A teeny-tiny whiny part of #TheResistance

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Open Thread -- #TheResistance #FollowParty Hangover Edition

Well, I don't know what we did last night, but you woke up next to us this morning, so you might as well stick around and go back for seconds...

New bedfellows from #TheResistance, tell us about yourselves in the comments!


Earworm of the Afternoon -- Sick Again

Another Sunday Morning, Another Incoherent Tweetstorm

Now that he's back Stateside, Trump's phone is off of roaming and he's making up for lost time this morning:

Of course we know if wasn't a big win.  It was much more of a Pyrrhic victory, winning by single digits in a state you normally win by 20+ ain't great. Plus Trump's essentially endorsing the beating of a reporter, like the good little tinpot dictator wannabe he is.

It was barely talked about until about a week before the election, and it's continuing to be talked about as a reasonably good sign for the Dems. By the way, let's see what he's got to say on June 7th; I think Jon Ossoff is going to win the special election on GA-06.

Here's a one-off about his trip to Europe:

The leader of the free world disagrees, Donald:

After attending a G-7 summit in which President Donald Trump split from other world leaders on issues of climate change, trade, and refugees, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told her country that Germany could no longer rely on the US and UK for help.
“The times in which we could completely rely on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days," she said Sunday at an election rally in Southern Germany.
“We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands."

She also likes Emmanuel more than she likes you:

Merkel added that she hopes Germany's relationship with France will strengthen and flourish under new French President Emmanuel Macron, who is staunchly pro-European.

If you were hoping to alienate Western Europe, you did a really nice job. And Germany still likes the black guy and hates you:

And now that you're home, you've gotta figure out how do deal with the shitshow you left back in Washington:

Is this the strategy coming from your "war room?" Good luck with that..

All in all, I'm inclined to agree with Bill Kristol (yikes!):

He's shaking in his jackboots

The Professional Left Podcast, 5/26/2017 -- Hey NATO, Why Don't You Keep Him?

I just absolutely loved a point the Blue Gal made about Barack Obama's standing in the eyes of America and the world... it's a thought I'd been swishing around in my head for a while that I couldn't put words to, and she did. Kudos, BG!

Listen to the whole thing here.

A Billboard Put Up By #TheResistance?

Apparently, this has gone up on I-95 North near Richmond, VA sometime in the last month or so:

I'd really love to know who did it, but the photo here is too blurry. It's brilliant.

Late Night Track -- Whipping Post

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Open Thread -- RIP, Zbigniew Brzezinski Edition

Pour one out for the Notorious Z.B.I.G.. Dude saved the world. Probably made killer pierogis too, just like my Polish grandpa. Got any reflections about him?

Earworm of the Afternoon -- She Don't Use Jelly

I really like the original version of this song, but this cover is priceless:

Saturday Long Read -- Hillary Clinton Is Furious. And Resigned. And Funny. And Worried.

I continue to be really upset with pundits who waste ink and make noise around a caricature of Hillary Clinton. I think this (from the great @HillaryWarnedUs) encapsulates my feelings really well:

I was really pleased yesterday to read a profile of Hillary from New York Magazine's Rebecca Traister. The opening:

When I walk into the Chappaqua dining room in which Hillary Clinton is spending her days working on her new book, I am greeted by a vision from the past. Wearing no makeup and giant Coke-bottle glasses, dressed in a gray mock-turtleneck and black zip sweatshirt, Hillary looks less Clinton and more Rodham than I have ever seen her outside of college photographs. It’s the glasses, probably, that work to make her face look rounder, or maybe just the bareness of her skin. She looks not like the woman who’s familiar from television, from newspapers, from America of the past 25 years, but like the 69-year-old version of the young woman who came to the national stage with a wackadoodle Wellesley commencement speech in 1969. With no more races to run and no more voters to woo with fancy hair, Clinton appears now as she might have if she’d aged in nature and not in the crucible of American politics. Still, this is not Hillary of the woods. She is reemerging, giving speeches and interviews. It’s clear that she is making an active choice to remain a public figure.

Take the time to read the whole thing; I plan to break this article down a bit more during the week. You're not going to hear much more from me today, as I'm on the road, so I'm leaving y'all with homework!

In Which I Advise Trump's Advisors

I think I may have touched on this story a couple of days ago, but I wanted to point something out to the members of Trump's brain (I use the word loosely) trust that are purportedly assembling a "war room" to combat negative messaging about the White House, particularly about #TrumpRussia:

Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump, will be involved in the new strategic messaging operation, as will Steve Bannon, another top adviser who specializes in managing Trump’s populist appeal and shaping his political image, the sources said. Bannon and Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, have been laying the groundwork for the plan this week, they added.
On Thursday, NBC News and the Washington Post reported that Kushner, who held several meetings with Russian officials following the election, is a focus of the probe, making him the first current White House official to be caught up in it, although Kushner, who is Trump’s son-in-law, has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, is also expected to be part of the effort. Lewandowski, who has been seen in the White House recently, could join the administration as early as next week, a source close to him said. 

First of all, we all know that the second paragraph was proven wrong just two hours after this article hit the internet.

Second, Jared, Steve, Reince, and Corey, please let me level with you. You're not exactly a dream team. In fact, you really suck at most of this stuff. From the same article:

Lewandowski was fired by Trump in June 2016 over concerns that he was not experienced enough to oversee the general election fight against Democrat Hillary Clinton, but has remained a trusted adviser to Trump and a steadfast defender of the president on news programs.

