Skip to content

Democrats: We can do this! (Lose, that is)

Yet another indication that the Democrats are anxious to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory:

Bipartisanship, long left for dead in Washington, has struck again. And Wall Street looks to be the winner.

In the wake of the Equifax scandal, Congress has been under pressure to act. But the price of modest reforms in Washington is often much larger giveaways elsewhere, and that pattern holds true in the agreement announced Monday between nine Senate Democrats and the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee.

The measure would roll back several key financial regulations, including sections of the Dodd-Frank Act. It does so under the cover of offering consumer protections and coming to the aid of community banks — though the financial institutions that benefit have not-so-obscure names, like American Express, SunTrust, and BB&T.

The offending Democrats are all from states that, if not red, are red tinged, but that really doesn’t excuse or explain this, or even make it rational. You don’t win votes in Montana by carrying water for Wall Street. If memory serves, the present occupant of the White House ran against Wall Street. What you accomplish in spades by carrying that water is dampening the enthusiasm of the people the Democrats need to win in 2018.

Learning lessons

So, here’s an article at Truthout titled Conservatives Learn the Wrong Lesson From GOP Defeat in Virginia. First conservative mentioned is Ann Coulter:

If the reaction from prominent right-wing media figures is any indication, conservatives are having a very hard time coping with the resounding loss of Republican candidate Ed Gillespie in the Virginia gubernatorial election on Tuesday.

We can start with Ann Coulter.

Hey @EdWGillespie! If your pals, George Bush & Haley Barbour, had been a little less enthusiastic about open borders, you would have won tonight.

— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) November 8, 2017
If @realDonaldTrump doesn’t keep his campaign promise to build a wall & deport illegals, what happened to VA will happen to the entire country.

— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) November 8, 2017

It is quite possibly the case that some conservatives have learned the wrong lesson from Virginia. The lesson Democrats learn from defeats it that they were too liberal, while many Republicans truly do draw the conclusion that they were not conservative enough.

But Ann Coulter and her ilk are poor examples. I very much doubt that Ann Coulter believes a word of her tweets. The fact of the matter is that people like her thrive when their side is losing, and it is in her interests to advocate positions that will cause Republicans to lose. She can make more money that way, and let’s face it, she’s only in it for the money. Limbaugh too, is far happier playing defense than offense, and I’m sure he’s nostalgic for the good times with Obama in office.

In fact, the Republicans as a whole do far better when they are out of power, or at least out of effective power. Ryan would be happy as a pig in shit right now if Hillary Clinton was president, because he could be advocating for tax cuts without having to do things like actually identifying those “loopholes” he intends to close to pay for tax cuts for the rich. Back in his halcyon days under Obama he could propose magic tax cuts secure in the knowledge that the press wouldn’t even bother to point out that his numbers didn’t add up. Now he’s facing a rebellion in his own ranks, not to mention a good likelihood that he’ll lose his seat in 2018 (not that he minds that so much; the Koch Brothers will reward him with a sinecure).

So, the Republicans aren’t necessarily learning the wrong lesson. They are merely spouting lines that serve their own interests, which in the case of the Coulters and Limbaughs, is all about money.

The Donald does something right

This is perplexing, to say the least:

Almost eight months after Donald Trump was inaugurated, photos of the 45th president of the United States still do not appear in thousands of federal buildings — a delay that is especially odd, given Trump’s fondness for his own image.

In a tradition dating back to the Civil War, Trump’s picture should be greeting employees and visitors to United States embassies, ports of entry and federal courthouses, just as official portraits of predecessor Barack Obama were on display by his third month in office and of Bill Clinton by June of his first year. Yet, in thousands of buildings, Trump’s face is a notable absence, according to a story in The Washington Post on Monday,

There has arguably never been a president so eager to promote his own image as Trump, the country’s first reality-television-star commander in chief. Indeed, last month, former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele described the tweet-loving president as “obsessed with his own self-image.” Trump even hung a fake magazine cover of himself at one of his golf clubs.

