Friday: America held hostage Day 329

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

We’re ending the second year of an annus horribilis (to borrow from HRH Elizabeth ll).  It’s difficult to image that the future of our country is in the hands of an incompetent, bullying madman still  but it is what it is. I’m certain that most of the population is trying to burrow itself into one holiday or another being nostalgic for a less stressful time.  There exist a few glimmers of hope which put me in mind of the story behind Hanukkah.  Our lives are very much under siege and we need glimmers of lasting light.

Is it really possible that Paul Ryan will retire?  I’m going straight to Charles Pierce on this one because I really need words that bite.

Ring and run, you wretched cur.

In what passes for a genuine scoop, Tim Alberta and Rachael Cade broke the news in Politico on Thursday that Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny starver from the state of Wisconsin, may well be hanging them up at the end of the 2018 midterms. Of course, Ryan—and various People Who Are Familiar With His Thinking—has a number of deeply pious, and unquestionably phony, reasons for his departure.

On a personal level, going home at the end of next year would all0w Ryan, who turns 48 next month, to keep promises to family; his three children are in or entering their teenage years, and Ryan, whose father died at 55, wants desperately to live at home with them full time before they begin flying the nest.

Isn’t that just too fcking sweet for words? Of course, young Paul Ryan had Social Security survivor’s benefits to live on when his pappy kicked and, once again, you’re welcome, dickhead. And I’m sure that his own children have excellent health care in his magnificent Georgian Revival home back in Janesville. I tell you, I’m almost as moved as I was when Ryan washed some clean pots and pans at that soup kitchen, or those several times when he dropped by impoverished neighborhoods in order to have his picture taken there.

Also, I’m sure that the fact that, in 2018, all indications are that his party will be facing a bloodbath in the midterm elections, and that the abomination of a tax bill that is his crowning achievement will be one of the party’s larger millstones, have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Paul Ryan’s giant, if remarkably delicate, intellect suddenly can no longer handle the hurly-burly of everyday politics. Good god, this man could not be a bigger fake if he were made of papier-mâché.

This may be my favorite passage in the Politico account.

As the deciding votes were cast—recorded in green on the black digital scoreboard suspended above the floor—the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, threw his head back and slammed his hands together. Soon he was engulfed in a sea of dark suits, every Republican lawmaker wanting to slap him on the shoulder and be a part of his moment.

He has tough competition from a Steel Worker Dem and Bannon has promised him a tough primary. Could he really cut and run?

The first denial leans heavily on the definition of the word “soon,” while the second only specifies Ryan is committed to the agenda for 2018. Politico isn’t reporting Ryan will resign before next year’s election — that would be highly unorthodox and potentially deadly for a party that is facing an increasingly fraught midterm — but rather he might quit afterward.

Whether that happens or not, it would be completely understandable, and perhaps even predictable.

So predictable, in fact, that The Post’s Paul Kane did predict it back in 2015 when Ryan first became speaker. “I think he’ll do this for three or four years,” Kane said in October 2015, more than three years before the 2018 election. That three-plus-year tenure would also be completely in line with other recent speakerships. Looking back, six of the last seven speakers have served fewer than five years in the job (three voluntarily and three because their party lost the majority). Ryan committing to another two-year Congress would put him over that five-year mark, which is a very long time to be in that job even for a relatively youthful 47-year-old.

Kremlin Caligula has reached historical lows in polls. Eleanor Clift–writing for The Daily Beast–suggests a tipping point.

Public opinion can take off like a runaway train once it gets going. President Donald Trump, already polling lower than any of his predecessors in his first year, might soon be hearing the hoofbeats of history.

At 32 percent in the most recent Pew and Monmouth polls, he is perilously close to what most historians and political scientists say is a tipping point of 30 percent, below which a president can no longer effectively lead.

President Nixon was at 22 percent when he resigned in August of 1974 and Republican Party affiliation had dropped to 18 percent, recalls Reagan historian Craig Shirley.

“Going below 30 percent kept Truman from seeking another term and going below 30 percent eventually drove Nixon out of office,” he says. “In the modern era, beginning with FDR, presidents get into trouble when they fall below 30.”

