Arma Faecesque Cano

Eugene Robinson has a Pulitzer prize and a prestigious job writing punditry, and I have neither. But I think both of us are facing a similar problem: our respective muses are running dry.

In The scariest thing about Trump’s tweets, Robinson first sentence poses a rhetorical question that gets right to the point: “Of all the crackpots on social media, is any more untethered to reality than the president of the United States?”

Trump is amoral, cruel, and lacking in human empathy, but these characteristics are often found in people at the top of the heap.

He is a bully, but so are many Fortune 500 CEOs.

He is a hypocrite, but so are many politicians.

And, may I say, many people—especially those with power and authority—do not hesitate to sling the shit from time to time.

What truly sets Trump apart from the common herd is that everything, without exception, that he says is bullshit.

And that that slinging the shit is his ONLY tool for mastering a situation, asserting dominance, and getting his way.

To pick a random comparison, think of Lyndon Johnson or Bill Clinton. Yes, they would bullshit from time to time. But they had additional arrows in their quiver. Additional tools in their toolkit.

Two thousand five hundred years ago, in The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Aesop identified the fatal flaw in a life strategy based on serial mendacity. Today, Trump is the poster child for that life lesson.

Fear of Trump is rapidly dissipating. No one believes him. Those who pretend to believe him face the grave risk of losing what little shred is left of their reputation.

What more is there to say?

So High You Can’t Get Over It, So Low You Can’t Get Under It, So Wide You Can’t Get Around It

Today, Jennifer Rubin tells us that we’re Learning to Ignore Trump. I think she’s about right.

So keep your blood pressure low this afternoon, and enjoy the twitterings below and the ironically chosen music above.

screenshot2019-01-31at2.17.58pm

Winners and Losers

Traffic sign for Winners or Losers - business concept

A highly recommended morning read: Thomas B. Edsall, The ‘Rotten Equilibrium’ of Republican Politics: Charlatans rise. Government falls.

Edsall presents data conclusively demonstrating that Republicans are now winning most of the economically backward states and districts while losing just about all the economically prosperous jurisdictions. These graphics tell the story.

screen shot 2019-01-30 at 8.41.00 am

screen shot 2019-01-30 at 8.41.47 am

He then considers at some length the implications of these data. For example, will it henceforth be in Republicans’ interest to prevent economic growth, lest the newly enriched become generous and therefore liberal?

Let’s Just Call It an Evidence-Based Intuition

agents provocateurs

THIS GUY IS AN AGENT PROVOCATEUR: HE’S SETTING TRUMP UP

Mulvaney says Trump didn’t lose shutdown battle: The acting chief of staff strived to put the best face on the situation, even as others doubled down on the notion that it was a setback for Trump and his policies.

To argue with a straight face—however much effort it may cost to straighten your face—that Trump didn’t lose the shutdown battle, you have to argue that he only agreed to a truce for negotiations, but that he will really, really shut the government down again if the negotiations don’t go his way. (Yeah, yeah. I know there’s the “state of emergency” gambit, but everyone knows that that rabbit in the hat is a paper tiger. The Federalist Society will not be amused.)

But taking that posture well and truly paints Trump into a corner. All he can do is veto any permanent or new temporary spending bill, and dare the Republicans to override his veto.

Result: Republican politicians are forced to rebel against Trump.

And What Does My Purported Evidence-Based Intuition Ascribe as Mulvaney’s Motive?

I think he’s, in essence, the agent of a plutocracy that has realized they have to get Trump off the stage, or risk the election of a liberal who will raise their taxes.

What’s It Worth to You?

I’m not betting the mortgage money on the agent provocateur thesis, but how about a nice steak dinner?

If I Were King of the World …

 

mcrib

If I were King of the World, much as I dislike The Donald, I would, nevertheless, direct him to take whatever deal the House and the Senate can reach, declare victory, claim that he has outwitted the Democrats once again, and let it go at that.

He would be sure to have Sean Hannity’s full-throated endorsement.

But I am not the King of the World. And The Donald still cannot find his ass with both hands.

So I now think it’s entirely possible there will be another shutdown.

And this will be about the time that we begin to learn what Mueller’s conclusions are.

The effect on Trump’s approval ratings will truly be a sight to see.

It’s nice not being the King of the World.

I think I will go have a drink.

Go Ahead, Plutocrats, Make My Day

make my day

Why did the shutdown end? Enquiring minds want to know.

Lots and lots of ink has been spilled linking the end of the shutdown to declining poll numbers for Trump and Republican politicians. I agree that had something to do with it. But let me tell you the real reason. And I am deadly serious about this. But, first, let me ask you a question.

Would you be seriously inconvenienced by a temporary inability to travel by air among New York, Washington, Chicago, and Los Angeles? (Maybe add Boston, Dallas, and Houston, for good measure.)

