Wapo

The first days inside Trump’s White House: Fury, tumult and a reboot

The first days inside Trump’s White House: Fury, tumult and a reboot:

Trump has been resentful, even furious, at what he views as the media’s failure to reflect the magnitude of his achievements, and he feels demoralized that the public’s perception of his presidency so far does not necessarily align with his own sense of accomplishment.

Why isn’t he getting credit for the things he hasn’t done yet?

An ethical double standard for Trump — and the GOP?

An ethical double standard for Trump — and the GOP?:

“If Hillary Clinton wins this election and they don’t shut down the Clinton Foundation and come clean with all of its past activities, then there’s no telling the kind of corruption that you might see out of the Clinton White House,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) told conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt.

Presumably Cotton will take the lead in advising Donald Trump to “shut down” his business activities and “come clean” on what came before. Surely Cotton wants to be consistent.

Americans keep looking away from the election’s most alarming story

Americans keep looking away from the election’s most alarming story:

Part of the Russian operation’s success is that we cannot measure the effect. Did the DNC emails depress the Sanders vote for Clinton? Did the Podesta emails turn off independents? Would voters have responded differently if major media had reported the email releases not as legitimate news but as an intelligence operation by a hostile foreign power aimed at undermining the integrity of U.S. elections? There are no clear answers. But there are certainties: The email operation increased negative stories about Clinton, fueled an immense propaganda attack and diminished coverage of actual issues. The large polling lead Clinton gained after the debates slipped significantly under this barrage of negativity — even before FBI Director James B. Comey’s bombshell.

Trump’s big infrastructure plan? It’s a trap.

Trump’s big infrastructure plan? It’s a trap.:

Trump’s plan is not really an infrastructure plan. It’s a tax-cut plan for utility-industry and construction-sector investors, and a massive corporate welfare plan for contractors. The Trump plan doesn’t directly fund new roads, bridges, water systems or airports, as did Hillary Clinton’s 2016 infrastructure proposal. Instead, Trump’s plan provides tax breaks to private-sector investors who back profitable construction projects. These projects (such as electrical grid modernization or energy pipeline expansion) might already be planned or even underway. There’s no requirement that the tax breaks be used for incremental or otherwise expanded construction efforts; they could all go just to fatten the pockets of investors in previously planned projects.

If you voted for new infrastructure, you were conned.

White House Adviser Van Jones Resigns Amid Controversy Over Past Activism | 44 | washingtonpost.com

White House Adviser Van Jones Resigns Amid Controversy Over Past Activism | 44 | washingtonpost.com:

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) called on Jones to resign Friday, saying in a statement, “His extremist views and coarse rhetoric have no place in this administration or the public debate.”

I’m certain that people who called on Van Jones to resign because of his brief affiliation with unsavory groups combined with his coarse rhetoric will demand the same standard be applied to Stephan Bannon.

President Obama’s brutal assessment of the rise of Donald Trump

What is happening in this primary is just a distillation of what’s been happening inside their party for more than a decade. I mean, the reason that many of their voters are responding is because this is what’s been fed through the messages they’ve been sending for a long time — that you just make flat assertions that don’t comport with the facts. That you just deny the evidence of science. That compromise is a betrayal. That the other side isn’t simply wrong, or we just disagree, we want to take a different approach, but the other side is destroying the country, or treasonous. I mean, that’s — look it up. That’s what they’ve been saying.

(via President Obama’s brutal assessment of the rise of Donald Trump - The Washington Post)

Trump isn’t bringing them into the party. They were the party. They knew Trump because they were birthers. They knew Trump because he was a Fox talking head. They aren’t conservative because the party hasn’t been about conservatism for a long while. The party is about Fox News outrage, anger about political correctness and obsession with imaginary enemies.

Want to help the Islamic State recruit? Treat all Muslims as potential terrorists.

Want to help the Islamic State recruit? Treat all Muslims as potential terrorists.:

The last time we fought a global battle of ideas, the cold war, we understood the idea of competing narratives and did everything we could to get the peoples living behind the iron curtain to identify with our values rather the values of their oppressors. We somehow lost sight of that in the war on terror.

Inside an undercover network trying to expose Islamic State’s atrocities

Inside an undercover network trying to expose Islamic State’s atrocities:

“We are nonviolent activists. We can’t fight Daesh with weapons. We can only fight them with words,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “To defeat us, they would have to shut down the Internet. And they can’t do that because all of them use the Internet.”

What does a ISIS held city look like? North Korea in the making.