Nixon won a landslide re-election in 1972 with 61 percent of the vote, but it was all downhill after that. For most of the next year, his polls lingered in the mid to high 30s, a downward trajectory that began even before the White House taping system was revealed in July of 1973, exposing his legal jeopardy.

Prior to that, Watergate had taken a steep toll on his numbers, along with campus discord over the Vietnam War and an oil embargo that led to long gas lines—all of which led to “a general sense of America in decline,” says Shirley.

Trump, much earlier in a presidency predicated on his promise to “make America great again,” is facing his own challenges. The GOP’s loss of a Senate seat in ruby red Alabama thanks to the sexual misconduct allegations against Republican Roy Moore has to make President Trump uneasy about the power of today’s newly awakened movement. Over a hundred members of Congress are calling for an investigation into claims of sexual harassment brought by multiple women against Trump before he was president. While the lawmakers are all Democrats for now, public opinion doesn’t always abide by party lines.

A Financial Times Op Ed outlines how incompetent the UK and US leadership has become under their white nationalist leaders.  This is no liberal rag.

In the US, when Republicans finally got their chance to abolish Obamacare, it turned out they had spent seven years not preparing an alternative. Much of their tax bill got handwritten overnight by lobbyists. And Russiagate’s key characteristic is amateurism. Mike Flynn and others didn’t declare obvious contacts with foreign officials, assuming nobody would notice. Trump appeared to incriminate himself by tweeting that he knew Flynn broke the law, but then his lawyer said he’d written the tweet. Richard Nixon’s downfall was not his crime but his cover-up; this time there’s hardly any cover-up. The only comparable folly in recent US-UK history is the Iraq war. So what explains this incompetence?

Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg trashes the Republican Tax Plan in an op-ed from his media empire. He calls it a ‘blunder’. What is amazing to me is watching dueling policy objectives between the Fed and Republicans in Congress. The Fed is putting on the breaks while the Republicans throw money at their favorite donors.

Last month a Wall Street Journal editor asked a room full of CEOs to raise their hands if the corporate tax cut being considered in Congress would lead them to invest more. Very few hands went up. Attending was Gary Cohn, President Donald Trump’s economic adviser and a friend of mine. He asked: “Why aren’t the other hands up?”

Allow me to answer that: We don’t need the money.

Corporations are sitting on a record amount of cash reserves: nearly $2.3 trillion. That figure has been climbing steadily since the recession ended in 2009, and it’s now double what it was in 2001. The reason CEOs aren’t investing more of their liquid assets has little to do with the tax rate.

CEOs aren’t waiting on a tax cut to “jump-start the economy” — a favorite phrase of politicians who have never run a company — or to hand out raises. It’s pure fantasy to think that the tax bill will lead to significantly higher wages and growth, as Republicans have promised. Had Congress actually listened to executives, or economists who study these issues carefully, it might have realized that.

Instead, Congress did what it always does: It put politics first. After spending the first nine months of the year trying to jam through a repeal of Obamacare without holding hearings, heeding independent analysis or seeking Democratic input, Republicans took the same approach to tax “reform” — and it shows.

Only a few greedy republican donors want this bill.

A few other things today to note.  Bill Moyers is calling it quits. I can imagine that he’s quite tired after the last two years.

Nikki Haley pulled a ‘Colin Powell’ on Iran yesterday with pictures supposedly showing Iran cheating on its agreements. No one was impressed at the UN.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, claimed Thursday that the international body has obtained “undeniable” evidence that Iran supplied Yemeni insurgents with missiles and other arms.

But U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres reached no such conclusion in his report this month that addresses U.S. and Saudi claims the Houthi insurgents fired Iranian short-range ballistic missiles that nearly missed Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport on Nov. 4.

A U.N. panel of experts has reviewed missile fragments from the strike that show the missile resembles the Qiam-1, an Iranian-made Scud variant that lacks the tail fins typically found in Yemen’s previously known missile arsenal. The panel noted in a confidential report, which was obtained by Foreign Policy, that the missile also contained a tail component that bore the logo of an Iranian company targeted by U.S. and U.N. sanctions.