Your only positive quality, apparently, is a slavish loyalty to a wannabe C-list autocrat. Unending subjectivity ain't a wonderful quality in a strategist.

Mr. Bannon, you lucked into some money and you appear to know how to appeal to neo-Nazis and other deplorables, but that's not the audience you need to convince right now. Other than that, your main talent is being a fat slob. (Steve M. at No More Mister Nice blog has more to say about this).

Reince, other than having a strange name that autocorrect appears to mangle in glorious ways, I've always known you as a halfwitted day drunk who somehow manages to sort of function thanks to some deep-pocketed donors bolstering your party's operations.

And Jared, just what the fuck are you supposed to be?

You think you're hot shit because Daddy Vladdy scooped you up in his talons and deposited you on the top of the mountain, but you have no idea how to climb down without skewering your dumb asses on the rocks below. I guess my advice isn't really to the four of you; you're stuck up there waiting for a few more leaks before the authorities bring their chopper and fly you straight to Leavenworth (or the rich white dudes' equivalent), no matter what you do, so have fun jerking each other off to entertain yourselves while you wait.

But to everyone who works under these guys, unless you've been secretly given immunity by the FBI because you're one of the leakers from inside the White House, jump off that sinking vessel quickly. Those four winners-so-much-your-heads-spinners are armed with cannons that they're most likely going to end up firing through each other and into the engine room of the ship:

Take every mention of this job out of your bio and your resume; I guarantee it'll look better to have a six month gap where it looks like you were unemployed than to have the urine-soaked regime associated with your names. Better yet, maybe you should legally change your names, just in case. Can't be too careful when it comes to being tied to the biggest clusterfuck that ever clustered or fucked.

There's a solid chance that this whole affair ends badly for everyone, but a near-lock guarantee that it'll end badly for any remaining residents of Trumpville. So please, do yourself a favor and leave before you're condemned to living under a bridge, or working at Fox News, which is pretty much the same thing these days.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Late Night Track -- To All the Little Girls

I hadn't seen this performance up until now, but posting it felt appropriate tonight.


In most sporting events, when a team or player is discovered cheating, the game is turned over to the opponent. While there's little precedent for this (there is, in fact, a little), there's also no precedent for a Presidential campaign not only cheating so brazenly, but being found out so quickly.

There's just way too much now. The Jared Kushner news is just the latest shoe to drop. I don't need to go through the litany...

It's time we start talking about the election being turned over to Hillary Clinton. She was the rightful winner. I don't know how this would happen on a practical level, but that's not up to me to decide. We need elected Democrats to call for this. They're not going to unless millions of us do.

So let's get this out there. #HRC46. Spread it. Make memes. Tweet it to your Congresscritters. Let's see what happens.

UPDATE (5/26/2017, 11:17 PM): It looks like Twitterer Miss Jass beat me to this:

BREAKING: Not Gonna Make a "He Went To Jared" Crack

... though I *really* want to. Anyway, Sergei Kislyak didn't have to go to Jared, because Jared came to him:

Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.
Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.
The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.

As you might expect, Twitter is all a-twitter over this!


The Daily Combover - May 26, 2017

Trump day 128.

He is officially the laughingstock of the world. World leaders are mocking him to his face:

Macron makes sure Trump knows that he is going to greet everyone else before finally coming in for a handshake. And, of course, he'd already sent Trump reeling with the patented French Squeeze:

 It's not really fair given Trump has the IQ of Louie Gohmert and most other Presidents are at least sporting a 120.

So it comes as no surprise that everyone is laughing at him. The good thing is that they don't believe the US is seriously going to shift policy. The bad thing is that respect for the US is at an all-time low. And when nobody respects you, that's when things get dangerous.

Open Thread -- Hillary's Still Got Something Important to Say Edition

From her commencement speech today at Wellesley College:

What role do you think she'll play in taking down Trump?

Earworm of the Afternoon -- I Was Born

Friday Links -- 5/26/2017

One thing that has changed a lot since I began this sucky blog is that now "everybody" follows the minutiae of daily politics. It's a bit because of Trump, but also a lot just because of social media. Facebook is like this politics gusher now. Once upon a time I was this weird dude who knew what was going on all the time, and now everybody I know does too.
 .... for two reasons. for one thing, I know what it's like to have a sucky blog. Second, it's unbelievable to me how many people I know who could not hold a conversation about politics a year ago are addicted to the news.

Believe it or not, I've lived in New York during the age of Uber/Lyft/other yellow cab replacement companies and still do not have the Uber app. They've always appeared to be leading a race to the bottom, workers and passengers be damned, and the only question to me has been whether they'd take the existing yellow cab service with them. I was pessimistic for a while, but Uber appears to be determined now to go it alone, trying some crazy things, like flying cars, that will never work but are aimed at separating stupid investors looking for some glitz. And, no, I don't believe their cars (or any others) will be driving themselves, outside of very controlled conditions, anytime soon.

