We’ve come to the end of another week in Trump world. Trump has gone to Camp David, bringing along Ivanka and Jared, Don Jr., and even Tiffany, but not his wife Melania and their son Barron.
Where are Melania and Barron? The Trump people claim Melania is in the White House and she just didn’t want to go to Camp David. But why didn’t Barron go? Eventually they are going to have to give an explanation of these disappearances to the American public. The media should be asking more questions about where Melania and Barron are.
Yesterday, I was reminded of how the media has been complicit in covering up presidential bad behavior in the past when I read this review of Seymour Hersh’s new book by Josephine Livingstone at The New Republic. Livingstone calls attention to the fact that the media world Hersh describes is almost entirely male and notes that Hersh knew of a violent episode in which Richard Nixon apparently badly beat his wife Pat.
Almost every person in Hersh’s memoir is a man—a sign of the time and the industry. But there’s an interesting moment that Hersh did not have to include. In 1974, he writes, Hersh heard that Nixon’s wife Pat was in hospital after being punched by her husband. It was not an isolated occasion. He did not report on the story, he told Nieman Foundation fellows in 1998, because it represented “a merging of private life and public life.” Nixon didn’t make policy decisions because of his bad marriage, went the argument. Hersh was “taken aback” by the response from women fellows, who pointed out that he had heard of a crime and not reported it. “All I could say,” Hersh writes, “is that at the time I did not—in my ignorance—view the incident as a crime.”
I don’t think reporters today would cover up something like that, but I’m pretty sure Trump staff would do it. We already know that John Kelly and others blew off the fact that Rob Porter couldn’t get a security clearance because he had a history of violence against two former wives. Trump has even talked about bringing Porter back in another position. How do we know that Trump himself didn’t put Melania in the hospital. We know that he was violent in his marriage to Ivanna.
So the summit with North Korea is back on for June 12, and yesterday Trump met with Kim Jong-un’s second in command Kim Jong-chol, formerly head of the North Korean version of the CIA. Trump even invited this guy into the Oval Office for a long meeting. Last night Rachel Maddow gave a long monologue about the former spy chief’s history. If you missed it, I hope you’ll go watch it. Here’s a bit of background from The Guardian: Kim Yong-chol: the ultimate North Korean regime insider.
Kim has been a border guard in the Korean demilitarised zone, a liaison officer with the United Nations, and a member of the team who held breakthrough negotiations with the South Koreans in the early 1990s. Over the past decade he was promoted to four-star general, and made head of the main North Korean intelligence service, known as the reconnaissance general bureau (RGB).
He has served three generations of the Kim dynasty and in recent months emerged one of the most powerful figures in Kim Jong-un’s regime, second only to the leader’s sister, Kim Yo-jong. He is vice-chair of the ruling Workers party and head of the section charged with dealing with the South. He was part of the North Korean delegation for the Winter Olympics closing ceremony, and he was at the leader’s side for meetings with the South Korean president Moon Jae-in and Pompeo.
“He wears several hats,” said Duyeon Kim, a visiting senior research fellow at the Korean Peninsula Future Forum thinktank. “He is extremely well versed in denuclearisation matters, and seems to have secured himself a spot in Kim Jong-un’s inner circle.”
To travel to the US, Kim had to be given a waiver from sanctions. He was head of the RGB from 2009 to 2016 during the time the spy agency is believed responsible for the 2010 torpedoing of a South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan, in which 46 sailors were killed; and the 2014 hacking attack against Sony.
And Kim was in the Oval Office with President loose-lips and his insecure cell phone.
According to The Washington Post, the Trump administration is going to have U.S. taxpayers pick up the tab for the North Korean delegation’s stay in Singapore: The U.S. is trying to find a discreet way to pay for Kim Jong Un’s hotel during the summit.
SINGAPORE — At an island resort off the coast of Singapore, U.S. event planners are working day and night with their North Korean counterparts to set up a summit designed to bring an end to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.
But a particularly awkward logistical issue remains unresolved, according to two people familiar with the talks. Who’s going to pay for Kim Jong Un’s hotel stay?
The prideful but cash-poor pariah state requires that a foreign country foot the bill at its preferred lodging: the Fullerton, a magnificent neoclassical hotel near the mouth of the Singapore River, where just one presidential suite costs more than $6,000 per night….
When it comes to paying for lodging at North Korea’s preferred five-star luxury hotel, the United States is open to covering the costs, the two people said, but it’s mindful that Pyongyang may view a U.S. payment as insulting. As a result, U.S. planners are considering asking the host country of Singapore to pay for the North Korean delegation’s bill.
So not only is Trump likely to give away the store to Kim Jong-un, we are going to pay for travel expenses for the dictator and his retinue.
We often talk about how Trump is turning the U.S. into a third world country, and now the U.N. has released a report about what’s happening here. The Guardian: Trump’s ‘cruel’ measures pushing US inequality to dangerous level, UN warns.
Donald Trump is deliberately forcing millions of Americans into financial ruin, cruelly depriving them of food and other basic protections while lavishing vast riches on the super-wealthy, the United Nations monitor on poverty has warned.
Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur who acts as a watchdog on extreme poverty around the world, has issued a withering critique of the state of America today. Trump is steering the country towards a “dramatic change of direction” that is rewarding the rich and punishing the poor by blocking access even to the most meager necessities.
“This is a systematic attack on America’s welfare program that is undermining the social safety net for those who can’t cope on their own. Once you start removing any sense of government commitment, you quickly move into cruelty,” Alston told the Guardian.
Millions of Americans already struggling to make ends meet faced “ruination”, he warned. “If food stamps and access to Medicaid are removed, and housing subsidies cut, then the effect on people living on the margins will be drastic.”
Asked to define “ruination”, Alston said: “Severe deprivation of food and almost no access to healthcare.”
Alston sounds the alarm in the final report of his investigation into extreme poverty in the US that is published on Friday and will be presented to the UN human rights council in Geneva at the end of June. His findings are based on a tour he carried out in December through some of America’s most destitute communities, from Skid Row in Los Angeles, through poor African American areas in Alabama, and the stricken coal country of West Virginia, to hurricane-racked Puerto Rico.
And this isn’t even taking into consideration the results for many industries and states if Trump is able to carry through with his planned tariffs.
In the wake of new tariffs, car plants from Michigan to South Carolina and Alabama could pay more for the steel they use to make engines and auto parts. Whiskey from Kentucky and motorcycles made in Wisconsin, meanwhile, will shortly be subject to retaliatory tariffs from Europe.
The Trump administration on Thursday announced that it would impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico and the European Union. All three have pledged to swiftly fight back with tariffs of their own.
The President wants to impose the 25% tariff on steel and 10% tariff on aluminum in order to protect jobs in those industries. But the taxes will raise prices for downstream companies that use those materials in their products. Retaliatory tariffs from US trading partners, meanwhile, are devised to inflict maximum pain on Trump-supporting areas to encourage the President to back down….
“These tariffs will raise prices and destroy manufacturing jobs, especially auto jobs, which are one-third of all Tennessee manufacturing jobs,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, said Thursday. He called the new tariffs a “big mistake.”
Read the rest at CNN.
The New York Times: This Factory Was Ready to Expand. Then Came the Trump Trade Wars.
Andy Marsh’s New York factory is trapped in the Trump trade wars.