No, I thought not.

But the United States is ruled by people who would be seriously discommoded by such an event. The top one percent travel by commercial airlines. The top one tenth of one percent travel by private jet, but they still needed the air traffic controllers to be up and running.

At the point in time when the top one percent were seriously inconvenienced, they spoke to their lackeys and the shutdown came to a screeching halt.

End of story.

The Dawn of a (Possibly Short Lived) Three Party System

Meanwhile, we learn, Wall Street freaks out about 2020: Many of the nation’s top bankers want Trump gone, but they’re growing anxious about some Democratic presidential contenders. And Mr. Starbucks, Howard Schultz, steps up to throw his had in the ring for the Sensible Moderate Common Sense Pro Prosperity Pro Business Radical Middle Normal Party—an event that has caused some progressive pundits to hurl themselves onto the fainting couch.

As for me, I long ago predicted that a three party system would likely result from our present political debacle. And I say, if Mr. Schultz wants to run, let him run.

The kind of people who will be attracted to the Sensible Moderate Common Sense Pro Prosperity Pro Business Radical Middle Normal Party are the folks who think universal health care is the work of the devil. But I think their string has run out. Most normal advanced market economies have universal health care. There is no plausible reason why we should continue to be different.

And so, if the right is split into a raving ethnonationalist party calling itself the Republican Party, and a Sensible Moderate Common Sense Pro Prosperity Pro Business Radical Middle Normal Party representing the economic interests of the top one percent, I say: Bring it on. Just go ahead. Make my day.

**

Readers today come from toward the end of the alphabet: Romania, Singapore, South Africa, Taiwan, and the United States. Howdy, yall.

The Next Steps in the Chess Game

3-way-chess

Plainly, the joint conference committee set up to address border security will come up with some extra money in the next three weeks.

If there is a strong case on the merits that some extension of existing fencing will provide additional border security, I hope Democrats will support spending money for that purpose—even if that gives The Donald something to crow about.

But the more interesting question is how Republicans will negotiate. Will they, for once, engage in a good faith policy discussion? Or will their main objective be an outcome that satisfies The Donald’s ego—and lets him “save face”?

Let us do a thought experiment. How would an amoral but politically rational Republican member of Congress decide on a negotiating strategy, given how things stand today?

I think there are several reasons why such an amoral Republican politician would choose the semblance of good faith negotiation over the objective of saving Trump’s ego.

In the first place, the consequence of bad faith negotiations would be that Nancy and Chuck would call them out and then stand pat, daring them to shut down the government again.

Secondly, as far as Donald Trump’s loss of face is concerned, that horse is already out the barn door.

Most importantly, what leverage do the Republicans have? There are only two theoretical threats they might carry out. One is a second shutdown, and the other is the “state of emergency.”

Politically speaking, if the first shutdown resulted in a big political win for Nancy and Chuck, imagine what a repeat would do for the political balance of power. (That’s assuming—as I hope I may assume—that the Democrats negotiate in good faith and are seen by rational people to be negotiating in good faith.)

And what about the other threat—the state of emergency? It’s a paper tiger. If Trump declares a state of emergency, he will either win or lose the inevitable court challenge.

If he wins—which is highly unlikely—a precedent will have been created for exploitation by the next Democratic president.

If he loses—if the Republican Supreme Court majority hands him his head on a silver platter—he and the Republicans will be in yet deeper doodoo.

In sum, my thought experiment leads me to conclude that doing the right thing is actually doing the expedient thing. I believe that’s true for both sides, but, most especially, for the Republican side.

In other words, like Tom Lehrer’s Old Dope Peddler, Republicans are in a position to do well by doing good.

Nancy Defeats Sluggo

nancy and slugger

SLEEP WELL, AMERICA

I say sleep well because, sometime in the 9:00 PM hour, The Donald signed the bill to reopen the government. In short, the fat lady finally sang.

Permit me to make three points.

First, I think my prognostications held up well. The Senate Republicans could not stand the pressure—and broke.

Second, although much commentary mentions bad polling and general voter dissatisfaction as the proximate cause of the senators’ awakening, I will bet that it also had a lot to do with heavy lobbying by the corporate and financial elite. Truly objective reporting would—I believe, but cannot prove—show that pressure from the one percent was as important as pressure from the 99 percent, in changing the Republican senators’ minds.

Third, it’s entirely understandable that we tend to personalize this sort of controversy. (See, for example, the cartoon above.) And I don’t deny the important role that personality conflicts and egos play in political fights. At bottom, though, the shutdown should be viewed in the context of wide-ranging efforts by the minority right wing to circumvent democracy and impose dictatorship on the majority.

I believe we have come to a point where coercive imposition of right wing policies is something up with which the rational majority will no longer put.

