Thursday Reads: Abiding in the Afterglow

Good Afternoon

Sky Dancers!

My Nana used to talk a lot about the afterglow.  She was quite spiritual and used it all the time as a metaphor for the abiding peace that comes when you just relax and enjoy the goodness at the end of the day.  Today, I am abiding in the afterglow and the peace that comes with the realization that the Resistance is real and that it’s turned into more than giant marches and social media screeds.

It’s turned into votes and elected officials.  It’s turned the diversity and decency inherent in modern America into the distinct faces replacing white republican men. It’s a newly elected Sikh mayor and the newly elected Liberian immigrant mayor;  a brown and black face for Hobokken, New Jersey  and Helena, Montana repectively. These are faces of American immigrants both. Topeka, Kansas elected a Latina for its Mayor.  Michelle DeLaIsla is also a single mother. 

Elections on Tuesday turned into the faces of black woman who followed in the steps of Rosa Parks and refused to sit peacefully in the back of the bus.  They are now going to control exactly where that bus can go.  The afterglow is the face of the GLBT community and others that have worked tirelessly for their right to the American vision of liberty and justice for all.

The voice of the majority of voters  went unheeded a year ago.  Tuesday night, the votes of the majority sent waves of hope for peace and justice through out the world.  We showed the world that we shall overcome.  I do not vote until November 18th, but my vote will be part of the history of New Orleans when we elect our first Black Woman to the office of Mayor in our runoff.

Barrier-breaking candidates won races across the country on Election Day this year. The results were a parade of “firsts” from New Hampshire to North Carolina to Montana as women, people of color, and LGBTQ candidates became the first to win elections in their respective contests.

Cities in Minnesota and Montana elected their first black mayors, and Charlotte, North Carolina, elected a black woman as mayor for the first time. Virginia elected its first Latina and Asian-American delegates. Transgender candidates won races in Virginia, Minnesota, California, and Pennsylvania.

Tuesday was a big night for Democrats — and these historic “firsts” show that the party can run a diverse slate of candidates and win.

The results were astounding to all but confused Republican White men who doubled down on Trump and white grievance politics. Their leadership continue to seek policies that help the upper 1% of the 1% while yet another group wanting to get out of the line for the slaughterhouse ran away from the rest of the sheep.

The midterm elections do not appear to favor the sheep.

Distressed Republicans say Democratic victories across the country on Tuesday night show their congressional majorities are at risk in next year’s midterm elections.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he “predicted” the rough election night and said the party needs to make changes quickly before the midterms arrive.

“Unless we get our act together, we’re going to lose heavily,” he said.

The results offered fresh evidence of a political backlash against President Trump, which several Republicans said, in combination with a failure to win legislative victories, could cost the party the House majority.

“The best way to get run over by this train is to stand still,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

Next year’s map makes it much tougher for Democrats to win back the Senate, since Republicans are only defending eight seats compared to 25 for Democrats. In the House, Democrats would need to gain two dozen seats to win back the majority.

House Republicans in swing districts acknowledged that showing independence from Trump will be critical. Some of the 23 GOP lawmakers who represent House districts carried by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton insist they can again convince local constituents to support them.

The People’s President is the one with the coattails.  The best explanation that I heard all day about the race came from two Never Trumpers on MSNBC.  Nicole Wallace and Steve Schmidt were nearly as jubilant as any Democrat on the network.  Wallace said she had to mute the TV any time Trump was on and her five year old was in the room.  She explained that the white suburban women vote had to come from every parent who doesn’t want that kind of person as President.  Schmidt suggested that it was such a coalition of diverse interests voting against Trumpism that felt like a wave from the decent people of America.  The polls showed a combination of anti-Trumpism and fear of losing Health Care as central to many voters.  But we also learned that a huge swath of Americans are following the Russian situation.

I give you an op ed from the Paducha Sun.

Chances are you’re not familiar with the name Andrew Weissmann. That’s likely to change.

He’s the top lieutenant in Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s investigation of potential collusion between Russia and the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. He’s also the man most directly involved in the indictment of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Weismann, 59, is known as the most aggressive and controversial member of Mueller’s team.

Remember the pre-dawn raid by a dozen FBI agents on Manafort’s home back in August? That’s something rarely done in white-collar crime cases. It was Weissmann’s way of sending an unambiguous message to Manafort: We are going to nail you.