As Mr. Trump threatens tariffs on America’s economic allies and its adversaries, many of the domestic businesses that the president says his policies are meant to protect are finding themselves victims of his aggressive approach.
Prices are rising for imported goods, other nations are erecting retaliatory trade barriers, and companies like Plug Power, the manufacturing business that Mr. Marsh runs outside Albany, are facing crippling uncertainty from Mr. Trump’s fickle approach.
It is not the first time Mr. Marsh has felt firsthand the impact of decisions made hundreds of miles away in Washington.
In February, Congress and Mr. Trump gave Plug Power an injection of optimism, by extending a tax credit that was crucial to the manufacturer’s American expansion plans. The credit allowed Plug Power to reduce the price of its fuel cells for trucks and forklifts, and to forge ahead with new hiring.
By May, Mr. Marsh had slowed his efforts to fill more than 10 open positions in Plug Power’s factory as he began worrying that the tariffs on steel and some Chinese products crucial to its business would raise the costs of the components it imports to build fuel cells. So executives had raised the price on their fuel cells, and sales were slowing as a result.
United States Customs and Border Protection had also begun delaying some of those imported components for several days after they arrived from overseas, slowing their trip to Plug Power’s factory floor, Mr. Marsh said. The reason for the delay was unclear, but Mr. Marsh suspected that it could be related to the recent trade upheaval.
There’s much more at the NYT link.
I’ll end with this article from Vox on white people who get upset about black people doing ordinary stuff: I used to be a 911 dispatcher. I had to respond to racist calls every day.
It was the end of an 18-hour shift. My butt hurt from sitting in one place with only a couple of five-minute bathroom breaks. My brain hurt from staying awake that long, and my stomach ached from all the coffee I’d drunk to keep myself alert.
But the phones rarely stopped.
“911, what’s the address of your emergency?” I said into the headset.
The man gave me his address and then said, “There’s a woman pushing a shopping cart in front of my house.”
This one stumped me. I worked in a large metropolitan area. Yes, the city where I worked was affluent, and most people used their cars to get groceries. But surely he’d seen a person using a personal grocery cart before.
“I’m sorry, I’m not getting it. What’s the problem?” I waited for more clarification as I racked my brain for the correct penal code under which this infraction might fall.
“You need to get out here now.”
“Um.” A dispatcher has to be cautious about how she phrases things. Of all the jobs in emergency services — firefighters, police officers, nurses, doctors — dispatchers are the only ones who are recorded during every single thing they do. Everything they say — and their whole job is speaking — is part of public record. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you’re reporting.”
Please go read the rest.
So . . . what stories are you following today?
Republicans are celebrating their tax cut “victory” this morning, but the fight isn’t over yet. The bill still has to be reconciled with the House version and then voted on again by the House and Senate. I have to admit I’m pretty depressed about it, so this post will largely be a link dump.
In a truly wild and dizzying Friday night and Saturday morning in Washington, Senate Republicans committed collective political suicide by passing a deeply detested tax bill they were still writingseemingly moments before they jammed it through on a party-line vote with no hearings and no meaningful input from a public that hasn’t even seen the text of the legislation.
As dawn broke Friday over the undrained swamp, it looked like the tax legislation was still in trouble, with Republican senators Bob Corker (Tenn.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), and Susan Collins (Maine) all wavering. And as of Friday night, the text of this bill, which will restructure the entire American tax system and its economy, had not yet been released to the public, leaving Democratic senators and outside analysts guessing as to which radioactive provisions would be in it, which would be left out, and exactly where various tax levels would be set. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) tweeted a photo Friday evening of amendments that would be voted on shortly and that she had to obtain from lobbyists rather than her colleagues across the aisle. The absurdity was almost unspeakable.
As the day wound down, Senate holdouts, especially those who were lionized by the left as principled heroes during July’s failed ObamaCare vote, had fallen in line and said they would vote to slash taxes on corporations, trustafarians, and hedge fund managers while raising them on poor, working class, and middle class Americans. Together these titans of high-minded values said they were ok with their colleagues’ plan to peel a bunch of hundred dollar bills off of America’s dwindling wad of national cash and stuff them directly into the pockets of their billionaire bankrollers.
Regular order? On Wednesday, John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced he was fine sending this diabolical, 479-page Dybbuk through the Senate even though no one in the chamber had time to read it even once. Democratic pleas to at least postpone the vote until Monday so that our national leaders might actually skim the legislation were ignored. Protecting Medicaid for vulnerable Alaskans? When it came time to screw the poor, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was totally cool with it as long as she could trash the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with oil drilling in return. Collins, who was wavering Thursday, voted for the bill in the end, all but giving the finger to the Mainers who gave her those airport standing ovations after she stopped TrumpCare. Flake got on board when the White House made some meaningless promise to him that he would be part of any “conversation” about a DACA resolution later this year. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was the only final holdout.
At the end of the day, Republicans revealed that their entire caucus is bereft of dignity, shame, honor, and any commitment to a single thing any of them have ever said in public about how laws should be made in the United States.
Read it and weep.
There were a smattering of last-minute changes tucked into the nearly 500-page bill, but the core of it is quite simple: a permanent tax cut for corporations combined with much smaller, and temporary, benefits for everyone else. Over the next decade, the $1.4 trillion tax cut would disproportionately reward the wealthiest Americans while piling on the national debt—which in turn will likely be used by Republicans as a justification for cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.The House, which already passed its own tax bill last month, and the Senate are expected to work out the differences between their bills in conference meetings. Then each chamber would vote again, and send the final product to President Donald Trump’s desk for his signature. Trump hopes to sign what he has called his “big, beautiful Christmas present” to the American people by the end of the year.
Before the individual cuts expire in 2026—ending the bill’s most charitable years—the top 1 percent would receive slightly more of the tax cut than the bottom 60 percent of Americans combined. Without the individual tax cut, the top 1 percent would get start getting 61 percent of the benefits. And at that point, the vast majority of middle-class taxpayers would receive essentially nothing, or end up paying higher taxes….
Republicans say they’ll eventually extend those individual cuts. But there is good reason to doubt that. The United States will be facing unprecedented debt levels when it comes time to renew the cuts. The annual deficit would be $1.4 trillion in 2025, up from about $700 billion today. The Senate bill asks Americans to trust that a future Congress, comprised of different members, will continue to ignore deficits.
Supposedly the bill includes a lot of completely nonsensical policy changes, including defining life as beginning at conception. We already know that the bill basically repeals Obamacare and throws 13 million people off health insurance. It also cuts Medicare, and the Republicans will use the inevitable budget deficits to push for cuts in Social Security and more cuts in Medicare and Medicaid. Never miss a great Ancestry promo coupon and get our best coupons every week. Learn more at http://www.groupon.com
The Washington Post: GOP eyes post-tax-cut changes to welfare, Medicare and Social Security.
High-ranking Republicans are hinting that, after their tax overhaul, the party intends to look at cutting spending on welfare, entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, and other parts of the social safety net.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said recently that he wants Republicans to focus in 2018 on reducing spending on government programs. Last month, President Trump said welfare reform will “take place right after taxes, very soon, very shortly after taxes.”
As Republicans advocate spending cuts, they have frequently cited a need to reduce the national deficit while growing the economy.