Conservatives are more likely to believe that vaccines cause autism - The Washington Post

Conservatives are more likely to believe that vaccines cause autism - The Washington Post:

The probability of believing in a link between vaccines and autism is much higher among conservatives than liberals — regardless of whether people identified as Democrats, Republicans or independents. The apparent impact of ideology is most pronounced among political independents. There is no evidence that support for the vaccine-autism link is higher among strong liberals. …That liberals are least likely to believe in a link between vaccines and autism might be surprising given well-publicized reports about low childhood vaccination rates in wealthy, liberal enclaves in states such as California. It may be that anti-vaccination liberals are quite rare and that their existence is mostly anecdotal.

Didn’t expect this at all. I’m thinking that at least some of this is tied to the self-reporting. We don’t actually know their political views, only their claimed identity.

Rand Paul has a victim complex

Rand Paul has a victim complex:

Paul’s problem is that he doesn’t really see anything wrong with what he said — or at least he won’t admit it. In the tweet showing his booster shot, he commented, “Wonder how the liberal media will misreport this?” It’s the same victim complex he displayed the last time he jousted with the media. In late 2013, multiple reports pretty clearly showed plagiarism in Paul’s speeches and book. Paul’s response? Play it off, blame the “haters,” and issue a non-apology apology.

The people who quoted him correctly and in context are haters.

Three quarters of whites don’t have any non-white friends - The Washington Post

Three quarters of whites don’t have any non-white friends - The Washington Post:

Going back to Chris Rock’s point, the average black person’s friend network is eight percent white, but the average white person’s network is only one percent black. To put it another way: Blacks have ten times as many black friends as white friends. But white Americans have an astonishing 91 times as many white friends as black friends.

What’s so new about the Islamic State’s governance?

What’s so new about the Islamic State’s governance?:

of the insurgencies that provided education and health care, nearly 72 percent of insurgencies provided education to civilians, and just over 71 percent of rebel movements provided health care. In other words, if an insurgent group provides social services, they are more likely to offer these services to civilians. Once an insurgency acquired territory, nearly 49 percent would ensure that the civilian population received education or medical care, consistent with recent research on rebel governance.

ISIS thinks education and health care are roles of government.

When The Economist blamed Irish peasants for starving to death

When The Economist blamed Irish peasants for starving to death:

its extraordinary blindness to how real life economic power relations work is reminiscent of the magazine’s beginnings in the 19th century, when it fulminated at the very idea that the British government should do anything about the Irish famine that was happening on its doorstep. After all, it was the peasants’ own fault that they were starving.

Laissez faire is often used as an excuse to blame victim.

The nation’s budget wars have reduced the deficit by $3.3 trillion

The nation’s budget wars have reduced the deficit by $3.3 trillion:

The endless rounds of deficit reduction in Washington in recent years have significantly improved the nation’s budget outlook, reducing projected borrowing by $3.3 trillion through 2024, according to new estimates by Senate Budget Committee chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.)…As this chart from Murray shows, the discretionary budget, which funds the Pentagon and other agencies, will absorb nearly half of the cuts, or $1.6 trillion…A quarter of the impact comes from the higher taxes on the wealthy that were adopted during the fiscal cliff fight. And another 20 percent comes from not borrowing as much and not having to pay more than $700 billion in interest that otherwise would have accrued. Mandatory programs, which include Social Security and Medicare, were barely nicked, meanwhile, accounting for just 7 percent of overall savings.

Was that 7% worth it? Were cuts to programs that help the people who need help the most really worth it? Considering how much more we can cut defense programs the pentagon doesn’t even want.

The Tea Party thinks it hates Wall Street. It doesn’t.

The Tea Party thinks it hates Wall Street. It doesn’t.:

many Tea Party Republicans are in favor of the same bills favored by the financial industry. Take the Financial Takeover Repeal Act of 2013, a one-line bill sponsored by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) that repeals Dodd-Frank and replaces it with nothing. This bill has 22 co-sponsors this year, including notable Tea Party senators such Mike Lee, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

The best way to explain the Tea Party and Wall Street is The enemy of my imaginary enemy is my imaginary friend. The Tea Party is in favor of imaginary Randian makers and opposed to imaginary Randian looters. Wall Street thinks the same. The only rift is who they imagine the looters and makers are. This is the problem with Randian thinking. 

When interest rates are close to the rate of economic growth, Gagnon continues, you can run a budget deficit forever as long as the primary deficit is balanced. The debt load as a share of the economy won't increase over time. And if interest rates are lower than the pace of growth - as they are now - the load will actually shrink while you run those smaller deficits.

When interest rates are close to the rate of economic growth, Gagnon continues, you can run a budget deficit forever as long as the primary deficit is balanced. The debt load as a share of the economy won't increase over time. And if interest rates are lower than the pace of growth - as they are now - the load will actually shrink while you run those smaller deficits.
Why do people hate deficits? | Wonkblog

Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party. The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country's challenges.

Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party. The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country's challenges.
Let's just say it: The Republicans are the problem. - The Washington Post

How we can succeed through supercommittee's 'failure'

How we can succeed through supercommittee's 'failure'

Here is a surefire way to cut $7.1 trillion from the deficit over the next decade. Do nothing. That's right. If Congress simply fails to act between now and Jan. 1, 2013, the tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush expire, $1.2 trillion in additional budget cuts go through under the terms of last summer's debt-ceiling deal, and a variety of other tax cuts also go away.

The GOP can not be counted on to do nothing in a way that doesn’t harm the public interest.

How Yelp is killing chain restaurants

First, "a one-star increase in Yelp rating leads to a 5-9 percent increase in revenue." No surprise, good reviews help restaurants. Second, this mainly affects smaller, independent establishments. A Yelp review has no effect on an individual chain restaurant like Applebee's, presumably because people already have firm impressions of those places.

From The Washington Post

Not surprised about this. I use Yelp to look for espresso all the time and usually have no trouble finding someplace other than Starbucks. For something with a low commitment like lunch or coffee, Yelp changes the model for making a choice.

The dangers of being wrong on Keynes

Keynes - and others who later elaborated on his work, like Hyman Minsky - taught us that although markets are usually self-correcting, they occasionally enter destructive feedback loops in which a shock to, say, the financial system scares business and consumers so badly that they hoard money, which worsens the damage to the system, which further persuades other economic players to hoard, and so on and so forth.

In that situation, the role of the government is to break the cycle. Because businesses and consumers have stopped spending, the government breaks the cycle by spending.


From The dangers of being wrong on Keynes - The Washington Post

Keynes in a nutshell.

Republicans Grow Skeptical On Free Trade

By a nearly two-to-one margin, Republican voters believe free trade is bad for the U.S. economy, a shift in opinion that mirrors Democratic views and suggests trade deals could face high hurdles under a new president.
From Republicans Grow Skeptical On Free Trade - WSJ.com

File this under WTF. Three things come to mind:

  • Opinions on the economy are largely based on their personal financial situation. For a large and growing segment of the population, confidence is low.
  • People have been convinced that Free Trade means that American workers have to accept lower salaries. The idea that we can compete on greater productivity has been ignored.
  • People realize that the GOP is in favor of Free Trade except in cases where they aren’t. Like re-importation of drugs from Canada or subsidies to agri-business.
One would assume that our Free Trade agreements are actually Free Trade agreements. Mostly, they aren’t. There is a reason why the agreements are thousands of pages long. They include special exemptions for protected industries on both sides.

A real free trade agreement would look something like this:

We agree to drop tarrifs on everything we import from you and we expect you to do the same.

one billion dollars

Less than a month before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein signaled that he was willing to go into exile as long as he could take with him $1 billion and information on weapons of mass destruction, according to a report of a Feb. 22, 2003, meeting between President Bush and his Spanish counterpart published by a Spanish newspaper yesterday.
From WaPo

After reading that about Saddam, the first thing I thought was how much cheaper that would have been; both in blood and treasure. Now I wonder if it would be possible to pay Bush, Cheney, Rove and the whole neo-con cabal; a billion each to leave the US and never come back. That’s still less than half of the 55 billion more they want to continue the war.

the meaning of good and bad

A nod to TPM for pointing out an absurd GOP talking point that has made it into the Washington Post.

Backed by a unified party and fresh from a slew of legislative victories, Democratic leaders appear to believe there is hardly any territory they cannot stray onto, a development that has Republican political operatives gleeful and some Democrats worried.
From WaPo

I’d argue that on both the left and the right, people generally support investigations into corruption, waste and fraud. Even if they don’t agree with the policy or spending; they at least want it handled in a legal, competent and honest fashion.

GSA Chief Is Accused of Playing Politics

Witnesses have told congressional investigators that the chief of the General Services Administration and a deputy in Karl Rove’s political affairs office at the White House joined in a videoconference earlier this year with top GSA political appointees, who discussed ways to help Republican candidates.
From GSA Chief Is Accused of Playing Politics - washingtonpost.com

Wow. Just when you thought there couldn’t be anything worse than the US Attorney scandal.

Debate on How to Reshape Law Has Divided Republicans

Just as conservatives were declaring White House support for the controversial amendment, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) stormed to the Senate floor to announce that new White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten had assured him that the president now opposed the measure in the name of preserving bipartisan backing. The plan was promptly defeated, and the delicate pro-reform coalition held. For now.
From WaPo

I’m guessing that when the GOP goes looking for a wedge issue they usually manage to pick one that doesn’t divide their own base to the extent that the immigration debate has. One other thought, at what point can we just start referring to the guest workers as serfs? Now that the GOP is on track with its plan to rewrite the tax code to establish a defacto hereditary monarchy; it was only a matter of time before they started working toward developing a native peasantry.

