him; he seems to jump into the rotation considerably more frequently than any of his colleagues and to have no trouble producing at top quality on demand. So it's probably not surprising that as I went through the couple of dozen cartoons in the slide show, pulling out the ones I really liked, David S was heavily represented -- starting with the specimen I've placed atop this post, my favorite of the bunch.

As for the rest, maybe if I really thought about it I could make some useful groupings of the cartoons I plucked out, or then again maybe not. I didn't try. I've just grouped them by creator. I don't know that this is an especially representative sampling of what was on the Daily Cartoonists' minds, but then again, I don't know that it isn't. I know that these specimens all gave me a hearty charge.


“Mr. Trump said on Friday that Hillary Clinton started the birther theory. He also said that she came up with Trump Vodka and founded Trump University.”

“I’m sorry, but it’s against my religion to serve middle-aged, heterosexual couples with matching Shih Tzus, wearing skinny jeans and Uggs, and camo shorts and God-themed T-shirts.”

“The crowd goes crazy when I mention waterboarding. So what about the rack? The rack is terrific. Or that thing where they squeeze you into a tiny cage filled with spikes? That’s also terrific.”

“You know what I think was the problem
all along? The exclamation point.”

“I had a dream last night that Planned Parenthood did something new and horrible to a fetus! We need to launch an immediate congressional investigation.”


“I do plenty -- that meme I posted on Facebook
will go a long way toward healing the nation.”

“The British are leaving, the British are leaving!”

“But if Trump surrounds himself with non-idiots,
it won’t matter so much that he is an idiot.”


“Oh, look—he must be from one of those fake-news outlets.”

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Debbie Reynolds (1932-2016)


No, we're not allowed to embed this clip of Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, and Gene Kelly singing and dancing "Good Morning" from Singin' in the Rain, but you can watch it on YouTube, where it doesn't even look too bad expanded to full screen. Is this magic, or what?

by Ken

Yes, yes, it's horrible, the sequence that on consecutive days brought the deaths of Carrie Fisher, at only 60, and then her mother, Debbie Reynolds, 84, after coping first with her daughter's heart attack, the seeming gradual recovery, and then the end for first the daughter and the next day the mother. It's understandable that the question on so many tongues is whether it's possible to die of a broken heart. (As I read it, the answer seems to be quite possibly yes.)

But I don't want to talk about that, or for that matter about Debbie Reynolds' long and busy career. I just want to hark back to the beginning of that career, and to the amazing phenomenon of a volcanic talent erupting. It doesn't often happy as explosively and conspicuously as it did in 1952 in that happiest of movie musicals, Singin' in the Rain, co-directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, with not much question that the dancing was primarily Kelly's responsibility.

Wikipedia notes that the picture "topped the AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals list and is ranked as the fifth greatest American motion picture of all time in its updated list of the greatest American films in 2007." In the following clip there's lots of interesting stuff early on, but for me the really good stuff begins at 2:55, when the focus shifts to Debbie Reynolds, recalling making the movie at age 19, with no serious dance training.

I couldn't resist transcribing at least this much:
If you dance alone, you can make a lot of mistakes. It doesn't look like a mistake, because it's just you. When you're in a partnership with Donald O'Connor and Gene Kelly, you have to be equal to them. You did it Gene's way -- Gene's steps, Gene's style. I didn't have a style. He was a real taskmaster, because he had to be. In order for a young girl to learn that much -- that's almost impossible. We were redoing the number "Good Morning," the scene where we went over the couch, 40 times. He wouldn't stop. And then you just danced, danced, danced, danced. So I was in tears a lot. He worked me hard, but he taught me so well that I'm still in the business 53 years later, because of his teaching.
Did we really imagine that these things just happen? (You can also watch a couple of minutes of just Debbie talking about Singin' in the Rain. She mentions here that she was 17 at the time; I assume that while she may have been 19 -- the usually cited age -- when the movie came out, this is how old she was when she was cast in this career-making role.)

Then there's this, from one of the ten appearances Debbie made between 1999 and 2006 as the irrepressible, show-biz-besotted Bobbi Adler, mother of Grace (Debra Messing), on Will and Grace. Here they are, with Megan Mullally as the correspondingly irrepressible Karen Walker.