“You also have to bring spending under control. And not discretionary spending. That isn’t the driver of our debt. The driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said this week.While whipping votes for a GOP tax bill on Thursday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) attacked “liberal programs” for the poor and said Congress needed to stop wasting Americans’ money.
“We’re spending ourselves into bankruptcy,” Hatch said. “Now, let’s just be honest about it: We’re in trouble. This country is in deep debt. You don’t help the poor by not solving the problems of debt, and you don’t help the poor by continually pushing more and more liberal programs through.”
Hatch and his buddies want to “help” the poor and elderly by letting them die in the streets. Or maybe they’d decide that the right to life ends at birth.
The latest CBO score was released just before the vote, and it predicts the same results as the previous one. The Hill reports: CBO: Senate tax bill increases deficit by $1.4 trillion.
The Senate GOP tax plan will increase the deficit by more than $1.4 trillion over a decade, according to a new analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
The CBO score comes as senators are already voting on amendments to the legislation and are expected to pass the bill in the early morning hours of Saturday.
The legislation, according to CBO, would have the largest deficits between the 2019 fiscal year and the 2022 fiscal year.
The finding comes as GOP senators have largely ignored warnings that their tax plan would increase the deficit. Republicans argue that economic growth will more than make up for any increases to the national debt.
It could be a lot worse than that. What domestic or foreign students will be able to earn doctorates in the U.S. if they have to pay taxes on the tuition that Universities waive in return for grad student labor? Corporations will continue ship jobs overseas and channel their profits to their shareholders. This bill is likely to throw our economy into another tailspin. I’ll leave it up to Dakinikat to discuss that.
The Washington Post lists some of the disagreements between the House and Senate versions of the bill that will have to be resolved: Here are 7 differences Republicans must resolve between their tax bills. They include the ACA individual mandate, the estate tax, the expiration of individual tax cuts, the child tax credit, the mortgage interest deduction, the new tax brackets, and the timing of the corporate tax cuts. Of course it’s possible Ryan could decide to try to get the House to pass the Senate version as is. We’ll have to wait and see.
The New York Times Editorial Board: A Historic Tax Heist.
With barely a vote to spare early Saturday morning, the Senate passed a tax bill confirming that the Republican leaders’ primary goal is to enrich the country’s elite at the expense of everybody else, including future generations who will end up bearing the cost. The approval of this looting of the public purse by corporations and the wealthy makes it a near certainty that President Trump will sign this or a similar bill into law in the coming days.
The bill is expected to add more than $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade, a debt that will be paid by the poor and middle class in future tax increases and spending cuts to Medicare, Social Security and other government programs. Its modest tax cuts for the middle class disappear after eight years. And up to 13 million people stand to lose their health insurance because the bill makes a big change to the Affordable Care Act.
Yet Republicans somehow found a way to give a giant and permanent tax cut to corporations like Apple, General Electric and Goldman Sachs, saving those businesses tens of billions of dollars.
Because the Senate was rewriting its bill till the last minute, only the dealmakers themselves knew what the chamber voted on. There will, no doubt, be many unpleasant surprises as both houses work to pass final legislation for President Trump to sign.
Read the rest at the link. I’m sure more details about the tax scam will come out over the weekend. Meanwhile, if you live in a red state, please let your Senators and Representatives know how enraged you are.
What else is happening? What stories are you following today?
The media is finally waking up to the fact that the “president” of the U.S. is not just a pathological liar, not just a sociopath and a malignant narcissist–he is actually suffering from a serious thought disorder with delusions.
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: New Reports Suggest Trump Might Not Be a Liar at All, But Truly Delusional.
The Washington Post and New York Times have accounts from insiders suggesting Trump habitually insists upon the impossible in private. He does not merely tell lies in order to gull the public or to manipulate allies. He tells lies in private that he has no reason to tell. He still questions the authenticity of Barack Obama’s birthplace, despite the birth certificate. He insists voter fraud may have denied him a popular-vote triumph. He tells people Robert Mueller will wrap up his investigation, with a total vindication of the president, by the end of the year.
He questions whether the Access Hollywood tape, on which he was recorded boasting of sexual assault, is even him. (Both the Post and the Times report Trump repeatedly has denied the validity of the tape in private, “stunning his advisers,” as the Times puts it.)
It is of course entirely possible that Trump is lying to everybody, including his own staff. But the lies in these articles do not always fit into any pattern of rational self-aggrandizement. Trump tells senators or his aides the Access Hollywood tape is not him, but they don’t believe him. He has no reason to bring up the birther fabrication in private.
His apparent belief that Mueller will complete his sprawling investigation by the end of the year is not only pointless but self-defeating — rather than prepare allies for a long defense, he is preparing them for a fantastical scenario. (It is also further evidence that, when Mueller fails to vindicate him by the new year, Trump will lash out wildly, firing him, Jeff Sessions, or others.)
If Trump actually has the ability to convince himself of his own lies, it would suggest a possibility far more dangerous than even his critics have previously assumed. He might be in the grip of a mental-health issue, or at least one more serious than mere sociopathy. And the mutterings that he might need to be removed from office through the 25th Amendment could grow more serious than many of us have expected.
Gee, no kidding. It was obvious during the campaign that Trump was nuts, to use a technical term. Now people in the media are waking up to the reality of the situation when it may well be too late. BTW, a person can be a liar and delusional at the same time.
Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker at The Washington Post: Trump veers past guardrails, feeling impervious to the uproar he causes.
President Trump this week disseminated on social media three inflammatory and unverified anti-Muslim videos, took glee in the firing of a news anchor for sexual harassment allegations despite facing more than a dozen of his own accusers and used a ceremony honoring Navajo war heroes to malign a senator with a derogatory nickname, “Pocahontas.”
Again and again, Trump veered far past the guardrails of presidential behavior. But despite the now-routine condemnations, the president is acting emboldened, as if he were impervious to the uproar he causes.
If there are consequences for his actions, Trump does not seem to feel their burden personally. The Republican tax bill appears on track for passage, putting the president on the cusp of his first major legislative achievement. Trump himself remains the highest-profile man accused of sexual improprieties to keep his job with no repercussions.
Trump has internalized the belief that he can largely operate with impunity, people close to him said. His political base cheers him on. Fellow Republican leaders largely stand by him. His staff scrambles to explain away his misbehavior — or even to laugh it off. And the White House disciplinarian, chief of staff John F. Kelly, has said it is not his job to control the president.
Rucker and Parker quote from Trump’s speech in Missouri last night:
In Missouri, he was talking about taxes, but he might as well been describing his mind-set.
“Hey, look, I’m president,” Trump said. “I don’t care. I don’t care anymore.”
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said on Thursday that people close to President Trump told him during the campaign that Trump has “early stages of dementia.”
During MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Scarborough said Trump is “completely detached from reality.”
“You have somebody inside the White House that the New York Daily News says is mentally unfit,” Scarborough said.
“That people close to him say is mentally unfit, that people close to him during the campaign told me had early stages of dementia.”
Scarborough said the country is closer to war on the Korean Peninsula than most Americans know.
“We heard this months ago, that we are going to have a ground war in Korea, they believe that inside the White House for a very long time,” Scarborough said.
“If this is not what the 25th Amendment was drafted for,” he added, referring to the amendment that covers presidential succession and the response to a president with disabilities.
Hey Joe, why didn’t you say this during the campaign??