But the panel, which reported that the missile also contained an American-made component, concluded it “has no evidence as to the identity of the broker or supplier.

Net Neutrality removal means court challenges are up next.  It could trigger the Millennial voter turnout.

The US Federal Communications Commission vote on Thursday to roll back net-neutrality rules could galvanize young voters, a move Democrats hope will send millennials to the polls in greater numbers and bolster their chances in next year’s elections.

Democrats are hoping to paint the repeal of the rules by the FCC, which is now chaired by a President Donald Trump appointee, Ajit Pai, as evidence Republicans are uninterested in young people and consumer concerns at large.

“The American public is angry,” said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat. She added that the actions of the Republican majority had “awoken a sleeping giant.”

Attitudes toward so-called net neutrality, or rules that prevent internet providers from limiting customers’ access to certain websites or slowing download speeds for specific content, are largely split along party lines in Congress. The heated debate has turned into the kind of election issue that Democrats think will help them.

Studies show young people disproportionately use the internet compared with older Americans, and polls have shown they feel passionately about fair and open internet access. Democrats believe the issue may resonate with younger voters who may not be politically active on other issues like taxes or foreign policy.

Sen. Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, on Twitter said “young people need to take the lead on net neutrality.” He added: “It’s possible for Millennial political leadership to make a real difference here.”

The scrapping of the Obama administration’s rules is likely to set up a court battle and could redraw the digital landscape, with internet service providers possibly revising how Americans view online content. The providers could use new authority to limit or slow some websites or offer “fast lanes” for certain content.

Republicans on the FCC have sought to reassure young people that their ability to access the internet will not change after the rules take effect. People who favor the move argue that after users realize that little or nothing has changed in their internet access, it will not resonate as a political issue.

So, I’ll end here.  Happy Hanukkah to all our Jewish Sky Dancers!!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?



14 Comments on “Friday: America held hostage Day 329”

  1. quixote says:

    (Nikki Haley pulled a ‘Colin Powell’ on Iraqn yesterday with pictures supposedly showing Iraqn cheating on its agreements. Maybe should be fixed? Although it is obvious what you mean.)

    Is Hanukkah’s other name is Festival of Lights? Or am I confused with Diwali, which I know is called that. In either case, I’m happy to see all the points of light I can! Great post.

  2. Enheduanna says:

    Happy Friday everyone! I’m very encouraged by the Business Insider article. I thought messing with net neutrality was a bridge too far for our usually apathetic young voters. If we get them out – and for a mid-term no less – we’ll have them participating at unprecedented levels for years to come.

    Meanwhile, I can’t wait for this ahole to be gone:

    I wonder if he’ll try and run for POTUS again.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Someone released those FBI agents’ text messages to Fox News, but the Justice Department claims they did not authorize the release. So who gave them to Fox? Sessions or someone on the committee?

    Justice Dept: Early release of FBI agents’ texts was not authorized

    In a statement to Politico, Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said that text messages between Lisa Page and Peter Strzok were given to certain members of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday before Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein publicly testified before the committee on Wednesday.

    Flores said the same information was later shared with the media, but some reporters had already obtained the texts.

    “As we understand now, some members of the media had already received copies of the texts before that — but those disclosures were not authorized by the department,” Flores said.

    Those private communications shouldn’t have been released publicly period. They are part of an ongoing investigation.

  4. NW Luna says:

    Kushner thinks all he needs is some good PR. Jared, you can’t PR your way out of treason.

    Kushner’s legal team looks to hire crisis public relations firm

    Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, has quietly called at least two firms, according to four people familiar with the matter. Crisis PR firms are often retained to handle a negative development or an avalanche of media inquiries. Kushner has been in the headlines almost daily, and he has complained to friends about the nonstop negative attention from the news media.

  5. NW Luna says:

    You’re all probably following Leah McElrath anyway, but here’s a good look at the web of GOP-Russian entanglement $$$:

  6. NW Luna says:


  7. NW Luna says: