Saturday Morning Coffee

A few links to things I was reading over coffee this morning:

Climate Change and Migration

A lot of people make the connection between American imperialism and migration to the US. Others lay part of the blame on globalization and NAFTA. This article at The New Yorker suggests that climate change now drives migration from Central and South America to the US.

‘It was about six years ago that things started to change,’ he said. Climentoro had always been poor. Residents depended on the few crops that could survive at an elevation of more than nine thousand feet, harvesting maize to feed their families and selling potatoes for a small profit. But, Pérez said, the changing climate was wiping out the region’s crops. ‘In the higher part of town, there have been more frosts than there used to be, and they kill an entire harvest in one fell swoop,’ he said. ‘In the lower part of Climentoro, there’s been much less rain and new sorts of pests.’ He added, ‘Farmers have been abandoning their land.’

Climate change is real and changing the way we do things, especially in agriculture. And if you think people fought over oil, wait until they’re fighting over food and water.

Virginia and Carbon Emissions

We have to reduce carbon emissions if we want to do something about this, and Virginia has a chance to take a market-based approach by joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Unfortunately, Republicans in the General Assembly keep blocking this.

Instead of celebrating this modest progress on climate action, Virginia Republicans have been fighting it every step of the way. Their latest effort takes the form of two amendments to the state budget that would effectively prevent Virginia from joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a nine-state platform for trading carbon emission allowances. It would also stop the Commonwealth from participating in a new compact focused on reducing carbon emissions in transportation.

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network called on Governor Northam to “veto the budget language that blocks the Commonwealth from joining RGGI and to move forward on climate action, to protect the future of all Virginians.” I agree.

A Conservative Defense of the Electoral College

Elsewhere in Virginia politics, Stephen Brodie Tucker writes in defense of the Electoral College at Bearing Drift.

My point is that the federal government does not exist to represent us individually or in mobs. The Federal Government exists to represent the 50 States and to arbitrate amongst them. The State Governments are our governments and the Federal Government is theirs. The worst mistake the United States ever made was ratifying the 17th Amendment, which turned the Senate over to the popular vote of the people. The House of Representatives is The People’s House. The Senate was meant to represent the will of the State governments.

I left a lengthy comment on the post, so here I’ll just point out that this is an anachronistic new of the American Republic made effectively obsolete by the Civil War. Delegates to the Constitutional Convention created the Electoral College and left election of Senators to state legislators to protect elite interests, among them slavery, in the States that existed at the time. The Electoral College is anti-democratic and needs to go.

Finally, I had a lot of fun this week listening to Rick Reilly plug his new book, Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Donald Trump. John Cassidy reviews the book in the New Yorker.

Reilly recounts a time when Trump was declared the senior club champion at Trump National Bedminster, in New Jersey, even though he was in Pennsylvania on the day that the event was played. ‘He’d declared that the club should start having senior club championships for those 50 and up, but he forgot that one of the best players at the club had just turned 50,’ Reilly writes. ‘Having zero chance of beating the guy, he went up to his Trump Philadelphia course on the day of the tournament and played with a friend there. Afterward, according to a source inside the Bedminster club, he called the Bedminster pro shop and announced he’d shot 73 and should be declared the winner. The pro, wanting to stay employed, agreed. His name went up on the plaque.’

I’ll resist the urge to elaborate on what I think this says about Donald Trump. Reilly, Cassidy, and others have articulated this far better than I could. But I will say that it surprises me not at all that a man who would refuse to pay people for the work they did for him would pull shenanigans like this. Read the review, buy the book, and judge for yourself.

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Predictions from The Bull Elephant – and a Few of My Own

Contributors and staff at The Bull Elephant have predicted the outcome of today’s elections and they deliver about what you’d expect from true believers.  Most think the GOP will hold the House and some think Republicans will pick up 3 or more seats in the Senate, with one suggesting a 60-seat majority.  Many argue that Corey Stewart will outperform polls and one thinks he could have won with more help from the Republican national and state parties.  Almost all think Barbara Comstock will lose, but few think any other Democrats will win Virginia House seats they aren’t heavily favored to win (e.g., Don McEachin [D-4]).  Continue reading

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Kavanaugh, Politics, and the Conservative Project

I think Susan Collins had no good choice here.  Her vote to confirm buys her a credible and well-funded challenger, but a vote the other way would likely have created a primary challenge from the right.  It seems to me that while Collins has rarely deviated from conservative orthodoxy with respect to her actual votes, she has carefully cultivated a reputation as a moderate (chiefly by claiming to respect reproductive choice for women).  This and incumbency has so far protected her politically, but Democrats (especially women) in Maine will now do everything they can to replace her.  This challenge comes in 2020, when Democrats will also show up in force to vote against Donald Trump if he runs again.  I think she had a better chance to win a challenge from the right and keep the seat by voting no on Kavanaugh but supporting his just-as-conservative replacement.

Joe Manchin faced a similar problem except that he depends on some level of support from conservatives to keep his seat where Collins depends on marginal liberals for hers.  I would suggest to Senator Manchin that (like in Maine) a “right thing to do” vote against Kavanaugh would have kept enough conservatives in his corner as long as he votes to confirm Trump’s next choice.  And as in Maine voting to confirm Kavanaugh will alienate Democrats he needs to win.  It’s too late for a primary challenge from the left, but to win he needs every vote he can get, and many women will now stay home. Continue reading

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Brett Kavanaugh

We’re learning a lot about Republicans and Conservatism watching them push through the Kavanaugh confirmation.  The Federalist Society could give them the names of a hundred other judges with the necessary background to join the US Supreme Courtand vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, protect corporations from regulation, and permit expansive voter suppression laws.  Most of these could at least maintain the appearance of impartiality and show more judicial temperament than Kavanaugh showed.

Yet they not only press forward, they feel a need do so in the most mean-spirited way possible. We’ve come to expect that from Donald Trump, and he hasn’t disappointed the last few days.  But until now we could at least try to tell ourselves that senior GOP leaders like Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham would not sink to such a base level.  Continue reading

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Ileana Johnson is not a Serious Person

Writing at The Bull Elephant (and Freedom Outpost), Ileana Johnson complains that:

“What is good has become bad, evil has become good, and moral values have been replaced by moral relativism, decadence, and filth. America continues to be fundamentally transformed from the shadows.”

Johnson is a conservative, so she’s not talking about Donald Trump paying porn stars not to talk about his (lack of) skills as a lover. She’s talking about Barack Obama promising to “’fundamentally transform’ America into a socialist paradise of his anti-American and racist ideology.”  I must admit to having a bit of trouble wrapping my mind around this, and Johnson does not elaborate in a way that clears up her meaning.  Continue reading

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Chris Collins and the Republican Project

Federal prosecutors indicted GOP Representative Chris Collins for insider trading yesterday.  Collins represents the 27thDistrict in northwestern New York and was an early Donald Trump supporter.  Right now his website touts three Federal grants to improve sewer, airport, and firefighting infrastructure in his district, which is how I suppose he expects to achieve his “Vision: The United States of America will reclaim its past glory as the Land of Opportunity, restoring the promise of the American Dream for our children and grandchildren.”

I guess it’s good to know that at least one GOP rep thinks Government works and should intervene without waiting for markets to allocate resources to regional airports and municipal sewer systems.  But since Collins voted for the tax “reform” act last year, he must also think borrowing money that his grandchildren will have to pay back will restore to them the “promise of the American Dream.”  Low taxes for corporations now and higher taxes for everyone else later sounds like the “Land of Opportunity,” all right – if you’re a corporate CEO or shareholder. Continue reading

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Mea Culpa

I’ve never been very prolific with respect to posting on this blog, and certainly not consistent.  Even an election campaign featuring one of the most obviously unfit candidates for President in American history didn’t change this pattern much.  Still, I wrote two posts arguing that Donald Trump could not possibly win the election.

Well, I damn sure got that one wrong. I simply could not bring myself to believe that American voters would elect a incompetent buffoon* President simply because he promised things no one actually believed he would or could do and said the quiet racist and xenophobic parts out loud.

Like many liberals I checked out of politics for a while after the election.  I simply could not stomach watching Trump’s Keystone Cops transition.  And of course I went into yet another blogging hiatus.

Until, a week or so ago I took a look at Foggy Bottom Line to make sure everything still worked and noticed a rare comment – this one from a Trump supporter:

HaHa! Don’t you feel stupid.

He won and you haven’t had much to say since.

Liberalism is cancer. Hell, you guys can’t even determine how many genders there are. Yet, you’re so scientific and stuff.

It’s time we move on. Nationalism today. Nationalism tomorrow. Nationalism forever.

You’re losing progressives. Your powers are receding. Your spell casts upon humanity is vanishing. Your grip on Western Civilization is weakening and the forces of the Right are prying it from your pale bony hands. Your protest and lamentations are convulsions, the last final death throes of a rotten and corrosive ideology soon to be erased, replaced, and forgotten.

We president now.

Not much here but name-calling and unfounded assertions about where American voters are politically.  Yes, Donald Trump is President now, thanks to an anti-democratic election system designed to protect the political power of slave states.  But it’s important to remember that no liberal Presidential candidate has lost the popular vote since 1988.  And if winning the Presidency demonstrates primacy of a particular ideology, I would have been right about Trump – Barack Obama, after all, won the Presidency – twice – in the name of liberalism (albeit not the most progressive kind).  So it’s not clear how this very close election – won more or less on a technicality – demonstrates an ideological wave moving right.  And it begs the question: how long before Trump’s “spell casts (sic) on humanity” vanishes?  How long before (white?) “Nationalism” loses its new “grip on Western Civilization?”

Nevertheless, I do indeed feel stupid.  Stupid because I seriously never saw President Donald Trump coming.  Stupid because I never dreamed that “nationalism,” (white nationalism?) had gripped so many Americans as a governing philosophy.  But mostly stupid because I didn’t raise my voice loudly or often enough to help prevent it.

If progressive liberal ideology is in fact “soon to be erased, replaced, and forgotten,” I don’t intend to remain silent as it does.  No, I have not had much to say since Donald Trump won the Electoral College.  I aim to fix that.

*I mean…the man lost a billion dollars running a casino.  You have to work hard at stupid to make that happen.  The only case in known gambling history of the house losing – and bigly.

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The GOP “Script”

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell wants Donald Trump to “get on script.”  By this, he of course means The Donald should quit saying the quiet parts out loud and get back to using the dog whistle.

McConnell and other conservatives don’t mind racism.  They happily appeal to racism and bigotry when they can use it to distract voters from the real source of their economic woes.  They just don’t want to change the official Republican Party brand from “family values for some families” to racism and bigotry.

Wait.  Maybe they already have that brand.

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#TrumpWillNeverBePresident II

A couple of takeaways from “Trump Orders Surrogates to Intensify Criticism of Judge and Journalists” at Bloomberg Politics:

@realDonaldTrump is a terrible leader and manager of staff.  He had no idea which staff member had sent the memo telling surrogates not to discuss the Trump University lawsuit.  Then he threw her under the bus, telling people on the call to “throw it out,” and asking if there were “any other stupid letters.”  “…you guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren’t all that smart,” he told supporters (including Jan Brewer and Scott Brown) on the call.  He seems to forget that he’s the incompetent executive who hired “people who aren’t all that smart” in the first place.

@realDonaldTrump hasn’t the foggiest idea what it takes to run a Presidential campaign or to assemble a winning political coalition.  He has no idea how to build and run the organizations and teams necessary to win the Oval Office.  If someone constructed it for him he would jerk it out of their hands like a toy he covets and start throwing it at the ground just to watch pieces fly off.  He doesn’t understand who does what (communications, organizers, fundraisers) or how these people achieve success (data analysis, volunteer recruiting, media plans).  He apparently doesn’t realize that political campaigns are highly specialized endeavors with a handful of professional experts who know how it’s done.  He has no use for either a sound strategic plan or expert guidance for the detailed tactical work needed to identify and motivate supporters.

@realDonaldTrump doesn’t understand that bullying your way through the storm after saying something offensive won’t help him expand his universe of potential supporters.  He can’t seem to help categorizing and referring to people as members of groups (Muslim, “the blacks,” “the Hispanics,” Mexican).  People hear this as a claim that tribal membership is the most important quality people have – it drives their behavior.  This is, of course, the very definition of racism – and I believe his willingness to say some of these things out loud has driven his popularity among many Republican primary voters.  At this point, however, it’s begun to offend his now wider audience.  Rather than back off this rhetoric, he’s asking surrogates to emphasize it.  This, by the way, puts people like Jan Brewer and Scott Brown in a tough position – they want to elect a Republican President, but probably don’t want to earn reputations as racists in the process.

#TrumpWillNeverBePresident.  He’s a terrible leader and can’t manage subordinates except through fear.  He calls junior staff “stupid” in front of other senior people.  He hasn’t the smallest clue what it takes to put together the national political coalition needed to win the US Presidency and apparently believes he can win simply by saying silly things on television so people pay attention to him.  And when he says silly things on television and the people around him advise reticence, he lacks the temperament to realize he’s in over his head.

This is all very good news for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. #TrumpWillNeverBePresident.

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No, Voting for Trump Won’t Accelerate Progressive Change

Yves Smith (aka Susan Webber), a management consultant and principal at Aurora Advisors, writes at Politico that the “highly educated, high-income, finance-literate readers of my website, Naked Capitalism, don’t just overwhelmingly favor Bernie Sanders. They also say “Hell no!” to Hillary Clinton to the degree that many say they would even vote for Donald Trump over her.”

They (9 out of 10 Smith friends polled) developed their “conclusions” from “careful study of her record and her policy proposals,” and believe the Clintons represent a policy status quo of “crushing inequality, and an economy that is literally killing off the less fortunate.” And they think “the most powerful move they can take to foster change is to withhold their support.” Continue reading

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