Last night during his speech in Missouri, Trump gave a clear demonstration of how jumbled his thought process is. Someone put the words “rocket fuel” on the teleprompter and he veered off into an attack on Kim Jong Un.
“But what it means in simple terms is he’s losing his grip on reality,” Schwartz told MSNBC’s “The Beat with Ari Melber” when asked about Trump’s reported suggestion that the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape may not be real.
“His reality testing is really poor and I believe that’s exactly what’s going on,” Schwartz added.
Schwartz described “a dramatic change” in Trump from when he co-authored the book with him to how the president speaks now.
“He is more limited in his vocabulary. He is further from as I say- this connection to what is factual and real. He is more impulsive. He is more reactive. This is a guy in deep trouble,” said Schwartz.
He also said that many employees at the White House are “hostages to a cult leader.”
“When you watch Sarah Huckabee Sanders right now, you really feel as if you’re watching somebody who is being brainwashed, or has been brainwashed,” Schwartz said, referencing the White House press secretary.
Mike Allen at Axios: The White House expects Trump to get even more outrageous.
I’m starting to feel as if we normal Americans are being held hostage. Maybe that’s not the right word for our situation; I’m not sure what to call it, but something awful is happening to us. A minority of deplorable or just plain stupid people elected an ignorant, incompetent, narcissistic wanna-be tyrant to the presidency; and we are being forced to bear witness as he burns our democracy down. The people who could take action–the Republicans refuse to do anything to protect the country. All we can do is hope that Bob Mueller is able to make something happen–and that he does it in time to prevent World War III.
After what Trump did yesterday and the night before, I’m really struggling to write a post this morning. I’ve been feeling increasingly depressed. For months I’ve been waking up every morning fearful of what Trump may have done, and recently I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night and checking Twitter to see if anything horrible has happened. I know this isn’t normal or healthy, but what can I do? I can’t zone out and pretend nothing is happening. Besides, I know I’m not alone. I’ve seen a number of people here and on Twitter who say they are going through the same anxiety. What can we do about the madman in the White House?
Late Thursday night, Trump announced that he will end subsidies that help lower income people purchase health insurance in the ACA exchanges, a move that threatens 1/6th of the U.S. economy. Then yesterday he announced that he will refuse to certify that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal we agreed to with numerous other countries under Obama. Dakinikat covered both of these stories in her Friday post, so I won’t go into any more detail about these nightmarish “presidential” decisions.
Now what? The consequences of both of these destructive actions by Trump could be extremely serious, and we’re still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as the wildfires in California. Will this administration be able (or willing) to handle these Trump-made and natural catastrophes? I fear the answer is no.
Maybe I’m overreacting. If so, I hope someone here can talk me off the ledge.
Meanwhile Trump is very pleased with himself.
When is the last time a POTUS celebrated tanking stocks? Has that ever happened before?
Buzzfeed reports on the Democratic response to the cancellation of the subsidies: Democrats Are Launching A Legal Fight To Save Obamacare’s Subsidy Payments.
A coalition of 19 attorneys general — representing 18 states and the District of Columbia — filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Northern District of California that accuses the Trump administration of violating the sections of the Affordable Care Act that require the subsidies, as well as other federal law.
“It’s well past time that President Trump learns that he doesn’t just get to pick and choose which laws he’ll follow or which bills he’ll pay,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said on a call with reporters. “Just because he’s in the White House doesn’t mean he can make those decisions.” ….
A coalition of 19 attorneys general — representing 18 states and the District of Columbia — filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Northern District of California that accuses the Trump administration of violating the sections of the Affordable Care Act that require the subsidies, as well as other federal law.
“It’s well past time that President Trump learns that he doesn’t just get to pick and choose which laws he’ll follow or which bills he’ll pay,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said on a call with reporters. “Just because he’s in the White House doesn’t mean he can make those decisions.
”The lawsuit was filed by attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
Other stories to check out
The U.S. and Iran have both taken defensive measures to prepare for a potential conflict following President Donald Trump’s controversial decision Friday to not certify a landmark nuclear treaty between both countries and four other leading powers….
In response to Trump’s decision to add the IRGC to the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations, Iranian lawmaker Alireza Rahimi, a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, told the Iranian Students’ News Agency that Iran would put the U.S. military on its “list of groups that undermine international security and stability.” The IRGC is an official branch of Iran’s armed forces but also maintains external operations and operates under direct orders from an appointee of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“Given that the army and [other] armed forces of a country are guarantors of its security, the [possible] move [by the U.S. to designate IRGC forces as terrorists] is tantamount to a declaration of war,” Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s atomic agency, told British analysts and media figures Thursday during a meeting in London, according to the semiofficial Tasnim News Agency….
Retired Army Major General Paul Eaton, who played a key role in rebuilding and training the Iraqi military in the wake of the 2003 U.S. invasion, on Friday warned that Trump’s decision may not only bring about a new crisis in the Middle East, but further escalate an already tense nuclear standoff with North Korea and further complicate the U.S.’s 16-year military campaign in Afghanistan. He appealed to Congress to not destroy the deal by adding more sanctions during the 60-day window lawmakers now have to take action.
“Donald Trump has moved us closer to a war with Iran, while he has also moved us closer to a nuclear war with North Korea. All while we’re in a war in Afghanistan,” Eaton said in a statement.
Those are the highlights; you might want to read the whole story.
The Boston Globe has an explainer story on Trump’s health care moves: Key questions and answers about Trump’s health care move.
President Donald Trump’s move to stop paying a major “Obamacare” subsidy will raise costs for many consumers who buy their own health insurance, and make an already complicated system more challenging for just about everybody.
Experts say the consequences will vary depending on how much money you earn, the state you live in, and other factors.
Overall, Trump’s decision will make coverage under the Affordable Care Act less secure, because more insurers may head for the exits as their financial losses mount.
I can’t really excerpt this very well, but the story isn’t long and has some helpful information. Basically, poor, working class, and middle class Americans will all be negatively affected.
This piece by ex-Republican conservative George Will is worth reading. It’s directed at the white supremacists like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller who have Trump’s ear, but I was most interested in what Will had to say about two Republicans who have enabled Trump in his destructive behavior, Mike Pence and Bob Corker:
With eyes wide open, Mike Pence eagerly auditioned for the role as Donald Trump’s poodle. Now comfortably leashed, he deserves the degradations that he seems too sycophantic to recognize as such. He did Trump’s adolescent bidding with last Sunday’s preplanned virtue pageant of scripted indignation — his flight from the predictable sight of players kneeling during the national anthem at a football game. No unblinkered observer can still cling to the hope that Pence has the inclination, never mind the capacity, to restrain, never mind educate, the man who elevated him to his current glory. Pence is a reminder that no one can have sustained transactions with Trump without becoming too soiled for subsequent scrubbing.
A man who interviewed for the position Pence captured, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), is making amends for saying supportive things about Trump. In 2016, for example, he said he was “repulsed” by people trying to transform the Republican National Convention from a merely ratifying body into a deliberative body for the purpose of preventing what has come to pass. Until recently, Corker, an admirable man and talented legislator, has been, like many other people, prevented by his normality from fathoming Trump’s abnormality. Now Corker says what could have been said two years ago about Trump’s unfitness.