  • This story in The Atlantic about lead poisoning in New Orleans is tragic, but it's good to see that someone other than Kevin Drum is picking up on how devastating the scourge is. It took me a while, but I'm fully on board with the idea that lead exposure caused a surge in violence in cities in the second half of the 20th Century and that decreasing that exposure accounts for much of the decrease in crime we've seen since the 1990s.
  • Speaking of American cities, Jared Kushner is a horrible slumlord. I'll bet that guy doesn't care if his tenants are exposed to lead.
  • Ed at Gin and Tacos wonders why it's become OK to be a Nazi in the United States these days, when it wasn't in the days of, well, the Nazis.
  • The irrepressible Sally Albright musters up quite the Tweetstorm about the issues we face in try to bring the Democratic Party together:

Stephen Colbert Kicks Some Ass

Even though Rob Quist didn't quite beat Greg Gianforte in Montana's lone Congressional district yesterday, he definitely demonstrated the potential strength of Democratic candidates over the next couple of years as we continue to try to throw off the yoke of Trump and the Republicans and to advance an agenda that will actually help Americans.

So it's OK to still have some fun with Greg Gianforte, journalist batterer:


Trump's Playing With Fire

So, as Ari discussed yesterday in the Combover, Trump really insulted our allies in NATO.

His transgressions were not minor, as Eli Stokols tells us in this thread:

This is some grave stuff, and could cost us our relationships. However, I think that most European leaders (as well as North American ones) are giving the U.S. a pass for now because they believe that Trump is an anomaly, because most Americans that Europeans know didn't vote for Trump, and because they understand that Russia helped Trump steal the 2016 election. But  if somehow there's a second Trump term, all bets are off.

But while NATO may give *us* a pass, I think Trump is another story. He blew any goodwill that might have been remaining towards him and showed how dangerous he is. Look at the steely, resolute faces in this crowd (and also at Trump's incredibly badly done hair). They're done with him.

Macron showed that in his own way today:

It seems to me that Trump doesn't understand who he's messing with, and it could be his downfall. It would not surprise me at all if our allies help to take him down. Trump essentially made it more likely that we'll see a pee-pee tape or that he'll have assets in illegal accounts exposed and seized. And I can't wait...

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Late Night Track -- One Dance

The Daily Combover - May 25, 2017

As Trump winds down his trip abroad he found himself in Brussels, ostensibly to talk to other NATO leaders about Article 5, i.e. Collective Defense.  Generally speaking at a NATO summit, leaders are expected to reaffirm their support for each other.  From NATO's website:
  • Collective defence means that an attack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all Allies.
  • The principle of collective defence is enshrined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.
  • NATO invoked Article 5 for the first time in its history after the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States.
  • NATO has taken collective defence measures on several occasions, for instance in response to the situation in Syria and in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
  • NATO has standing forces on active duty that contribute to the Alliance’s collective defence efforts on a permanent basis.
Before we continue, I'd like to point out that "Article 5" refers to the Washington Treaty. As in the US Capitol.  And the first time it was envoked was to support the US. Naturally it's American policy to stand behind it 100%. Obviously, Trump decided to go his own route.

Upon his arrival he made sure everyone knew he was there by pushing Montenegro's President Vujanovic aside like a toddler rushing to get the first slice of chocolate cake.

I hope that cake was worth it because his nine-minute speech clearly wasn't a highlight of the event:
Thank you very much, Secretary General Stoltenberg.  Chancellor Merkel, thank you very much.  Other heads of state and government, I am honored to be here with members of an alliance that has promoted safety and peace across the world.  
At least he didn't say, "Where's Angela? Where's Angela? Get up here!" as is his typical custom. Let's see who else he recognizes. Hmm. Who was that lady that held his hand when he had to go down those scary stairs outside the White House? Oh right, British PM May...

Prime Minister May, all of the nations here today grieve with you and stand with you.  I would like to ask that we now observe a moment of silence for the victims and families of the savage attack which took place in Manchester.  (A moment of silence is observed.)  Thank you.  Terrible thing.
This ceremony is a day for both remembrance and resolve.  We remember and mourn those nearly 3,000 innocent people who were brutally murdered by terrorists on September 11th, 2001.  Our NATO allies responded swiftly and decisively, invoking for the first time in its history the Article 5 collective defense commitments.  
Phew! He remembered that they all helped out! Let's see where he goes with this.
The recent attack on Manchester in the United Kingdom demonstrates the depths of the evil we face with terrorism.  Innocent little girls and so many others were horribly murdered and badly injured while attending a concert -- beautiful lives with so much great potential torn from their families forever and ever.  It was a barbaric and vicious attack upon our civilization.
All people who cherish life must unite in finding, exposing, and removing these killers and extremists -- and, yes, losers.  They are losers.  Wherever they exist in our societies, we must drive them out and never, ever let them back in.  
Losers? But that's what you called President and Mrs. Obama because, in your own words, "all they want to do is campaign." Who campaigns after winning an election anyway? Talk about losers.

And also George Will because well, actually, yeah he's a loser.

So you're now calling terrorists, the Obamas, and George Will all losers? Don't you have a better word for the terrorists? One that would magically end terrorism?

I wonder why you aren't saying that any more... It's as if someone just gifted your family $100,000,000 to stop using that phrase.
This call for driving out terrorism is a message I took to a historic gathering of Arab and Muslim leaders across the region, hosted by Saudi Arabia.  There, I spent much time with King Salman, a wise man who wants to see things get much better rapidly.  The leaders of the Middle East have agreed at this unprecedented meeting to stop funding the radical ideology that leads to this horrible terrorism all over the globe.
Nobody told Trump that the leading financial supporter of terrorism around the world is Saudi Arabia.
My travels and meetings have given me renewed hope that nations of many faiths can unite to defeat terrorism, a common threat to all of humanity.  Terrorism must be stopped in its tracks, or the horror you saw in Manchester and so many other places will continue forever.  You have thousands and thousands of people pouring into our various countries and spreading throughout, and in many cases, we have no idea who they are.  We must be tough.  We must be strong.  And we must be vigilant.  
Alright! Toughness! Vigilance! Let's stand together! Time to support Article 5!
The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration, as well as threats from Russia and on NATO’s eastern and southern borders.  These grave security concerns are the same reason that I have been very, very direct with Secretary Stoltenberg and members of the Alliance in saying that NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations, for 23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defense.
Wait... What??? Do you still not understand that NATO is not a country club? Member nations don't pay dues!
This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States.  And many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years and not paying in those past years.  Over the last eight years, the United States spent more on defense than all other NATO countries combined.  If all NATO members had spent just 2 percent of their GDP on defense last year, we would have had another $119 billion for our collective defense and for the financing of additional NATO reserves.
Oh great, add 23 more countries to the list of former allies.
We should recognize that with these chronic underpayments and growing threats, even 2 percent of GDP is insufficient to close the gaps in modernizing, readiness, and the size of forces.  We have to make up for the many years lost.  Two percent is the bare minimum for confronting today’s very real and very vicious threats.  If NATO countries made their full and complete contributions, then NATO would be even stronger than it is today, especially from the threat of terrorism.  
I want to extend my appreciation to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York for contributing this remnant of the North Tower, as well as to Chancellor Merkel and the German people for donating this portion of the Berlin Wall.  It is truly fitting that these two artifacts now reside here so close together at the new NATO Headquarters.  And I never asked once what the new NATO Headquarters cost.  I refuse to do that.  But it is beautiful.
So that means he did ask. And because of that, we have the answer. $1.23 billion. And that is absolutely outrageous. No wonder he thinks, "it is beautiful."
Each one marks a pivotal event in the history of this Alliance and in the eternal battle between good and evil.  On one side, a testament to the triumph of our ideals over a totalitarian Communist ideology bent on the oppression of millions and millions of people; on the other, a painful reminder of the barbaric evil that still exists in the world and that we must confront and defeat together as a group, as a world.
This twisted mass of metal reminds us not only of what we have lost, but also what forever endures -- the courage of our people, the strength of our resolve, and the commitments that bind us together as one.  
So why exactly are we chasing away our allies again?
We will never forget the lives that were lost.  We will never forsake the friends who stood by our side.  And we will never waiver in our determination to defeat terrorism and to achieve lasting security, prosperity and peace.
Thank you very much.  It’s a great honor to be here.  Thank you.

Rest well. It's not like we're going to end up a total pariah. Apparently Theresa May still likes Trump even after he gave away UK state secrets.

Oh no, that's not an excuse to grope her...
Catch you on the flip side.

Open Thread -- $15 Minimum Wage

Minority Leader Pelosi has rarely speculated about the Democrats chances at winning the House in November 2018, but this afternoon she pledged that the first course of action of a Democratic House would be a vote on a $15 minimum wage.

Would that be your top issue? Share your comments.

Earworm of the Afternoon -- Roderigo

Body Slam Greg Gianforte

For any of you who haven't heard yet, Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate for Montana's At-Large Congressional seat, body slammed (!) reporter Ben Jacobs yesterday. Jacobs had reported last month that Gianforte has financial ties to sanctioned Russian businesses.

And yet, the Republicans defend him (or worse):

And Gianforte is Trump's guy:

The special election is today. If you live in Montana, make sure you vote for Rob Quist, the Democrat. And if you know anyone in Montana, please remind them to do so. Let's slam back! We can't let the Republicans get away with this.

Just Plain Embarassing

Let him bask in it while he can, I guess. With each day that goes by, the likelihood of him getting zero electoral votes in 2020 seems to increase.

UPDATE (5/25/2017, 10:54 AM):

Just wow.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Late Night Track -- Stardog Champion

The Daily Combover - May 24, 2017

About a month ago Trump invited Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to the White House. Little else was known at the time, but it seemed odd that he would be inviting a man who proudly admits to killing thousands in a shoot-first, check-for-evidence-later drug war. Duterte later declined but the damage to the image of the country was already done.

This week, in the midst of Duterte declaring martial law, a transcript of their exchange leaked.

Please note that there are some formatting issues and misspellings, so please ignore the apparent typos.

Part I. In which Trump finds some similarities between Duterte and himself in that neither one sleeps much and neither one likes drug users.

Note how casually Trump agrees with Duterte that drug use is the scourge of the two nations. Of course, Trump isn't joking here. He and Sessions have reignited the drug war here in the US.

Part II. In which Trump now trusts Duterte enough to share national secrets.

Did you catch that? Trump told Duterte that we had two nuclear submarines off the coast of North Korea. This is the second classified leak we've found out about in the last two weeks.

Part III. In which Trump and Duterte find another commonality -- they both think Kim Jung Un is crazy. I think the pot and the kettle are both calling the wok black.

Trump is above all else, lazy. But in a close second you'll find that he hates having to beg. So if he can outsource his China begging to Duterte, he will do that -- even if it means a campaign to normalize Duterte in the eyes of the world.

Part IV. In which Trump and Duterte plan out how to continue this illicit affair. Where will they be when Trump visits the Philippines. What about when Duterte visits DC?

Yes, God bless you both... You murderous despots.

Catch you on the flip side.

What A Monster!

From a friend and former colleague in the volunteer operation at Hillary's national headquarters in Brooklyn last year:

Hillary Clinton had a fundraiser for the Children's Health Fund yesterday I couldn't resist going there and waiting outside till she came out. She was so nice and cute. She agreed that Trump's agenda is horrible. She said, "_______, great to see you again." I told her that I feel lost and she answered, "I totally understand, but keep going and don't give up, we'll figure it out". She loved my phone case. Then she asked me how was Switzerland. I couldn't believe she remembered that I went there. She was so charming. Very Presidential!

Keep in mind that this was not a staffer; even though my friend was a very dedicated volunteer, she was one of thousands. And Hillary struck up a conversation with her, remembering her name from more than six months ago, as well as where she went to vacation. Peter Daou had it right today:

Earworm of the Afternoon -- Paper Planes

We Are the Last Lannisters -- Game of Thrones Season 7 Trailer

Winter is coming, mofos.

Open Thread -- Writers Wanted Edition

We're hoping to diversify the array of voices and topics on this here shitty blog, and also jut generally put a fun team together. A lot of people have been reading lately and we'd like to improve the product.

General posts are welcome, as are ideas for regular features. I'm personally particularly interested in some more in-depth coverage of congressional/local races, as well as special elections, but I'm open to other ideas. I also wouldn't mind delving into the entertainment arena (music and good TV, not, say KKWTK).

We're not making money (I don't know if we ever will), but if we do, we'll of course spread the wealth.

If anyone's interested, leave a note in the comments or  e-mail me at

The Bob Cesca Show, 5/24/2017 -- Stupid Watergate

Our beloved Driftglass and BlueGal  return to  Bob's virtual studio to discuss the latest from Manchester; Trump sleepwalks his way through the Middle East; Trump forgets he's still in the Middle East; Trump and the Orb; Melania vs Donald; The Trump Budget is here; Trumpers who love Obamacare; John Brennan testifies on Trump Russia probe; and more.

Now would be a great time to subscribe at Patreon to the $5/month level or higher to be able to listen to the Post Mortem shows on Tuesday and Thursday, where Bob and his co-hosts continue to talk beyond the normal show (like Bill Maher's Overtime); yesterday Bob and Driftglass chatted for nearly an additional 40 minutes (and could've gone so much longer!).

Listen to the podcast here.

A Failed Exorcism?

It was surreal to wake up and find that this was what the internet was up to this morning:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Late Night Track -- Return of the Mack

The Daily Combover - May 23, 2017

As Trump arrived in Rome early this morning, back home at the White House, his regime was finalizing their 2018 budget proposal. The mammoth $4.10 trillion proposal would be the largest budget on record if fully funded (President Obama's $4.15T budget for 2017 was not fully funded).

Let's dig in and see where the money goes. Basing the new numbers off of current year allocations, here are the basic general cuts:
$11.5 billion (29.1%) cut to the State Department
$9.2 billion (13.5%) cut to the Department of Education
$6.2 billion (13.2%) cut to the Department of Housing and Urban Development
$2.5 billion (31.4%) cut to the Environmental Protection Agency
$2.4 billion (19.7%) cut to the Department of Labor
$2.4 billion (12.7%) cut to the Department of Transportation
$1.5 billion (10.9%) cut to the Department of the Interior
$1.1 billion (3.8%) cut to the Department of Justice
$1.0 billion (16.3%) cut to the Army Corps of Engineers

TOTAL = $37.8 billion

And here are the biggest increases:
$52.7 billion (10.1%) increase to the Department of Defense
$4.3 billion (5.8%) increase to the Department of Veteran Affairs
$2.8 billion (6.8%) increase to Homeland Security

TOTAL = $59.8 billion

As you can see, there are still $22 billion in cuts that we have yet to look at -- just to keep things balanced from the year before. But then Trump still has more than three and a half trillion dollars of additional cuts over the next decade.

The biggest individual hits are:
$1183 billion to health services (mostly the ACA)
$627 billion to Medicaid
$194 billion to SNAP
$73 billion to Social Security
$62 billion to pensions

And the following independent programs are completely eliminated in Trump's budget:

  • Capital Magnet Fund
  • Chemical Safety Board
  • Corporation for National and Community Service
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting\
  • Housing Trust Fund
  • Institute of Museum and Library Services
  • International Development Foundations
  • Legal Services Corporation
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation
  • Overseas Private Investment Corporation
  • all four of the Regional Commissions (Appalachian, Delta, Denali, and the Northern Border)
  • US Institute of Peace
  • US Trade and Development Agency
  • Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
I believe every single American has been positively impacted by at least one of these programs.