It's by no means Debbie Reynolds' best Will and Grace moment, but you understand why I had to pop it in here.

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Is Steve Bannon Leading America to a 21st Century Crusade?


-by Alex Campbell

”Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That's power. It only helps us when they get it wrong. When they're blind to who we are and what we're doing.”
-- Steve Bannon, as quoted by Michael Wolff in an exclusive interview for the Hollywood Reporter.
So who is Steve Bannon and what is he doing?  The mainstream media have come close to calling him a white nationalist and the blogs are already there. I think the fairest treatment came from David Corn at Mother Jones:
Whatever he might believe, Bannon is a self-proclaimed ally of the alt-right...Lisa De Pasquale, a Breitbart contributor, on Monday said on the To the Point radio show that promoting the alt-right at Breitbart was "good for his business model." And the alt-right promotes white nationalism (if not white supremacy). So journalists who do not report that Trump has selected for a top spot in the White House an enabler of white nationalists—which certainly could qualify Bannon as a white nationalist himself—are doing the public and the truth a disservice. Thanks to Trump, a comrade of racists—many of whom are now cheering his appointment—is slated to help run the US government.
I don't know if Bannon is a white nationalist or not. Or just a garden variety anti-Semite as some in the press have tried to label him based on thin evidence from depositions of his ex-wife during divorce proceedings in 2007. A lot of people on twitter are saying yeah, maybe Steve Bannon is a racist neo-Nazi. And it is something I have read frequently on Facebook. So you never know because a lot of people are saying it. Personally, I don't think he is. But he might be. Because only he really knows. And maybe Richard Spencer. Ben Shapiro, who was formerly the editor-at-large at until he resigned in protest over the handling of the Michelle Fields/Corey Lewandoski incident had this to say about Bannon:
"I have no evidence that Steve’s an anti-Semite. I think Steve’s a very, very power-hungry dude who’s willing to use anybody and anything in order to get ahead, and that includes making common cause with the racist, anti-Semitic alt-right...I’ve been as critical of Steve Bannon as anybody in the media. I was the first critic of Bannon because when I left Breitbart in March, I specifically named Bannon as a nefarious influence at Breitbart, by name. And yet, I was forced last week to defend Steve Bannon. I think that he’s a terrible person. But because the left can’t just say, “This is a guy who made way for the alt-right, which is quite terrible, and he’s doing a real disservice to the nature of the country by doing so.” The left had to accuse him personally of racism and anti-Semitism, and they had to overstep. This is the big mistake.”
Lets posit that Bannon has just been playing footsie with some very hateful and evil racists because its good for his long term political goals. Not that it excuses his behavior but I can't answer the question of whether Bannon is or isn't a racist prick, because there is no real proof, just a lot of supposition out there on the internets. And as David Corn astutely pointed out, his behavior does make him an enabler of these people. For the sake of argument lets just split the difference and call him a white power sympathizer who is very, very smart and knows how to manipulate the media through his work with which was the defacto press organ of the Trump campaign.

Trumpists are quick to defend Bannon by pointing out that Breitbart is pro-Israel in their coverage and therefore there is no way that Bannon could possibly be anti-Semitic. And Breitbart has been vocal in their support of Israel. But I believe Breitbart’s editorial stance towards Israel has nothing to do with supporting Judaism and everything to do with suppressing another group of people on religious grounds.

Because you know who Steve Bannon really doesn't like? Muslims. He believes we are in the beginning stages of a global war with Islam and has made no secret of that worldview.

"And I believe we’ve come partly offtrack in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union and we’re starting now in the 21st century, which I believe, strongly, is a crisis both of our church, a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, a crisis of capitalism.

And we’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict, of which if the people in this room, the people in the church, do not bind together and really form what I feel is an aspect of the church militant, to really be able to not just stand with our beliefs, but to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.

...[W]e’re at the very beginning stages of a global conflict, and if we do not bind together as partners with others in other countries that this conflict is only going to metastasize. They have a Twitter account up today, ISIS does, about turning the United States into a “river of blood” if it comes in and tries to defend the city of Baghdad. And trust me, that is going to come to Europe. That is going to come to Central Europe, it’s going to come to Western Europe, it’s going to come to the United Kingdom. And so I think we are in a crisis of the underpinnings of capitalism, and on top of that we’re now, I believe, at the beginning stages of a global war against Islamic fascism.