The axiom that “Hell is truth seen too late” is mistaken; damnation deservedly comes to those who tardily speak truth that has long been patent. Perhaps there shall be a bedraggled parade of repentant Republicans resembling those supine American communists who, after Stalin imposed totalitarianism, spawned the gulag, engineered the Ukraine famine, launched the Great Terror and orchestrated the show trials, were theatrically disillusioned by his collaboration with Hitler: You, sir, have gone too far.
Wow. Read the rest at the WaPo.
More fallout from Trump’s disastrous policies at Newsweek: After Trump Travel Ban, Chad Pulls Troops from Boko Haram fight in Niger.
President Donald Trump’s decision to place Chad on his revised travel ban shocked experts and former U.S. officials who warned it could have major consequences for the fight against terrorism in Africa.
And it appears Trump’s controversial decision may have already damaged alliances on the continent—which is threatened by a range of militants, including affiliates of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State militant group.
Chad has pulled hundreds of troops from neighboring Niger, where they had been stationed to assist in a regional fight against Boko Haram, the Nigerian militant Islamist group, Reuters reported.
I’m going to end with an odd Trump story from Vanity Fair: Donald Trump’s Face Renoir: The Untold Story.
Years ago, while reporting a book about a real-estate developer and reality-TV star named Donald Trump,Tim O’Brienaccompanied his subject on a private jet ride to Los Angeles. The plane, as you can imagine, was overly ornate; hanging on one wall, for instance, was a painting of two young girls—one in an orange hat, the other wearing a floral bonnet—in the impressionistic style of Renoir.
Curious, O’Brien asked Trump about the painting: was it an original Renoir? Trump replied in the affirmative. It was, he said. “No, it’s not Donald,” O’Brien responded. But, once again, Trump protested that it was.
“Donald, it’s not,” O’Brien said adamantly. “I grew up in Chicago, that Renoir is called Two Sisters on the Terrace, and it’s hanging on a wall at the Art Institute of Chicago.” He concluded emphatically: “That’s not an original.”
Trump, of course, did not agree, but O’Brien dropped the conversation topic and moved on with his interview. He thought that he had heard the last of the Renoir conversation. But the next day, when they boarded the plane to head back to New York City, Trump again pointed to the painting, and as if the conversation had never happened, he pointed to the fake and proclaimed, “You know, that’s an original Renoir.” O’Brien, chose not to engage, and dropped the conversation….
Then, in 2016, the unimaginable happened: Trump was elected president of the United States. A few days afterward, Trump sat down with 60 Minutes for one of his first interviews as president-elect. O’Brien was watching the interview, which took place in Trump Tower. It was highly choreographed, with cameras set up precisely where Trump wanted them. O’Brien watched Trump seated in an ugly mini-throne—“the kind of furniture Trump loves,” O’Brien notes—and sure enough, in the background, hanging on the a wall, was that fake Renoir.
It’s not just dementia; Trump has always been insane. I’ve illustrated the post with Renoir paintings in honor of his lunacy.
What stories are you following today?
It’s difficult not to think about what the current state of affairs means in terms of the celebration of Independence Day as we head into Fourth of July Festivities. Our country was born of the Age of Reason. Thomas Jefferson–who wrote the document proclaiming US Independence–was an amateur scientist and philosopher. He might be considered the ideal Renaissance man if he had also found a way to support his causes and lifestyle with employees instead of slaves.
There’s always been this dark side to the American Dream and there have been many people throughout history who have fought those inclinations. It’s been a slow climb from the idea that we all are created equal to getting to a society that actually lives that value. The climb continues.
Why is it so difficult to treat one another with the respect and dignity we each deserve?
The Republican leadership and Administration is based on the most vulgar, salacious, and base motivations we’ve witnessed since Andrew Jackson was committing mass genocide on human beings he considered “savages” and since a group of people considered the nation’s black Americans to be not wholly human. They deemed all folks with African descent to be precisely 3/5ths human. All of this was done in the name of the same religion that tortures our better angels today.
The cognitive dissonance is simply mind boggling. Today, Ahvaz Iran has reached an almost unheard of temperature of 129. It’s one of the hottest temperatures ever recorded on the planet.
Another weather source, the Weather Underground, said Ahvaz hit 129.2 degrees Thursday afternoon. The heat index, which also takes humidity into account, hit an incredible 142 degrees.
Fortunately, the weather forecast for Ahvaz on Friday is for “cooler” weather, with a high of only 119 degrees, according to AccuWeather.
The official all-time world record temperature remains the 134-degree temperature measured at Death Valley, Calif, on July 10, 1913. However, some experts say that temperature isn’t reliable. Weather Underground weather historian Christopher Burt said in 2016 that such an extreme temperature was “not possible from a meteorological perspective.”
The prestigious magazine Science published a study estimating the economic cost of climate change to the US economy. It’s not pretty. You can read the fully study at the link. This is its Abstract.
Estimates of climate change damage are central to the design of climate policies. Here, we develop a flexible architecture for computing damages that integrates climate science, econometric analyses, and process models. We use this approach to construct spatially explicit, probabilistic, and empirically derived estimates of economic damage in the United States from climate change. The combined value of market and nonmarket damage across analyzed sectors—agriculture, crime, coastal storms, energy, human mortality, and labor—increases quadratically in global mean temperature, costing roughly 1.2% of gross domestic product per +1°C on average. Importantly, risk is distributed unequally across locations, generating a large transfer of value northward and westward that increases economic inequality. By the late 21st century, the poorest third of counties are projected to experience damages between 2 and 20% of county income (90% chance) under business-as-usual emissions (Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5).
Meanwhile, the man responsible for the EPA–professional whackadoodle Scott Pruitt–launches program to ‘critique’ climate science.
“We are in fact very excited about this initiative,” the official added. “Climate science, like other fields of science, is constantly changing. A new, fresh and transparent evaluation is something everyone should support doing.”
The disclosure follows the administration’s suggestions over several days that it supports reviewing climate science outside the normal peer-review process used by scientists. This is the first time agency officials acknowledged that Pruitt has begun that process. The source said Energy Secretary Rick Perry also favors the review.
Executives in the coal industry interpret the move as a step toward challenging the endangerment finding, the agency’s legal foundation for regulating greenhouse gases from cars, power plants and other sources. Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corp., said Pruitt assured him yesterday that he plans to begin reviewing the endangerment finding within months.
“We talked about that, and they’re going to start addressing it later this year,” Murray said in an interview. “They’re going to start getting a lot of scientific people in to give both sides of the issue.”
But another person attending the meeting said Pruitt resisted committing to a full-scale challenge of the 2009 finding. The administration source also said Pruitt “did not promise to try to rescind the endangerment finding.”
Climate scientists express concern that the “red team, blue team” concept could politicize scientific research and disproportionately elevate the views of a relatively small number of experts who disagree with mainstream scientists (Climatewire, June 29).
Pruitt told about 30 people attending a board meeting of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity yesterday morning that he’s establishing a “specific process” to review climate science, the administration official said. Murray and two other people in the room interpreted Pruitt as saying he would challenge the endangerment finding.
Challenging the endangerment finding would be enormously difficult, according to many lawyers. The finding is built on an array of scientific material establishing that human health and welfare is endangered by a handful of greenhouse gases emitted by industry, power plants and cars. It stems from a Supreme Court ruling in 2007.
If Pruitt somehow succeeded in rolling back the finding — an outcome that many Republicans say is far-fetched — the federal government would no longer be required to restrict greenhouse gas emissions.