And the following departmental programs are also completely eliminated:
  • McGovern-Dole International Food for Education
  • Rural Business and Cooperative Service
  • Rural Economic Development Program
  • Rural Waste and Water Disposal Program Account
  • Single Family Housing Direct Loans
  • Economic Development Administration
  • Manufacturing Extension Partnership
  • Minority Business Development Agency
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Grants and Education
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (for education)
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers
  • Comprehensive Literacy Development Grants
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants 
  • Impact Aid Payments for Federal Property
  • International Education
  • Strengthening Institutions Program
  • Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants
  • Supporting Effective Instruction state grants
  • Teacher Quality Partnership
  • Advanced Research Projects Agency
  • Title XVII Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program and the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program
  • Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility
  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
  • Health Professions and Nursing Training Programs
  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
  • Flood Hazard Mapping and Risk Analysis Program
  • Transportation Security Administration Law Enforcement Grants
  • Choice Neighborhoods
  • Community Development Block Grants
  • Home Investment Partnerships Program
  • Self-Help and Assisted Home Ownership Opportunity Program
  • Abandoned Mine Land Grants
  • Heritage Partnership Program
  • National Wildlife Refuge Fund
  • State Criminal Alien Assistance Program
  • Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Training
  • OSHA Training Grants
  • Senior Community Service Employment Program
  • Development Assistance
  • Earmarked appropriations for Non-Profits will be eliminated
  • Title II Food Aid
  • Green Climate Fund and Global Climate Change Initiative
  • Global Agriculture and Food Security Program
  • National Infrastructure Development
  • Energy Star
  • Voluntary Climate Programs
  • Geographic Programs for major watersheds
  • the five Earth Science Missions from NASA
  • NASA Office of Education
Almost all of these generate positive economic growth -- meaning eliminating these programs yields more than a $1 loss to GDP per $1 cut. Thus, this has the direct potential to send us into a recession. And even if it doesn't, you can count on the following 10 things:
  1. Student debt will rise as education grants are eliminated.
  2. There will be more competition for minimum wage jobs among prime age workers because of the supplemental education cuts.
  3. We will no longer be the global leaders in technological advancement. Academic grants have yielded huge technological breakthroughs over the last century. No funding for these means that development stops cold.
  4. Fewer people will be able to purchase homes creating a massive drag on the Investment portion of GDP.
  5. We will become more dependent on foreign energy thanks to the cuts to energy conservation programs. This creates a massive drag on the Net Exports portion of GDP.
  6. Starvation will once again become a major cause of death thanks to cuts to food assistance.
  7. We will be less safe from disasters thanks to cuts to NOAA, NASA, GCI, and Hazard programs.
  8. We will be less safe from foreign terrorists thanks to cuts to TSA and foreign development aid.
  9. We will be less safe at the workplace thanks to cuts to OSHA.
  10. We will be less safe in our communities thanks to cuts to already low infrastructure spending.

And why? Because Trump wants a $2 trillion tax cut. This economist can tell you the historical record shows tax cuts never generate as much economic activity as they cut. Especially when they primarily target higher income households.  Wealthier households already spend less than they earn. Cutting taxes will simply boost their personal saving and investment.  Thus a tax cut is really just a transfer of wealth from the US economy to financial exchanges.  Big investment banks and their clients will become wealthier while the bulk of America suffers.

Since mid-March, yields on the benchmark 10-year Treasury bond have fallen from 2.62 percent to 2.28 percent on Tuesday, a sign that traders are discounting the likelihood of a sudden pickup in growth.
An analysis of Mr. Trump’s tax plan by the bipartisan, nonprofit Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated that the federal debt would rise by $5.5 trillion over the first decade. Even if lower taxes encouraged people to save and invest more, the huge government deficits created by the budget would crowd out private investors and offset some of those direct effects, several economists said.
Alan D. Viard, a tax expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research organization in Washington, said he and other researchers had repeatedly found that “deficit-financed tax cuts were usually harmful to growth.”
Cutting the tax on investment income, for example, delivers the most bang for the buck, Mr. Viard said, but unless the lost revenue is made up through increases in other taxes or spending cuts, the deficit will balloon and economic growth will suffer.
Previous presidents have not had a lot of success using tax cuts to spur growth. “The historical record is pretty clear that large tax cuts don’t pay for themselves through economic growth,” said Michael J. Graetz, a professor of tax law at Columbia University.
The 1981 tax cut that President Ronald Reagan pushed through did provide a short jolt to the economy, Mr. Graetz said, but he pointed out that the administration was compelled to raise taxes in 1982 and 1984 to keep the deficit under control.
The one thing that I do not want to be hearing is how this budget disproportionately harms Trump voters. Because while that may be true, it does a disservice to more than 150 million non-Trump voters that will also be negatively impacted.

As a professional business economist, my best guess is that if this passes, we will be in a recession no later than mid-year 2019.

Catch you on the flip side.

Open Thread -- Podcast Suggestions Edition

I could use a couple of additional suggestions for political podcasts. If you have ideas, please leave them in the comments.

Contacts and Interactions

John Brennan, former CIA director, had this to say today in his testimony:

To which Howdy Gowdy (R-SC), replied:

So, they've gone from "we never talked to the Russians" to "it's totally normal to talk to the Russians?"

Earworm of the Afternoon -- Kiss Them For Me

More #TrumpRussia Testimony

Why this happened isn't terribly clear to me, but the weasel-faced can't-be-former-congressman-soon enough, Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), has gotten James Comey to delay his testimony for a bit.

But, in the meantime, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats is testifying in front of Congress this morning, as is former CIA Director, John Brennan.

An interesting finding:

In the few minutes I watched Coats, he didn't deny that.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Daily Combover - May 22, 2017

In 1932, Ibn Saud completed his quest of reconquering his family's ancestral home of Riyadh. There he build a massive palace that has served as the capital of his Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over the last 85 years.  Following his death one of his sons after the other assumed power with the most recent transition occurring two years ago when Crown Prince Salman replaced King Abdullah.  That line of succession ends with Salman and the next generation, the grandchildren of Ibn Saud take over.

Trump bows to King Salman as he receives a welcome gift.

Today the Saudi family has more than 15,000 members, but only about 10-15% have control over the power and wealth of the family. And for 300 years, they have used that wealth and power to shape the Arab World.