It's Only $300 Billion

For the United States, the cost of the Iraq war will soon exceed the anticipated cost of the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement designed to control greenhouse gases. For both, the cost is somewhere in excess of $300 billion.
From WaPo: It’s Only $300 Billion

A really nice article on the Administration’s misplaced priorities.

Snow to Become New White House Press Secretary

Fox News commentator Tony Snow agreed last night to become White House press secretary after top officials assured him that he would be not just a spokesman but an active participant in administration policy debates, people familiar with the discussions said.
From WaPo

Gee, this is an odd choice. Does anyone really think that a Fox News reporter will be able to act as a mouthpiece for the administration?

bush the incompetent

Incompetence is not one of the seven deadly sins, and it’s hardly the worst attribute that can be ascribed to George W. Bush. But it is this president’s defining attribute. Historians, looking back at the hash that his administration has made of his war in Iraq, his response to Hurricane Katrina and his Medicare drug plan, will have to grapple with how one president could so cosmically botch so many big things — particularly when most of them were the president’s own initiatives.
From WaPo

I’ve been saying this all along.

Abramoff Expected to Plead Guilty to 3 Felony Charges

Former high-powered lobbyist Jack Abramoff is expected to plead guilty today to three felony charges in a deal with federal prosecutors that would clear the way for his testimony about members of Congress and congressional staffers in a wide-ranging political corruption investigation.
From WaPo: Abramoff Expected to Plead Guilty to 3 Felony Charges

Now the question is, who will Jack take down with him? If I was a congressman that took money from Abramoff, I would not be sleeping well.

values

The Senate voted Thursday to strip captured “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, of the principal legal tool given to them last year by the Supreme Court when it allowed them to challenge their detentions in United States courts.
From The NYT. The question being, when did giving Big Government more power become a Conservative value? When did the idea that you have to prove someone guilty of a crime before you lock them up and throw away the key become a radical idea rather than the bedrock of the US legal system? More importantly, why are GOPers only concerned about the rights of the accused when those accused are Rove, Delay, Cheney and Frist?
The Senate voted 82-9 for director of National Intelligence John Negroponte to provide Congress’ intelligence committees with a classified “full accounting” on any clandestine prison or detention facility run by the U.S. government at any location where terrorism suspects were being held.

Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, said most lawmakers learned about the covert prisons from the newspaper and said his amendment was to “reassert congressional oversight.”
From reuters. Thank you John Kerry for taking a stand against illegal secret prisons. And that 82-9 vote gives me some comfort that the Republicans in office now are not all insane. Clearly the leadership in the White House is the real problem.
Frist and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) surprised both Roberts and House intelligence committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) with a joint letter demanding a House-Senate inquiry after the Nov. 2 publication of a Post article detailing a web of secret prisons in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, maintained by the CIA to detain suspected terrorists.
From the WaPo. So on Planet GOP, the problem isn’t that the CIA is running potentially illegal secret prisons where torture may occur; the problem is that this revelation might embarrass them.

Maybe the GOP thinks that feudalism, despotism and sadism are traditional American values; rather than those radical values of respecting human rights, rule of law and due process.

Fall of the Rovean empire?

For 30 years, beginning with the Nixon presidency, advanced under Reagan, stalled with the elder Bush, a new political economy struggled to be born. The idea was pure and simple: centralization of power in the hands of the Republican Party would ensure that it never lost it again. Under George W. Bush, this new system reached its apotheosis. It is a radically novel social, political and economic formation that deserves study alongside capitalism and socialism. Neither Adam Smith nor Vladimir Lenin captures its essence, though it has far more elements of Leninist democratic-centralism than Smithian free markets. Some have referred to this model as crony capitalism; others compare the waste, extravagance and greed to the Gilded Age. Call it 21st century Republicanism.

From a great article on Salon about Rove and the end of this bleak era in American history.

While some people may insist on being cheerleaders for the GOP, the facts don’t support them. The top 1% are the only ones doing better, according to the IRS. For the other 99%, wages have not kept pace with inflation. We as a nation are getter poorer while the GOP Feudalists have become wealthier. Debt is out of control. We are losing a war.

Now that Karl Rove, DeLay and Abramoff are under investigation, the movement is finally coming undone. So what comes next?

“It’s not an entitlement politics,” says David Axelrod, a consultant to Spitzer’s 2002 re-election campaign. “It’s a fairness politics, a let everyone compete on the same playing field politics.”

Spitzer is part of the new progressive movement that gets past the big/small government paradigm and looks to a government that works to be FARE. Frugal, Accessible, Responsible and Efficient.

Things are starting to look good for 2006. While I expect Spitzer to be a target of the Right Wing Feudalists like Grover Norquist, I think momentium is finally on the side of the people again.