Other evidence that there is no sign of intelligent life in the majority of Republicans are these doozies:
Trump Administration Appoints Anti-Transgender Activist To Gender Equality Post
“To put it simply, a boy claiming gender confusion must now be allowed in the same shower, bathroom, or locker room with my daughter,” wrote the new senior adviser for women’s empowerment at USAID.
White House council for women and girls goes dark under Trump
The administration is evaluating whether to keep the office, created under President Barack Obama to focus on gender equality
I agree with Ezra Klein on this: “It turns out the liberal caricature of conservatism is correct. It’s depressing. But it’s true.” These people are motivated by greed and feeding a group of religious zealots who think Eve is the root of all evil and any one not pristine white carries the stain of sin.
Marc Thiessen, the George W. Bush speechwriter who now writes a column for the Washington Post op-ed page, is aghast at the Senate GOP’s health care bill. “Paying for a massive tax cut for the wealthy with cuts to health care for the most vulnerable Americans is morally reprehensible,” he says.
“If Republicans want to confirm every liberal caricature of conservatism in a single piece of legislation, they could do no better than vote on the GOP bill in its current form.”
But at what point do we admit that this isn’t the liberal caricature of conservatism? It’s just … conservatism.
Though Republicans had long promised the country a repeal-and-replace plan that offered better coverage at lower cost, the House GOP’s health care bill cut hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes for the rich and paid for it by gutting health care spending on the poor. It was widely criticized and polled terribly.
Senate Republicans responded by releasing a revised health care bill that also cut hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes for the rich and paid for it by gutting health care spending on the poor. It has also been widely criticized, and it also is polling terribly.
Donald Trump, who ran on a platform of covering everyone with better health insurance than they get now, has endorsed both bills.
Republicans, in other words, have repeatedly broken their promises and defied public opinion in order to release health care bills that cut spending on the poorest Americans to fund massive tax cuts for the richest Americans. (The Tax Policy Center estimates that 44.6 percent of the Senate bill’s tax cuts go to households making more than $875,000.)
How do you make climate change personal to someone who believes only God can alter the weather? How do you make racial equality personal to someone who believes whites are naturally superior to non-whites? How do you make gender equality personal to someone who believes women are supposed to be subservient to men by God’s command? How do you get someone to view minorities as not threatening personal to people who don’t live around and never interact with them? How do you make personal the fact massive tax cuts and cutting back government hurts their economic situation when they’ve voted for these for decades? I don’t think you can without some catastrophic events. And maybe not even then. The Civil War was pretty damn catastrophic yet a large swath of the South believed and still believes they were right, had the moral high ground. They were/are also mostly Christian fundamentalists who believe they are superior because of the color of their skin and the religion they profess to follow. There is a pattern here for anyone willing to connect the dots.
“Rural, white America needs to be better understood,” is not one of the dots. “Rural, white America needs to be better understood,” is a dodge, meant to avoid the real problems because talking about the real problems is viewed as “too upsetting,” “too mean,” “too arrogant,” “too elite,” “too snobbish.” Pointing out Aunt Bee’s views of Mexicans, blacks, gays…is bigoted isn’t the thing one does in polite society. Too bad more people don’t think the same about the views Aunt Bee has. It’s the classic, “You’re a racist for calling me a racist,” ploy. Or, as it is more commonly known, “I know you are but what am I?”
I do think rational arguments are needed, even if they go mostly ignored and ridiculed. I believe in treating people with the respect they’ve earned but the key point here is “earned.” I’ll gladly sit down with Aunt Bee and have a nice, polite conversation about her beliefs about “the gays,” “the blacks,” “illegals,”…and do so without calling her a bigot or a racist. But, this doesn’t mean she isn’t a bigot and a racist and if I’m asked to describe her beliefs these are the only words that honestly fit. No one with cancer wants to be told they have cancer, but just because no one uses the word, “cancer,” it doesn’t mean they don’t have it. Just because the media, pundits on all sides, some Democratic leaders don’t want to call the actions of many rural, Christian, white Americans, “racist/bigoted” doesn’t make them not so.
Paul Krugman is more succinct. He calls it Republican ‘cruelty’. It is exactly that.
The puzzle — and it is a puzzle, even for those who have long since concluded that something is terribly wrong with the modern G.O.P. — is why the party is pushing this harsh, morally indefensible agenda.
Think about it. Losing health coverage is a nightmare, especially if you’re older, have health problems and/or lack the financial resources to cope if illness strikes. And since Americans with those characteristics are precisely the people this legislation effectively targets, tens of millions would soon find themselves living this nightmare.
Meanwhile, taxes that fall mainly on a tiny, wealthy minority would be reduced or eliminated. These cuts would be big in dollar terms, but because the rich are already so rich, the savings would make very little difference to their lives.
More than 40 percent of the Senate bill’s tax cuts would go to people with annual incomes over $1 million — but even these lucky few would see their after-tax income rise only by a barely noticeable 2 percent.
So it’s vast suffering — including, according to the best estimates, around 200,000 preventable deaths — imposed on many of our fellow citizens in order to give a handful of wealthy people what amounts to some extra pocket change. And the public hates the idea: Polling shows overwhelming popular opposition, even though many voters don’t realize just how cruel the bill really is. For example, only a minority of voters are aware of the plan to make savage cuts to Medicaid.
In fact, my guess is that the bill has low approval even among those who would get a significant tax cut. Warren Buffett has denounced the Senate bill as the “Relief for the Rich Act,” and he’s surely not the only billionaire who feels that way.
Which brings me back to my question: Why would anyone want to do this?
Because they can and because they love power and money. Their mega-rich donors will shower them in both.
I think we can forever ask ourselves the big question of why do these uneducated white people continually fall for it? The answer is that their life basically sucks and they’re doing what ever they can to feel better about it. Religion and Republicans give them a feeling of superiority based on the only thing they have: the identity birth gave them. Every one is paying an awful price for that.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today? Tuesday is Independence Day if we can keep it.
If you say you are going to do it…do it!
And then there is this…
And for the final Tweet link of the day…
Now since y’all got stuck with me again today…yeah, if you didn’t notice, I’m covering for Boston Boomer today. (I’ve tried to get this post written for the last six hours, but my motivation is seriously lacking.)
Taking the easy way out, here are some cartoons that we can enjoy today. A left over from yesterday.
This is an open thread….
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
I found a series of reads this week on what makes Donald Trump supporters tick. It’s an interesting combination of things that dives into the deplorables. The primary focus of these studies are white, uneducated working class men along with a few women because the main demographics of Trump Voters are old, white, and not well-educated. There’s even one article with some tie in with similar right wing white angst movements in place like the UK and Scandinavia where white right wingers are getting increasingly xenophobic and sounding a lot more like their authoritarian counterparts from the 1930s. I thought I’d highlight a few of these pieces today.
Don’t think these articles and writers heap wicked judgement. Many of these reads are conciliatory and sympathetic. Like us, they are just trying to get it figured out. The pictures today are of damage done by the still threatening Hurricane Matthew when it caused death and destruction in Haiti. Tumult rules our current time line.
Project Syndicate has two interesting pieces up. The first is by Dr. Ian Buruma and is called “Trump’s Deplorables.”