So that only makes it tougher to understand why, 235 days after being sworn in, Trump has yet to sit for his official photograph. Once taken, it is the responsibility of the Government Publishing Office to distribute the photo to the more than 7,000 federal installations across the world.

More than 130,000 official photographs of Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were printed when the Democrat took office in 2009. Federal regulations mandated that all of them be removed and recycled or shredded the moment Trump was sworn in.

I spend a lot of time in waiting rooms at the Social Security Disability hearing offices, and remember how much I disliked having both Bush and Cheney staring down at me as I sat there. Particularly Cheney, he of the sneering lip, who seemed to be taking a smug pleasure in my dissatisfaction. I was in the waiting room the day and the moment the Orange One was installed, and the security guard, as the last quoted paragraph says, told me he was under strict orders to remove Obama at the stroke of noon, which he in fact did.

I assumed it was only a matter of time before you know who would be staring down from those walls, but he has not appeared, and, truth to tell, I suspected it was a bit of subversive activity on the part of the staff there, though for reasons I won’t go into, that always seemed unlikely.

Now I learn it’s just one more example of Trumpian incompetence, but one for which we can all, including me in particular, be thankful. I’ll be retiring in seven months, and it is, perhaps, possible, that I won’t have to look at that face as I sit and wait for another ALJ to dispense injustice to one of my clients. In these trying times, we must be thankful for little things.

The voters may get it, even if the media doesn’t

One of my favorite bloggers is driftglass, who rather singlemindedly documents bothsiderism and media apologetics for the Republican Party, as he does so ably here. The thrust of the piece is to the effect that the recent wave election is being characterized as a renunciation of Trumpism, rather than a renunciation of the Republican Party. As he concludes, the two terms mean the same thing, despite the media’s attempt to cover for the Republicans:

In 2017, there is once again no Republican Party to be held responsible for what happened on election night because, suddenly, there is only “Trumpism”.

Except, (sing it with me now)…

There is no “Trumpism”.
There are just Republicans being Republicans.

There is no “Trumpism”.
There are just Republicans being Republicans.

There is no “Trumpism”.
There are just Republicans being Republicans.

His basic point is well taken. The media will be falling all over themselves to promote the Jeff Flakes and the other Republicans who, having made the decision to bail out of politics, offer tepid criticisms of Trump while being practically indistinguishable in terms of their political positions.

But I would argue that there is at least a chance that a good percentage of the country now realizes that Trumpism equals Republicanism. The very fact that so many people turned out to throw out Republicans at all levels supports that thesis. If nothing else, Republican dominance of all three branches has exposed them for what they are. When Obama was president they wouldn’t shut up, but they never had the need to put up. Now, for instance, we’re getting a look at the “loopholes” Paul Ryan always invoked, but never specified, that he would close to deliver his tax cuts to the billionaires. The media may not be willing to admit it, but the simple fact that people decided to blame Republicans at all political levels for the current state of affairs in Washington indicates that a good percentage of them are recognizing the Republican Party for what it is. It’s going to be harder for any politician to justify membership in the Republican Party, no matter how much they try to persuade the voters that they should be judged for the “moderates” they themselves are, rather than by the (to quote driftglass) “the actual, racist, paranoid, rage-drunk Republican Party” to which they have aligned themselves.

I should add that Tuesday’s results should be replicated in 2018, but one must never underestimate the ability of the Democratic Party to (I’m repeating myself here) snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. However, my guess is that despite their best efforts, the jaws will hold firm in 2018. The Democrats will do their snatching in 2020, in line with their custom of always performing shittily in years ending with zero, so that Republicans will have another opportunity to gerrymander democracy out of existence.

Trump delivers for Dems in Groton

This is, of course, a minor story, but in a way it may be significant. We had our local elections today. The Republicans have dominated the Town Council for something like thirty or more years, and most years they have a majority on the Board of Ed, though sometimes we’ve had a slim majority on that body.