Never Take a Hostage Unless You Are Prepared to Shoot the Hostage

Senate approves bill to reopen the government, the first step to ending the nation’s longest shutdown

Trump Caves on Shutdown, Is Terrible at Politics:

The part of the speech where Trump had to paper over the fact that he had received nothing in return for the shutdown was couched in hilariously obtuse bureaucratese. He announced that “a bipartisan conference committee of House and Senate lawmakers and leaders will immediately begin reviewing the requests of our homeland security experts … they will put together a homeland security package for me to shortly sign into law.” To put this more simply, Congress will immediately … continue debating border-security policy options. Or put it even more simply than that, Congress isn’t going to pay for the wall any more than Mexico is.

**

Greetings to readers in Canada, Panama, Australia, and Germany. Here is the United States, we are doing a splendid job of showing how not to run a government. I hope you are deriving both instruction and innocent merriment from these developments.

Hello, Europe!

exceptionalism

Well, I guess this is good news.

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted on a bill to keep the United States from leaving NATO. It passed by a vote of 357 to 22, with 54 members not voting.

208 of the 244 Democrats voted in favor. The other 26 chose not to vote at all.

149 of the 199 Republicans voted in favor. 28 did not vote. And the Russia Caucus, comprising 22 Republican congressmen, voted against the bill.

In sum, 82 percent of our Solons want to stay in NATO. And only five percent are willing to stand up and salute Vladimir Putin.

So, I guess that is good news.

**

P.S. You may have been under the impression that the House of Represenatives is made up of 435 members, not 434. That is correct. But one of the Republican candidates from North Carolina practiced voter fraud so egregious that he was not seated. Probably, there will be another election in his district.

Genius or Idiot?

rudy clown

In Rudy Giuliani Is Possibly a Legal Genius, But Probably Just an Idiot, Jonathan Chait writes,

It is certainly true, as a public relations strategy, that there is some gain in manipulating the media’s perception of what counts as “news.” Scandals that get broken by news outlets tend to attract far more attention than revelations offered up for attorneys for the president. Giuliani floated a highly incriminating admission, but before the media could absorb and amplify it, quickly led reporters into a surreal netherworld. Trump’s involvement in the Moscow project during the campaign is both a disclosed fact (old news!) and a charge Trump’s supporters can deny. And by the time reporters sort through the confusion and nail Giuliani down to one position, he’ll have dazzled everybody with a new confession.

Of course, he’s probably just an idiot. On the other hand, with a client facing as many points of legal vulnerability as Trump, is there really a better strategy?

Aardvark’s Animadversion

Well, whether he is a genius or an idiot or something else, he is clearly a lawyer with two big problems: his client is provably guilty, and his client lacks the sense God gave him, in consequence of which the client is a danger to himself and others.

I think the best explanation of Rudy’s odd behavior is that he tries to “get ahead of the story” by admitting the really bad facts, and then constructing the least implausible “explanation” that he can find.

When he tries that approach, his client is pissed off, and his client orders him to go back to the old strategy—lying about the provable facts.

This is where Rudy makes his biggest mistake.

Instead of withdrawing as counsel, which is what any sensible person would do in such a circumstance, he obeys his client, retracts his admission of provably facts, and thus beclowns himself.

And for what?

Remember the Last National Debt Ceiling Crisis?

plutocrat

This morning the Washington Post published an article that I certainly hope is accurate: Trump voters now blame him for the government shutdown. Notice, the headline said “blame.”

Meanwhile, do you remember the last national debt ceiling crisis, back in 2013? To refresh your memory, see here and here.

As I best remember, as the national debt was reaching its statutory limit, the Republican politicians threatened not to raise the ceiling unless various political demands were met—a threat that, if fulfilled, would have meant default on the national debt.

The Democrats, tired of this sort of horseshit, responded: we’re not giving in this time, and so if you want to cause a financial panic, just go ahead and do it.

The Messrs. Moneybags were not best pleased. They owned lots of bonds, and were not anxious to miss their payments.

They told their sockpuppets to stop the nonsense. The Republican politicians stopped the nonsense.

And no one, since that time, has given a moment’s thought to the national debt limit.

Humpty Trumpty Sat on a Wall

Humpty.png

I don’t know how the government shutdown will end, though I still count on the plutocracy to do the right thing.

I do not feel as quite as optimistic as the image above might imply. That said, there is some good ground for optimism. Take a look, for example, at this average of polls, from early December to date, showing Trump’s popularity from early December to date, by an average of polls of all adults:

screen shot 2019-01-21 at 10.13.03 am

And I like what David Frum, who is nobody’s fool, had to say yesterday in The President’s Hostage Attempt Is Going Miserably Wrong:

The sometimes Trump ally Senator Marco Rubio tweeted Saturday afternoon that it is not reasonable for Democrats to demand unconditional surrender by the president. But it was Trump who rejected the path of compromise when he shut down the government.

The shutdown was a demand for unconditional surrender. Unfortunately for him, the president lacks the political realism to recognize that he doesn’t have the clout to impose that surrender. He’s the one who will now have to climb down, and very soon, probably within days. The end of a hostage taking is not a surrender. But it will surely feel that way to the hostage taker—and deservedly, too.

What is Barr’s Game?

William Barr

We have had the hearings, we have read the July Barr memo, we have digested the information. Here is my quick take, for what it is worth. I wish I had time to develop these thoughts more fully, but life intervenes. So please let me just make some shorthand points.

One. It is obvious even to those of the meanest intelligence that Barr sought the job of Attorney General. When he says that the job sought him, he is fibbin’.

Two. There are many, highly persuasive reasons why someone of his ilk would not have wanted the job—at this time, in these circumstances.

Three. If follows ineluctably from points one and two that Barr is coming to Washington with a mission. I am sure that he cares about issues that normal attorney generals in normal times care about: mass incarceration, immigration enforcement, the finer points of antitrust theory. But common sense would tell us that his concern about such matters is not a motivating factor.

Four. So what might that mission be?

Conceivably, it might be to protect Donald J. Trump at all costs. But there are multiple reasons to reject that supposition.

Conceivably, his secret mission might be to ensure that Donald J. Trump is screwed, blued, and tattooed, in the impeachment process.

But, in my view, it remains much more likely that William Barr, Esquire, has come to Washington to get Donald J. Trump offstage, through a Spiro Agnew-type agreement to resign from office in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

William Barr, Esquire, is the kind of person whose overarching mission in life is to do the bidding of the plutocracy. And the plutocracy—for its own amoral, financially motivated reasons—is sick and tired of the horseshit.

**

I am gestating a post to be entitled, “I Read the Barr Memo, So You Don’t Have To.” Hope to get it done early next week.

Write Me a Letter, Just Send it by Mail

Hey, Jerks! Reopen the Government. Now. Love and Kisses, the Plutocracy

The Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Have Spoken!

Trust me. Your friendly local plutocracy does not give a flying fuck about the hundreds of thousands of federal workers in deep financial trouble.

But they really, really care about the risk to the economy and to their own profits.

Trust me. They care a lot more about their profits than they do about protecting Mitch McConnell from a primary challenger in 2020.

Coalition Letter – Ending the Shutdown and Reopening the Federal Government

Friday, January 18, 2019 – 2:30pm

TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND MEMBERS OF CONGRESS:

On behalf of the American business community, we urge Congress and the administration to immediately take steps to restore the full operation of the federal government.

The current shutdown – now the longest in American history – is causing significant and in some cases lasting damage to families, businesses, and the economy as a whole. The harm is well documented and continues to compound with each passing day.

Since the shutdown began, various compromises have been floated by both Republicans and Democrats. There are numerous paths forward that would allow for the government to be reopened that should be acceptable to all parties. Failing to seize on one of those compromises that can pass Congress and be signed into law is unacceptable.

The time to act, the time to end this shutdown is now so that we can keep the economy moving forward.

Sincerely,

National
ACA International
Aeronautical Repair Station Association
Air-Conditioning, Heating, & Refrigeration Institute
AirlinesforAmerica
American Bankers Association
American Bus Association
American Chemistry Council
American Coatings Association
American Council of Engineering Companies
American Financial Services Association
American Public Transportation Association
America’s SBDCs
Asian American Hotel Owners Association
Association of Global Automakers
Association of Equipment Manufacturers
Associated General Contractors of America
Association of Oil Pipe Lines
National Investor Relations Institute
Council for Responsible Nutrition
CCIM Institute
Energy Equipment and Infrastructure Alliance
Federation of American Hospitals
Food Marketing Institute
Household & Commercial Products Association
Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association
International Franchise Association
National Apartment Association
National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders
National Association of Surety Bond Producers
National Association for the Self-Employed
National Beer Wholesalers Association
National Black Chamber of Commerce
National Council of Agricultural Employers
National Electrical Contractors Association
National Grocers Association Arlington
National Council of Chain Restaurants
National Multifamily Housing Council
National Retail Federation
National Roofing Contractors Association
Security Industry Association
The Association for Advanced Life
Underwriting (AALU)
The Toy Association
U.S. Chamber of Commerce

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Birmingham Business Alliance
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Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce
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CHAMPS, Capitol Hill’s Chamber of Commerce
West Virginia
Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley
West Virginia Chamber of Commerce
Wisconsin
Forward Janesville
Monroe Chamber of Commerce
Rice Lake Chamber of Commerce
Wyoming
Buffalo Chamber of Commerce
Campbell County Chamber of Commerce
Cashmere Chamber of Commerce
Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce
Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce
Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce
Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association
Wyoming State Chamber of Commerce