The legacy of the Saudi family goes back almost 300 years when they formed their first Emirate as they consolidated power in an independent Arab state separated from the Ottoman Empire.  As their power grew, they turned to a radical form of Islam in the 1800s, Wahhabism, which most scholars agree is the root of modern day Islamist terrorism.

An oversimplification of the Arab conflict is that the two largest sects of Islam: Sunni and Shiite (or Shia) have competed since the death of their prophet, Muhammad, more than 1300 years ago.  Today the two main faces of that conflict are Saudi Arabia (Sunni) and Iran (Shia).  Thus, it is in Saudi Arabia's interest to see Shia terrorists like Hizbullah be weakened while Sunni terrorists are largely ignored by the Saudis.

So as we turn to Trump's speech, remember that our vision of a terror-free world does not line up with theirs. For brevity's sake we won't address the entire speech, instead we'll focus on its two main themes: economic cooperation and terrorism.

In my inaugural address to the American People, I pledged to strengthen America’s oldest friendships, and to build new partnerships in pursuit of peace. I also promised that America will not seek to impose our way of life on others, but to outstretch our hands in the spirit of cooperation and trust.
Our vision is one of peace, security, and prosperity—in this region, and in the world.
Our goal is a coalition of nations who share the aim of stamping out extremism and providing our children a hopeful future that does honor to God.
And so this historic and unprecedented gathering of leaders—unique in the history of nations—is a symbol to the world of our shared resolve and our mutual respect. To the leaders and citizens of every country assembled here today, I want you to know that the United States is eager to form closer bonds of friendship, security, culture and commerce.
For Americans, this is an exciting time. A new spirit of optimism is sweeping our country: in just a few months, we have created almost a million new jobs, added over 3 trillion dollars of new value, lifted the burdens on American industry, and made record investments in our military that will protect the safety of our people and enhance the security of our wonderful friends and allies – many of whom are here today.
Here are the net job creation totals during the Trump era:
February 2017 - 232K
March 2017 - 79K
April 2017 - 211K

Total =  522,000 -- but I guess that rounds up to a million.

And for those of you scratching your heads about $3T in "new value," he's talking about Wall Street gains.
Now, there is even more blessed news I am pleased to share with you. My meetings with King Salman, the Crown Prince, and the Deputy Crown Prince, have been filled with great warmth, good will, and tremendous cooperation.
Yesterday, we signed historic agreements with the Kingdom that will invest almost $400 billion in our two countries and create many thousands of jobs in America and Saudi Arabia.
This landmark agreement includes the announcement of a $110 billion Saudi-funded defense purchase – and we will be sure to help our Saudi friends to get a good deal from our great American defense companies. This agreement will help the Saudi military to take a greater role in security operations.
Any rich person can tell you that they didn't get rich by giving things away. Then again, Trump is a Fox News viewer's idea of a rich person, so go figure.
We have also started discussions with many of the countries present today on strengthening partnerships, and forming new ones, to advance security and stability across the Middle East and beyond.
Later today, we will make history again with the opening of a new Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology – located right here, in this central part of the Islamic World. This groundbreaking new center represents a clear declaration that Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combatting radicalization, and I want to express our gratitude to King Salman for this strong demonstration of leadership.
I have had the pleasure of welcoming several of the leaders present today to the White House, and I look forward to working with all of you.
America is a sovereign nation and our first priority is always the safety and security of our citizens. We are not here to lecture—we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership – based on shared interests and values – to pursue a better future for us all.
Here at this summit we will discuss many interests we share together. But above all we must be united in pursuing the one goal that transcends every other consideration. That goal is to meet history’s great test—to conquer extremism and vanquish the forces of terrorism.  
 And here we go with the next theme: terrorism.
America has suffered repeated barbaric attacks – from the atrocities of September 11th to the devastation of the Boston Bombing, to the horrible killings in San Bernardino and Orlando.
The nations of Europe have also endured unspeakable horror. So too have the nations of Africa and even South America. India, Russia, China and Australia have been victims.
But, in sheer numbers, the deadliest toll has been exacted on the innocent people of Arab, Muslim and Middle Eastern nations. They have borne the brunt of the killings and the worst of the destruction in this wave of fanatical violence.
Some estimates hold that more than 95 percent of the victims of terrorism are themselves Muslim.
The potential of this region has never been greater. 65 percent of its population is under the age of 30. Like all young men and women, they seek great futures to build, great national projects to join, and a place for their families to call home.
But this untapped potential, this tremendous cause for optimism, is held at bay by bloodshed and terror. There can be no coexistence with this violence.
There can be no tolerating it, no accepting it, no excusing it, and no ignoring it.
Every time a terrorist murders an innocent person, and falsely invokes the name of God, it should be an insult to every person of faith.
Terrorists do not worship God, they worship death.
If we do not act against this organized terror, then we know what will happen. Terrorism’s devastation of life will continue to spread. Peaceful societies will become engulfed by violence. And the futures of many generations will be sadly squandered.
If we do not stand in uniform condemnation of this killing—then not only will we be judged by our people, not only will we be judged by history, but we will be judged by God.
This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations.
This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it.
This is a battle between Good and Evil.
When we see the scenes of destruction in the wake of terror, we see no signs that those murdered were Jewish or Christian, Shia or Sunni. When we look upon the streams of innocent blood soaked into the ancient ground, we cannot see the faith or sect or tribe of the victims – we see only that they were Children of God whose deaths are an insult to all that is holy.
I've clipped out a bit of the speech but Trump has made it very clear that he wants to see Christians, Jews, and Muslims come together to fight terrorism in the name of God. That's why his trip is taking him to the home of the holiest places in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.  And it also means his trademarked, "Radical Islamic Terrorism" spell that will defeat ISIS has been abandoned.
A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists. Drive. Them. Out. DRIVE THEM OUT of your places of worship. DRIVE THEM OUT of your communities. DRIVE THEM OUT of your holy land, and DRIVE THEM OUT OF THIS EARTH.
For our part, America is committed to adjusting our strategies to meet evolving threats and new facts. We will discard those strategies that have not worked—and will apply new approaches informed by experience and judgment. We are adopting a Principled Realism, rooted in common values and shared interests.
Our friends will never question our support, and our enemies will never doubt our determination. Our partnerships will advance security through stability, not through radical disruption. We will make decisions based on real-world outcomes – not inflexible ideology. We will be guided by the lessons of experience, not the confines of rigid thinking. And, wherever possible, we will seek gradual reforms – not sudden intervention.
We must seek partners, not perfection—and to make allies of all who share our goals.
I am proud to announce that the nations here today will be signing an agreement to prevent the financing of terrorism, called the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center – co-chaired by the United States and Saudi Arabia, and joined by every member of the Gulf Cooperation Council. It is another historic step in a day that will be long remembered.
Let's compare that to his speech in Israel.
Did you see the guy on the right side? My feelings exactly.
This is a land filled with beauty, wonder, and the spirit of God.  I've been amazed by the glorious and beautiful monuments and holy sites, and the generosity of your incredible people.  Because it's all about the people.  I was deeply moved by my visit today to the Western Wall.  Words fail to capture the experience.  It will leave an impression on me forever. 
Today, we reaffirmed the unbreakable bond of friendship between Israel and the United States -- a friendship built on our shared love of freedom, our shared belief in human dignity, and our shared hope for an Israel at lasting peace.  We want Israel to have peace.
But we are more than friends.  We are great allies.  We have so many opportunities in front of us.  But we must seize them together.  We must take advantage of the situation, and there are many, many things that can happen now that would never have been able to happen before.  And we understand that very well.  That includes advancing prosperity, defeating the evils of terrorism, and facing the threat of an Iranian regime that is threatening the region and causing so much violence and suffering. 
Of interest here is that the greatest threat on a daily basis to Israelis is Hamas terrorism. Hamas is a Sunni group and was noticeably left out of his speech in Saudi Arabia.  In that one, he instead named the Shia Hezbullah terrorists.  But that's not a surprise given that Hamas receives direct support from Saudi Arabia.