The Trump supporters are showing a similar animus against symbols of the elite, such as Wall Street bankers, “mainstream” media, and Washington insiders. But their xenophobia is directed against poor Mexican immigrants, blacks, or Middle Eastern refugees, who are perceived as freeloaders depriving honest (read white) Americans of their rightful place in the social pecking order. It is a question of relatively underprivileged people in a globalizing, increasingly multi-cultural world, resenting those who are even less privileged.
In the US today, as in the Weimar Republic, the resentful and the fearful have so little trust in prevailing political and economic institutions that they follow a leader who promises maximum disruption. By cleaning out the stables, it is hoped, greatness will return. In Hitler’s Germany, this hope existed among all classes, whether elite or plebeian. In Trump’s America, it thrives mostly among the latter.
In the US and Europe, today’s world looks less scary to more affluent and better educated voters, who benefit from open borders, cheap migrant labor, information technology, and a rich mixture of cultural influences. Likewise, immigrants and ethnic minorities who seek to improve their lot have no interest in joining a populist rebellion directed mainly against them, which is why they will vote for Clinton.
Trump must thus rely on disaffected white Americans who feel that they are being left behind. The fact that enough people feel that way to sustain such an unsuitable presidential candidate is an indictment of US society. This does have something to do with education – not because well-educated people are immune to demagogy, but because a broken education system leaves too many people at a disadvantage.
The second must-read is by Professor Joseph Nye who puts the populist revolt into perspective and into its “place”.
In the US, polls show that Trump’s supporters are skewed toward older, less-educated white males. Young people, women, and minorities are under-represented in his coalition. More than 40% of the electorate backs Trump, but with low unemployment nationally, only a small part of that can be explained primarily by his support in economically depressed areas.
On the contrary, in America, too, there is more to the resurgence of populism than just economics. AYouGov poll commissioned by The Economist found strong racial resentment among supporters of Trump, whose use of the “birther” issue (questioning the validity of the birth certificate of Barack Obama, America’s first black president) helped put him on the path to his current campaign. And opposition to immigration, including the idea of building a wall and making Mexico pay for it, was an early plank in his nativist platform.
And yet a recent Pew survey shows growing pro-immigrant sentiment in the US, with 51% of adults saying that newcomers strengthen the country, while 41% believe they are a burden, down from 50% in mid-2010, when the effects of the Great Recession were still acutely felt. In Europe, by contrast, sudden large influxes of political and economic refugees from the Middle East and Africa have had stronger political effects, with many experts speculating that Brexit was more about migration to Britain than about bureaucracy in Brussels.
Antipathy toward elites can be caused by both economic and cultural resentments. The New York Times identified a major indicator of Trump-leaning districts: a white-majority working-class population whose livelihoods had been negatively affected throughout the decades in which the US economy shed manufacturing capacity. But even if there had been no economic globalization, cultural and demographic change would have created some degree of populism.
But it is an overstatement to say that the 2016 election highlights an isolationist trend that will end the era of globalization. Instead, policy elites who support globalization and an open economy will have to be seen to be addressing economic inequality and adjustment assistance for those disrupted by change. Policies that stimulate growth, such as infrastructure investment, will also be important.
Writers for the Canadian Newspaper The Globe and Mail believe that Trump will lose but that his coalition of voter will continue to vex U.S. “elites”.
The accommodation between left and right started unravelling in the 1980s. The Bork confirmation. The Thomas confirmation. Contract with America. Impeaching Bill Clinton. Iraq. Obama. The Tea Party. Gay marriage. And now the Democrats want to replace a black president with a woman? A CLINTON?
Meanwhile, Peoria is hurting. The city is home to Caterpillar. But the heavy-equipment giant has outsourced most of its work force overseas or to so-called right-to-work states.
But what does Washington care? The left worries more about combatting global warming than about blue-collar workers with bad backs and no jobs. The right promises to retrain them, but somehow never gets around to it.
The laid-off boys in the bars of Peoria blame the illegals, the only ones even more voiceless than themselves. They seethe at the Wall Street suits who destroyed the economy and got off scot-free. And what the hell is transgender, anyway? They look at their daughter’s report card. She’s only getting Cs. What future is there for anyone who’s only getting Cs?
I will be your voice, Donald Trump promises. I will get your job back, or at least wreak revenge on the company that gave it away to a guy in Bangladesh. I will send the Mexicans back and keep the Muslims out and build a wall around our country. And you’ll have a man, a real man, a white man, your kind of guy, in the White House. We’ll be back in charge, folks, you and me. It’ll be great again. And they’ll never take it away from us.
There are probably enough people left who understand that this is a lie to keep Donald Trump from becoming president. But this is last-chance time. And not just for America, for all of us.
The rage that created Donald Trump voted for Brexit and is wreaking havoc on the continent. It’s Marine Le Pen in France and Norbert Hofer in Austria. It’s the Law and Justice party in Poland and Jobbik in Hungary and Alternative for Germany.
Don’t be smug. In politics, Canada is often the United States, only five years behind. We must heal this breach. It’s getting serious, now. The next Congress and the next U.S. administration must reach out to each other. They don’t have to get all kumbaya about it, but Americans of all persuasions can surely find ways to bring hope to Middle America, to working white America, to the old America that must never be dismissed, even if it is on the wane.
There were several articles that actually focused on individual Trump voters and the kinds of lives they lead. We’ve posted some of them down thread but I thought I’d excerpt and repost them here since we really need to read about these folk and understand that they hate us. Sociologist ARLIE RUSSELL HOCHSCHILD wrote an incredible long form peace for Mother Jones. What struck me about the woman Sharon she followed as she lived life in Lake Charles, Lousiana is that Sharon doesn’t seem to realize she’s a parasite. She makes living basically selling scammy insurance products to poor working class men that really can’t afford them and in a different state with better worker protections, wouldn’t even be necessary. Yet, these folks do not seem to think about blaming the real causes of their life’s distress
“Hey Miss Sharon, how ya’ doin’?” A fiftysomething man I’ll call Albert led us through the warehouse, where sheet metal had been laid out on large tables. “Want to come over Saturday, help us make sausage?” he called over the eeeeech of an unseen electrical saw. “I’m seasoning it different this year.” The year before, Sharon had taken her 11-year-old daughter along to help stuff the spicy smoked-pork-and-rice sausage, to which Albert added ground deer meat. “I’ll bring Alyson,” Sharon said, referring to her daughter. Some days they’d have 400 pounds of deer meat and offer her some. “They’re really good to me. And I’m there for them too when they need something.”
These men had little shelter from bad news. “If you die, who’s going to bury you?” Sharon would ask on such calls. “Do you have $10,000 sitting around? Will your parents have to borrow money to bury you or your wife or girlfriend? For $1.44 a week, you get $20,000 of life insurance.”
Louisiana is the country’s third-poorest state; 1 in 5 residents live in poverty. It ranks third in the proportion of residents who go hungry each year, and dead last in overall health. A quarter of the state’s students drop out from high school or don’t graduate on time. Partly as a result, Louisiana leads the nation in its proportion of “disconnected youth“—20 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds in 2013 were neither in school nor at work. (Nationally, the figure is 14 percent.) Only 6 percent of Louisiana workers are members of labor unions, about half the rate nationwide.