Weissmann, who has two Ivy League degrees, is admired for his intelligence and skill as a prosecutor, particularly his talent in getting witnesses to flip and provide critical information. He served as chief of the criminal fraud section of the U.S. Department of Justice before taking leave to join the Russia probe.

A recent New York Times story, which dubbed him a “legal pit bull,” said he’s “an expert in converting defendants into collaborators — with either tactical brilliance or overzealousness, depending on one’s perspective.”

The story added, “It’s not clear if President Trump and his charges fear Mr. Weissmann as they gird for the slog ahead. It is quite clear, former colleagues and opponents say, that they should.”

His reputation for gaining witness cooperation was acquired in two high-profile cases.

One was prosecuting mob bosses in Brooklyn two decades ago. Weissmann persuaded a prominent Mafia hitman, Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, to testify against Vincent “The Chin” Gigante, leader of the Genovese crime family, leading to his conviction.

The other followed the collapse of energy giant Enron in 2001. Weissmann helped gain fraud convictions of multiple executives by again showing his ability to convince witnesses to give damaging testimony.

The Manafort indictment disclosed Monday has been criticized because the charges do not appear related to alleged collusion with Russia. Instead, Manafort is accused of money laundering and not paying taxes well before he joined the Trump campaign.

Those critics, who include Sen. Rand Paul, complain of prosecutorial overreach.

They apparently are not aware of the way Wiessmann seeks to maximize leverage with defendants. If he can persuade Manafort that he is at risk of spending all of his remaining years in federal prison on those charges — unless agreeing to become a prosecution witness — he is far more likely to obtain valuable information regarding any campaign ties to Russia.

People who speak highly of Weissmann applaud him for pushing legal boundaries to win his cases. They say his use of hardball tactics demonstrates his determination to obtain vital evidence.

The Op-Ed continues by saying he’s Trump’s Number 1 Problem.  Well, that and the barrage of white male privilege on display daily among the Trump cadre.  No amount of economic data, study, and acceptance by every economist of all parties and ideologies kills the idea that giving freaking rich people tax breaks is going to absolutely make the rest of us better off.  It doesn’t do it. Never will.  Never … never  … never … never ….

White House economic adviser Gary Cohn nearly quit the administration over President Trump’s equivocations about a Nazi rally in Charlottesville, and then was denied his dream of becoming the chairman of the Federal Reserve. Now all that remains of his political dreams is a gigantic tax cut for owners of capital. But Cohn is not necessarily the most skilled messenger for this agenda, either. Having spent his career communicating to other extremely wealthy people, he seems to be at sea at the task of pretending this agenda is actually aimed at average working people, which is the essential skill set of Republican politicians.

In a new interview with John Harwood, Cohn is forced into a series of admissions he probably should not be making. He concedes the White House is not, on the whole, a fine-tuned machine:

GARY COHN: I learned a lot about being confident, about learning how to succeed. I did get introduced to the financial markets while I was in college. And I think I learned also how to sort of filter out all of the non-rational, or non-sensible noise, and sort of concentrate on what matters, and that’s really what markets are about. Separate the rational from what the irrational, separate what matters now to what doesn’t matter now.

JOHN HARWOOD: I think most people looking from the outside see more irrational stuff happening in this White House than in any White House that they’ve seen

GARY COHN: I’m involved in the economic side of the White House.

It’s not the least bit amazing to me that not even the new Fed head appointment will be an actual economist because no actual economist would said anything like this unless his name is Arthur Laffer and he lost his cred years ago hanging on to his failed hypothesis. Cohn has only a BS, is an investment banker, and basically studied real estate development and investing.  He speaks with no actual authority on economic policy.  The Fed Chair nominee–who will be up in front of the Senate on November 28–is really a big unknown other than he’s got a law degree and a degree in poly sci. Check out Jerome Powell.  While Wall Street churns out high returns based on a tax law that gives them more gambling profits, I continue to worry about what happens if any Trumpism policy hits its mark.

The period of uncertainty is over. President Trump is going to nominate Jerome Powell to be the next Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

So, what have we got?

Well, the papers have been full of articles on the appointment and on Mr. Powell himself. It is not that he is an unknown since he has served on the Board of Governors of the Fed since 2012, has been an Under Secretary of the Treasury and has been employed on Wall Street and in Washington, D. C.