Tonight, we swept. Nine out of nine seats on the town council. One of the defeated Republicans has been on the council for more than 20 years, and was, I thought, quite popular. Due to minority representation on the Board of Ed, there will be a Republican in that body. We also have a Representative Town Meeting, and we crushed there too.

We did some things right, and can take some credit for the victory. We welcomed the Resist people with open arms, and nominated several for the council and RTM. We had hard working campaign managers. But it’s hard not to believe that a great deal of credit goes to Donald Trump. Not being comfortable with manning phones, I normally drive people to the polls on Election Day. Today, among others, I drove a 95 year old lady who spent quite a bit of time talking about how much she loathed Donald Trump. Turnout was up and that can’t be explained by any local issue that got people excited.

Many Republicans in Connecticut are still a bit like Republicans were in the olden days, before Nixon’s Southern Strategy took root. At least in Groton, they learned today that it’s not going to be easy to be a fellow traveler to a party composed of plutocrats that harvests votes by catering to, and whipping up, racism. Today’s results give me hope that despite Dan Malloy’s best efforts, we may be able to elect a Democratic governor in 2018.

We really don’t need this

Donna Brazile has seen fit to reopen the wounds of the 2016 primary season in any apparent attempt to sell her new book.

We really don’t need this, and I find it hard to believe that she is so hard up for money that she has to try to destroy the Democratic Party in order to make a few bucks.

I agree with much of what Josh Marshall has to say here. I was a Bernie supporter, and I agree that the loathsome Wasserman-Schultz put her finger on the scale as much as she could to help Hillary, but the fact is that Hillary didn’t need the help, she would have won the nomination anyway.

What Brazile has done is simply add fuel to a fire that’s been tamped down; there is a fraction of Bernie backers who remain focused on this issue, and they are now yapping again. We shouldn’t forget this is exactly the sort of thing the Russians were trying to foster, on behalf of Trump, in the ads they targeted to Bernie backers. I should add that there is a fraction of Hillary supporters who still blame the “Bernie or Bust” crowd for her loss, though there’s not an iota of evidence for that position, and you certainly can’t claim that Bernie himself encouraged it.

This is not to say there’s nothing to be learned from the actions of the DNC and the other Democratic Party committees (the DCCC and the DSCC). The DNC, under new leadership, is still, perhaps, an open question, but the other two remain committed to the type of politician and message that has gotten us where we are today. Whenever possible, they push the most right wing of Democrats forward as candidates. We are not selling the message that, despite his loss, Bernie proved can sell in this country. I don’t know what will happen in Virginia on Tuesday, but polls are tightening, partly due to the lies and slander being spread by the Republicans, but also partly due to the fact that our candidate is trotting out the tired old “moderate” Democrat bullshit that inspires absolutely nobody. I highly recommend daily reading of the Down with Tyranny blog, which daily documents the determination of the Democratic elites to quash the enthusiasm of the resistance.

But, back to the larger point. We may have to do it in spite of the institutional Democratic Party, but we’ll get nothing accomplished if we fight old battles that have no relevance to our current situation. The Republic is on life support. We have to focus on that fact and put trivialities aside.

Called it

Regular readers, if there are any, know that I take a childish delight in crowing about my predictive powers, so it should come as no surprise that I’m going to do it again.

Shortly after the Las Vegas shooting I made a few observations, the last of which was this one:

Observation number three: Inasmuch as this one is a record setter, and will probably dominate the news for a few cycles, bets should be placed on how long it will take for one or more right wingers to suggest that it never happened.

Well:

Las Vegas shooting victims recovering from the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history earlier this month now face death threats from conspiracy theorists convinced that the massacre was a hoax, and that wounded individuals were crisis actors.

Of course the fact is anyone with a brain (which definitely excludes the scum doing this stuff) knew this would happen, so I can’t really claim much prescience. But you have to take your successes where you find them.