But I strongly believe that whatever the causes of the current drive to the caliphate was — and we can debate them, and people can try to deconstruct them — we have to face a very unpleasant fact: And that unpleasant fact is that there is a major war brewing, a war that’s already global. It’s going global in scale, and today’s technology, today’s media, today’s access to weapons of mass destruction, it’s going to lead to a global conflict that I believe has to be confronted today. Every day that we refuse to look at this as what it is, and the scale of it, and really the viciousness of it, will be a day where you will rue that we didn’t act.

...If you look back at the long history of the Judeo-Christian West struggle against Islam, I believe that our forefathers kept their stance, and I think they did the right thing. I think they kept it out of the world, whether it was at Vienna, or Tours, or other places… It bequeathed to use the great institution that is the church of the West. And I would ask everybody in the audience today, because you really are the movers and drivers and shakers and thought leaders in the Catholic Church today, is to think, when people 500 years from now are going to think about today, think about the actions you’ve taken-- and I believe everyone associated with the church and associated with the Judeo-Christian West that believes in the underpinnings of that and believes in the precepts of that and want to see that bequeathed to other generations down the road as it was bequeathed to us, particularly as you’re in a city like Rome, and in a place like the Vatican, see what’s been bequeathed to us-- ask yourself, 500 years from today, what are they going to say about me? What are they going to say about what I did at the beginning stages of this crisis?”
--Steve Bannon speaking via webcam to the Dignitatis Humanae Institute's Third International Conference on Human Dignity, 2014
Make no mistake, beginning January 20 of next year, Steve Bannon will be the second most powerful person in America next to Donald Trump. He will be the second most powerful man in the White House (sorry Mike Pence and Reince Priebus) and have de facto control of the most influential media operation on the right (sorry Fox News) which he can use as a propagandist tool to lather up his rabid low-information readers. Bannon took a leave of absence from Breitbart when he joined the Trump campaign and according to current White House ethics rules he should have no contact with the site once he is officially part of the administration. However, Trump can waive these ethics rules and given the fact that Breitbart’s Washington Bureau is run out of the basement of the D.C townhouse where Bannon lives, I think the likelihood of Bannon not giving the overall direction to Breitbart’s operations going forward are slim to none. Even if Bannon or the Breitbart D.C. team move for cosmetic reasons.

In addition to his work making the "leading platform for the alt-right" (his own words), Bannon has also produced and directed several agitprop documentaries. There is one film in particular that Bannon made called Generation Zero that I believe sheds light on his current world view. Sean Hannity loved it so much that he devoted an entire hour of his show towards it:

Generation Zero ostensibly examines the causes of the economic collapse of 2008 and posits that cultural changes beginning in the 60's led to the bank failures and completely lets Wall St. off the hook. A dubious proposition in my book. The emotional climax of the film turns to William Strauss and Neil Howe's generational theory to make the case that we are entering a period of great turmoil which they call the "Fourth Turning.” According to their theory, other Fourth Turnings have coincided with the following events in American history-- the American Revolution, the Civil War, and World War II. The fact that Bannon believes we are in the "beginning stages of a crisis" (his words from 2014) means that in his world view, events on the scale of WW II are just beginning.

Historian David Kaiser, who appeared in the film and was interviewed by Bannon had this to say about his experience on the film last month in Time magazine:
A second, more alarming, interaction did not show up in the film. Bannon had clearly thought a long time both about the domestic potential and the foreign policy implications of Strauss and Howe. More than once during our interview, he pointed out that each of the three preceding crises had involved a great war, and those conflicts had increased in scope from the American Revolution through the Civil War to the Second World War. He expected a new and even bigger war as part of the current crisis, and he did not seem at all fazed by the prospect.

I did not agree, and said so. But, knowing that the history of international conflict was my own specialty, he repeatedly pressed me to say we could expect a conflict at least as big as the Second World War in the near or medium term. I refused.