Yet, the analysis of him leaves you basically in the dark.

Mr. Powell is supportive of the goals assigned to the Federal Reserve by the US Congress, to achieve high levels of employment and low levels of inflation. He has never dissented on the Board in 44 meetings he has attended. The one thing he gained attention from while serving on the Board was his stance on the ending of the Fed’s bond buying program connected with the end of quantitative easing.

Perhaps the most apt description of Mr. Powell’s way of doing things is that he is… pragmatic.

Jeremy Stein, an economist at Harvard University and who served as a Federal Reserve Governor with Mr. Powell, describes the future nominee as“remarkably undogmatic.”

Mr. Stein goes on, “He listens more than he talks.”

Mr. Powell is given high marks for being a serious student who studies hard in areas that he is not an expert in and seeks advice. He works well with people and makes things happen in his quiet way. Much of what he has accomplished has been out-of-the-spotlight without a great deal of fanfare.

I’m not going to mention the authoritarian-curious Trump who is currently ass kissing the despot in China.  I’m going to end with this essay by Ezra Klein at Vox. “For elites, politics is driven by ideology. For voters, it’s not. Committed liberals and conservatives don’t realize how weird they are.”  Oh, I do realize, Ezra, I do … I do … I do…

You are weird. I am very weird. And the worst part is, we don’t really recognize how weird we are.

That’s the basic argument of Donald Kinder and Nathan Kalmoe’s Neither Liberal nor Conservative: Ideological Innocence in the American Public. Their study begins with a famous paper by political scientist Philip Converse titled “The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics.” The nature of those belief systems, Converse concluded, was that they really weren’t systems at all. The overwhelming majority of Americans were free of anything that resembled coherent liberal or conservative ideologies — indeed, only “about 17 percent of the public could both assign the terms ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ correctly to the parties and say something sensible about what the terms meant.”

Which isn’t to say that voters didn’t have opinions, much less party and group loyalties. They did, and they do. But the internally coherent (or at least semi-coherent) ideological frameworks that drive the activities of politicians, pundits, and other political actors are foreign to most voters.

Converse’s basic findings have been replicated in a number of different studies done over the past 50 years, and Kinder and Kalmoe extend on them here. In a telling bit of research, they scoured massive election surveys to see what bearing self-reported ideology had on policy opinions on issues ranging from LGBTQ rights to health care to foreign aid to Social Security. The answer, across years ranging from 1992 to 2009, was basically none — “ideological differences,” they reported, “have little influence over opinion on immigration, affirmative action, capital punishment, gun control, Social Security, health insurance, the deficit, foreign aid, tax reform, and the war on terrorism.”

There were two glaring exceptions: LGBTQ rights and abortion. But the exceptions were so stark that Kinder and Kalmoe wondered if they were missing something, and they had a theory of what it might be: religion. So they ran the data again, “adding measures of faith, religiosity (the degree to which Americans take their faith seriously), and group sentiments to the model.” Once they did that, the effect of ideology all but disappeared.

So this, then, is the bottom line: Most voters aren’t ideologues, and even accounting for that, most ideologues aren’t particularly ideological.

So, since we are weird, I suggest you read about the control factors.

I’m going to spend the day grading papers.  I’m hoping it’s a little better than the last batch where I was regaled by so much basic ignorance of trade I was about to scream.  I’m back teaching undergrad econ for awhile and I just had a student use the World Daily News as an “academically acceptable” source and based a lot of his argument on his father’s friend’s thoughts that works at a steel factory.  I gently explained that when you’re going to do an expository essay on the impact of trade you have to back up your assertions like this: “NAFTA’s Impact on the U.S. Economy: What Are the Facts?” from Knowledge@Wharton.  You can go read all the facts and data and pros and cons.  I’m just going to quote the last paragraph.

Blaming NAFTA for all of these disturbing problems may make some NAFTA critics feel good, but as trade researchers have learned in recent years, the growing complexity of today’s economic challenges defies any simplistic explanations.

The part I highlighted basically sums up my thoughts on all the crap coming out of the Trump Fiscal policy regime.  You could also substitute just about any word–including what gets souls to the polls– for ‘today’s economic’.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Bask in the afterglow.