It's possible that ISIS will eventually supplant Hamas -- especially given that Trump ruined the main source of Israeli intel on ISIS, and then made sure everyone knew that he didn't really care about what he did though Bibi's face tells the whole story:

During my travels, I have seen many hopeful signs that lead me to believe that we can truly achieve a more peaceful future for this region and for people of all faiths and all beliefs and, frankly, all over the world.
In my visit to Saudi Arabia, I met with many leaders of the Arab and Muslim world, including King Salman, who treated us so beautifully and really wants to see great things happen for the world.  He really does.  I got to know him well, and he really does.
These leaders voiced concerns we all share -- about ISIS, about Iran’s rising ambitions and rolling back its gains, and about the menace of extremism that has spread through too many parts of the Muslim world.  I’m encouraged that they pledge cooperation to confront terrorism and the hateful ideology that drives it so hard.  America welcomes the action and support of any nation willing to do the hard but vital work in eradicating the violent ideologies that have caused so much needless bloodshed and killing here and all over the world.
Again, nothing about Hamas or other Sunni terrorists. It all comes down to Iran. Saudi Arabia wants to see Iran's power wane.  And for his part, Netanyahu has stayed in power by building up the Iranian boogeyman as the stuff of nightmares.
We are willing to work together.  I believe that a new level of partnership is possible and will happen -- one that will bring greater safety to this region, greater security to the United States, and greater prosperity to the world.  This includes a renewed effort at peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and I thank the Prime Minister for his commitment to pursuing the peace process.  He’s working very hard at it.  It’s not easy.  I’ve heard it’s one of the toughest deals of all, but I have a feeling that we’re going to get there eventually, I hope.
I'm not sure Trump knows who he is talking to. The Two-State Solution had been the cornerstone of Israeli-Palestinian relations since the Madrid talks in 1991, but Bibi has walked away from all of that. Tomorrow I expect a statement from Trump saying something to the effect of, 'I had no idea it would be so difficult.'
I’m certain we will have very productive discussions.  And we’re going to have very productive discussions, in my opinion, with the leaders of other nations also.  And I feel strongly about that, because there’s a lot of love out there.  And people from all nations, even nations that you would be surprised to hear, they want to stop the killing.  They’ve had enough.  
America stands ready to assist in every way we can.  Our deep and lasting friendship will only grow deeper and stronger as we work together in the days ahead.  I thank you again for hosting us in this beautiful and ancient land.  Truly, it’s a land of wonders.  And it’s my honor to be here with you. 
Even if Trump somehow lasts a full term, or God help us, two terms, he is far too ignorant of the historical power struggles to be able to push for any resolution in the Middle East.

Catch you on the flip side.