Apocalyptic rhetoric and apocalyptic thinking flourish during crisis periods. This represents perhaps the biggest danger of the Trump presidency, and one that will bear watching from all concerned citizens in the months and years ahead.
Make no mistake about it, the United States of America will be expanding the conflict in the Middle East. Trump has tabbed retired US Marine Corps General James Mattis as secretary of defense. This quote from a speech in 2005 sums up his feelings about war in the Middle East: "Actually it's quite fun to fight them, you know. It's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up there with you. I like brawling." Michael Flynn, another retired general from the US Army will be the National Security Adviser and is openly hostile to Muslims. He recently tweeted, "Fear of Muslims is rational."

You don't bring these people into your administration because you are expecting peace in the world. You bring them in to make war.

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Will Congress Prevent Trump From Cozying Up With Cozy Bear?


Ultimately, the American people are going to want to know what Trump and his inner circle knew about Russian hacking— and when did they know it? McConnell and Ryan— who aggressively covered it up during the election— are now trying to cover their own asses by pretending to be indignant over Russia helping steal the election for their candidate. Blaming Obama for failing too prevent Russian hacking, Miss McConnell lisped menacingly that Russians “are not our friends… Sanctions against the Russian intelligence services are a good initial step, however late in coming. As the next Congress reviews Russian actions against networks associated with the U.S. election, we must also work to ensure that any attack against the United States is met with an overwhelming response.”

While Trump is babbling about forgetting the Russian cyber-attack that placed him in the White House and “getting on with our lives,” Obama announced the public sanctions he’s taking yesterday, ejecting 35 Russian intelligence operatives from the United States and imposing sanctions on Russia’s two leading intelligence services.
Trump will now have to decide whether to lift the sanctions on the Russian intelligence agencies when he takes office next month, with Republicans in Congress among those calling for a public investigation into Russia’s actions. Should Mr. Trump do so, it would require him to effectively reject the findings of his intelligence agencies.

Asked on Wednesday night at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., about reports of the impending sanctions, Mr. Trump said: “I think we ought to get on with our lives. I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I’m not sure we have the kind, the security we need.”

President Obama, in a statement, put in a subtle dig at Mr. Trump’s unwillingness to talk about Russia’s role. “All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions,” he said. He said he acted after “repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government” and called the moves “a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior.”

The samples of malware were in what the Obama administration called a “joint analytic report” from the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security that was based in part on intelligence gathered by the National Security Agency. A more detailed report on the intelligence, ordered by President Obama, will be published in the next three weeks, though much of the detail — especially evidence collected from “implants” in Russian computer systems, tapped conversations and spies — is expected to remain classified.
Although you still have some Trumpist nut-jobs who prefer Putin to Obama and would sell out the U.S. in a moment— look at the tweet below from Arizona right-wing psychopath Trent Franks— even most Republican lawmakers understand the gravity of this. On CNN with Jake Tapper, Adam Kizinger (R-IL), a former combat pilot and currently a major in the Air National Guard, said he can’t defend Trump’s self-serving position. "Yeah, I can't defend that, and I am not going to," said Kinzinger. "I think to disparage the intel-gathering mechanisms that we have here is not the right answer… I hope when he is actually sworn in as president, you know, now the weight of the world has fallen onto him and he realizes that ... for the last eight years America has given up its role in a lot of areas to Russia, we need to claw that back. So I hope that changes on Inauguration Day.”

Meanwhile hawks like John McCain (R), Lindsey Graham (R) and Ben Cardin (D) in the Senate and Adam Schiff (D) and Brad Sherman (D) in the House are vowing to take the lead on even stronger sanctions against Russia, regardless of what Trump is up to with Putin. Many in Congress fear that Putin will have Trump obliterate the sanctions and measures as soon as he gets into the Oval Office. Many Democrats want the Senate to pass legislation going even further than Obama, something that will put congressional Republicans in a bind, where they have to choose between the country (+ their own integrity) and Trump, now widely seen as a Putin puppet. Ryan is furiously working behind the scenes to prevent any legislation that ties Trump’s hands in rewarding Putin for the GOP electoral victory in November.

Not everyone agrees, of course. This video clip, I feel bad to say, was a real meeting of two self-described open minds, who are convinced Russia means the U.S. no harm. And maybe they're right; I've said all along we'll never know for sure, although we can be sure all sides have their own agendas and none of them have any sense of responsibility to The Truth.

Last word on this (at least for this morning)-- Republican Party strategist Rick Wilson goes off on an anti-Trump/Putin tweet storm:

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