Breaking news

So, according to CNN, Mueller is about to file charges against yet unnamed criminals. My wife says the word is that the first to be charged are rumored to be Manafort, Flynn and Kushner, and let me be far from the first to say that it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of guys. Maybe Kushner can have his Dad’s old cell.

Anyway, as many have observed before me, it’s quite likely Trump ands his gang knew this was coming, which is why there’s been a concerted effort to turn the whole Russia thing around, including the rather ludicrous claim that there’s something suspicious about the Democrats paying for opposition research against Trump during the election campaign, not to mention the attempt to revive the absurd and repeatedly debunked uranium claim.

One point about the dossier situation that is often overlooked is that Christoper Steele, who compiled it, didn’t know he was working for the Clinton campaign (he was hired by a third party) and opted to send his findings directly to the FBI once he found such damaging stuff. You can read about that here:

There’s no evidence beyond what we already knew to suspect that Steele had an incentive to skew his reports. And Steele’s behavior is certainly curious if he thought he was working in close cooperation with the Clinton campaign. For example, when he felt that the information he was providing to Fusion GPS was too explosive to leave to them, he made the decision to contact the FBI.

Now, what I find curious is the fact that the folks at Fox have also been busy trying to distract over the past week, pushing a line about Hillary (always Hillary) that is totally absurd but guaranteed to get the base excited and the mainstream too, which has always preferred covering lies about the Clintons to truth about Republicans. Why, it’s almost as if they were acting in collusion with Trump and his gang. Just a thought, but maybe there’s a case to be made that Fox is obstructing justice. Maybe Fox and Friends could broadcast from the pokey.

Res Ipsa Loquitor

“Res Ipsa Loquitor” is one of those legal doctrines we learn about in law school, but never or, hardly ever, run into in the real world. This explanation from Wikipedia will do:

In the common law of torts, res ipsa loquitur (Latin for “the thing speaks for itself”) is a doctrine that infers negligence from the very nature of an accident or injury in the absence of direct evidence on how any defendant behaved. Although modern formulations differ by jurisdiction, common law originally stated that the accident must satisfy the necessary elements of negligence: duty, breach of duty, causation, and injury. In res ipsa loquitur, the elements of duty of care, breach and causation are inferred from an injury that does not ordinarily occur without negligence.

Elements

The injury is of the kind that does not ordinarily occur without negligence.

The injury is caused by an agency or instrumentality within the exclusive control of the defendant.

The injury-causing accident is not by any voluntary action or contribution on the part of the plaintiff.

The defendant’s non-negligent explanation does not completely explain plaintiff’s injury.

The doctrine isn’t necessarily applicable in cases of criminal corruption, but I think it’s somewhat translatable to the political world, in that if it’s core requirements are satisfied, we can assume corruption.

So, I submit that we can apply these principles and conclude that there is corruption at work here:

In the midst of the disaster in Puerto Rico, it appears that someone may have engaged in graft as large as the hurricane that hit the island. Like other electrical utilities, the state-owned Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority has multiple mutual-aid agreements with other utilities. It can call on these agreements for help in repairing the power grid in an emergency. These are the same kind of arrangements that allowed utilities in Florida to get power there restored so quickly following the passage of Irma. But even though 79 percent of the island remains without power, PREPA isn’t calling on those agreements.

A constellation of companies, including those controlled by Tesla’s Elon Musk, have offered to work with Puerto Rico to transform the island into a model for the nation using a series of micro-grids, distributed solar, and local storage. The resulting system would be clean, flexible, and resistant to large-scale failure. But, so far at least, none of those companies have the nod to proceed.

Instead, PREPA has awarded $300 million to Whitefish Energy. If that name is unfamiliar, it’s for a good reason.

For the sprawling effort to restore Puerto Rico’s crippled electrical grid, the territory’s state-owned utility has turned to a two-year-old company from Montana that had just two full-time employees on the day Hurricane Maria made landfall.