Louisiana is also home to vast pollution, especially along Cancer Alley, the 85-mile strip along the lower Mississippi between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, with some 150 industrial plants where once there were sugar and cotton plantations. According to the American Cancer Society, Louisiana had the nation’s second-highest incidence of cancer for men and the fifth-highest rate of male deaths from cancer. “When I make a presentation, if I say, ‘How many of you know someone that has had cancer?’ every hand is going to go up. Just the other day I was in Lafayette doing my enrollments for the insurance, and I was talking to this one guy. And he said, ‘My brother-in-law just died. He was 29 or 30.’ He’s the third person working for his company that’s been in their early 30s that’s died of cancer in the last three years. I file tons and tons of cancer claims.”
Sharon also faced economic uncertainty. A divorced mother of two, she supported herself and two children on an ample but erratic income, all from commission on her Aflac sales. “If you’re starting out, you might get 99 ‘noes’ for every one ‘yes.’ After 16 years on the job, I get 50 percent ‘yeses.'” This put her at the top among Aflac salespeople; still, she added, “If it’s a slow month, we eat peanut butter.”
There’s an interview with the author up at Democracy Now! that looks into what drive Trump supporters. Hers is just one book trying to figure out what’s going on with this segment of America.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, after all of those interviews in that time span, you decided on the title Strangers in Their Own Land. Why?
ARLIE RUSSELL HOCHSCHILD: Yes. Well, here’s the thing. I decided on that title because, in the end, it described how a lot of them felt. I talk about a deep story, because, at the end of the day, I keep asking, “Why do you hate the government, you know, all the things the government does?” And they would say—there were many answers to that, but one was this. It was the deep story. What is a deep story? It’s a story that feels true to you. You take the facts out, you take judgment out. It’s as felt.
You’re on a—waiting in line for something you really want at the end: the American dream. You feel a sense of great deserving. You’ve worked very hard. A lot of these guys were plant workers, pipefitters in the petrochemical—you know, it’s tough work. So you’ve worked really hard. And the line isn’t moving. It’s like a pilgrimage up, up to the top. It’s not moving.
Then you see some people cut in line. Well, who were they? They are affirmative action women who would go for formerly all-men’s jobs, or affirmative action blacks who have been sponsored and now have access to formerly all-white jobs. It’s immigrants. It’s refugees. And from—as felt, the line’s moving back.
Then they see Barack Hussein Obama, who should impartially be monitoring the line, wave to the line cutters. And then you think, “Oh, he’s their president and not mine. And, in fact, he’s a line cutter. How did he get to Harvard? How did he get to Columbia? Where did he get the money? His mom was a single mom. Wait a minute.”
And then they begin to feel like strangers in their own land. They feel like the government has become a giant marginalization machine. It’s not theirs. In fact, it’s putting them back. And then someone in front of the line turns around and says, “Oh, you redneck,” you know. And that feels insult to injury. It’s just the tipping point at which they feel not only estranged—I mean, demographically they’re getting smaller. They feel like they’re religious in an increasingly secular culture. Their attitudes are denigrated, and so they’re culturally denigrated. And then the economy begins to shake. And then they feel, “I need another leader.”
Two other articles that are worth reading, if you haven’t done so yet, are one from The Guardian which takes a more global perspective and one that’s very specific from WAPO. The WAPO features a woman who finds that Trump thinks like her. We’ve discussed it a little here this week. It seems like a very close look at some one grappling with mental illness which made me uncomfortable. I’m excerpting here from The Guardian piece which focuses on the link between education and Trump/Right Alt voting.
But it is not simply a question of demographics. The gap has been amplified by certain forms of social mobility, which have reinforced the education divide by enabling the better-educated to start congregating together: socially, geographically, romantically. In a previous generation, graduates often married non-graduates, because their choices tended to be driven by where they happened to live or work. As the cliché has it: bosses used to marry their secretaries. Not any more, and not just because there are fewer secretaries. If you went to university, ask yourself: how many of your friends didn’t go to university? And among your friends, how many of those who did are married to people who didn’t? Greater freedom of movement produces greater freedom of choice. But that does not produce more social diversity, it produces more social stratification.
Social media now enhances these patterns. Friendship groups of like-minded individuals reinforce each other’s worldviews. Facebook’s news feed is designed to deliver information that users are more inclined to “like”. Much of the shock that followed the Brexit result in educated circles came from the fact that few people had been exposed to arguments that did not match their preferences. Education does not provide any protection against these social media effects. It reinforces them.
The growing political divide between the educated and the less educated can be seen across Europe. It is most pronounced in Scandinavian countries, where university attendance is high and levels of education are an increasing driver of voting habits. It is less visible in southern and eastern Europe – in places such as Portugal and Poland – where participation in higher education is lower, and other social factors, including family and religion, still exert a strong grip.
I’m closing today with a great article written by Joy-Ann Reid who dissects Donald’s focused hatred towards women. She argues that Trump hates women more than any other group he debases.
Even without the euphoria of “yes we can,” Hillary Clinton is to white women what Barack Obama was to African-Americans. She represents the opportunity to see a like image in the Oval Office for the first time. That has to be tempting even for Republican women who would never support a Democrat, let alone a Clinton, and Trump’s demeanor and debate performance is making it easier for white independent and even Republican women to cross over.
And Trump is uniquely vulnerable because his record of insulting and demeaning women is as long as his love of Putin’s Russia is deep. According to the documentary Trump: What’s the Deal, he verbally harassed first wife Ivana, before dumping her for Marla Maples, whom he resisted marrying in a most public and embarrassing way, only to dump her and marry Melania before reportedly berating her for not losing her baby weight fast enough after giving birth to their now-10-year-old son Baron. The most effective Clinton ads this season have been the ones showing women and girls listening to Trump’s cruel words in his own voice.
Trump is at further risk due to his almost limbic inability to control himself when attacked, particularly by a woman. Consider that there’s no one who gets under his thin skin the way Elizabeth Warren does. She and New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd have shared the sobriquet “goofy” as stars of Trump’s infamous Twitter tirades—though Warren has the smear “Pocahontas” all to herself.
During the campaign, Trump has gone after white women, Latinas (Machado and Susana Martinez, the governor of Mexico), Asian-American and Muslim women (Gold Star Mother Ghazala Khan). His Fox News chest thumping at a black Flint, Michigan pastor, Faith Green Timmons, came a day after he sheepishly backed down when she stopped him from politicking in her pulpit. Interestingly, he has yet to have a go at Michelle Obama, who just cut a national ad for Hillary Clinton. One can only imagine how that might go.
We frequently discuss how being around the TV when Pence or Trump or any one of his supporters is speaking out is a lot like reliving the trauma of an abusive relationship. They give me PTSD flashbacks from every emotionally abusive person I’ve ever met. They are angry, hostile, and use the language of attack. We are their enemy. They label us hateful names. We women. We African Americans. We of Mexican and Latin descent. We who practice something other than the right brand of Christianity. Yet, it is they who feel under attack and not given their due. As the Canadian writers said, these folk have such palpable emotional turmoil that they are not likely going away with the Trump candidacy. They are also firmly seated in the Republican Party Grassroots.
I like that we’re beginning to understand and see more of these folks even though I frankly approach each article with wide open eyes and a dropping mouth. We don’t exist in the same narrow space. We exist at odds and at an arm’s length. We talk past and at each other. We don’t get each other’s lives or choices at all.
Something here has to change.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?