A company with no equipment, no experience, and no employees landed the job of restoring an electrical grid for an island of three and a half million Americans because … honestly, no one knows the answer. But they’re looking:

The unusual decision to instead hire a tiny for-profit company is drawing scrutiny from Congress and comes amid concerns about bankrupt Puerto Rico’s spending as it seeks to provide relief to its 3.4 million residents, the great majority of whom remain without power a month after the storm.

So far there seems to be only one clue: The two-person firm is headquartered in Whitefish, Montana. Which happens to be the hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

The thing speaks for itself, doesn’t it? All the elements are satisfied, because the “defendant’s” non-corrupt explanation doesn’t hold water:

Whitefish officials have said that the company’s expertise in mountainous areas makes it well suited for the work and that it jumped at the chance when other firms were hesitating over concerns about payment. The company acknowledges it had only two full-time employees when Maria struck but says its business model calls for ramping up rapidly by hiring workers on short-term contracts.

But whatever “experience” Whitefish may have is entirely with the linemen that it’s been hiring at a rate of 10 to 20 per week since landing the contract. Whitefish Energy isn’t a utility firm, it’s just a hiring desk located over three thousand miles from the place where the workers are needed.

With Puerto Rico’s finances in tatters and the electrical grid shattered, why not call on the existing aid agreements? And why drop a mound of money on a firm that hasn’t responded to a hurricane, hasn’t worked in Puerto Rico, and actually has zero experience in repairing a failed electrical grid.

And then there’s this:

Before getting this contract, Whitefish’s largest contract was to install a single electrical line less than five miles long.

You can’t make this stuff up, because if you just made it up, it would be dismissed as too improbable for good fiction. Welcome to the kleptocracy. The people of Puerto Rico can at least take cold comfort from the fact that the next time a climate change enhanced hurricane hits the island, they won’t lose power, because they won’t have any to lose.

2+2=5

According to the New York Times, the Republicans are fearful that they won’t be able to get the numbers to add up to avoid making the tax deform bill subject to the filibuster:

President Trump said on Monday that he would oppose any effort to reduce the amount of pretax income that American workers can save in 401(k) retirement accounts, effectively killing an idea that Republicans were mulling as a way to help pay for a $1.5 trillion tax cut.

The directive, issued via Twitter, underscored a growing fear among Republicans and business lobbyists that Mr. Trump’s bully-pulpit whims could undermine the party’s best chance to pass the most sweeping rewrite of the tax code in decades.

Overhauling the tax code was never going to be easy given that it requires targeting lucrative and politically popular tax breaks to mitigate the magnitude of cuts Republicans are envisioning. Lawmakers must mitigate the revenue loss from those tax cuts in order to avoid a Democratic filibuster and pass a bill along party lines.

I just confirmed (through intensive googling) my memory that in 1984 poor Winston Smith ultimately convinces himself that Big Brother is right, and 2+2=5. Provided they can round up all the Republicans to vote for whatever abomination they ultimately settle on, the Republicans will indeed declare that 2+2=5. Despite the fact that every impartial observer will tell you they’re lying, they will insist that their bill is within the guidelines necessary to avoid the filibuster and they will sweep all Democratic objections aside. They may do it simply by declaring that the revenue gains from increased economic activity will make up for revenue lost to the billionaires, even though everyone will know they are lying, or they may simply declare outright that since 2+2=5, it stands to reason that subtraction is really addition. Maybe they’ll get General Kelly to announce the new arithmetical rules, now that we know we’re not allowed to question a four star general’s lies. Fox viewers will have no trouble believing that 2+2=5. It’s hardly a challenge considering what they’ve swallowed in the past. The press, including the Times, will report that some say 2+2=4 and some say 2+2=5, and it’s not their job to take sides, but certainly the Democrats are being unreasonable in their partisan insistence that 2+2 always and everywhere equals 4.

Part of the new reality into which we have entered is the new rule that only Republicans can employ the filibuster. If we retake the Congress and Presidency in 2020 it will be interesting to see if the Democrats merely take the death of the filibuster as a fait accompli, or decide to show the world how noble they are by once again giving the Republicans carte blanche to obstruct.