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The Slippery Slope of Complicity

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PMURT KCUF
!!!PMURT KCUF

Paul Krugman writes, in part:

The real news of the past few weeks isn’t that Trump is a wannabe Mussolini who can’t even make the trains run on time. It’s the absence of any meaningful pushback from Congressional Republicans. Indeed, not only are they acquiescing in Trump’s corruption, his incitements to violence, and his abuse of power, up to and including using the power of office to punish critics, they’re increasingly vocal in cheering him on.

Make no mistake: if Republicans hold both houses of Congress this November, Trump will go full authoritarian, abusing institutions like the I.R.S., trying to jail opponents and journalists on, er, trumped-up charges, and more — and he’ll do it with full support from his party.

But why? Is Trumpocracy what Republicans always wanted?

Well, it’s probably what some of them always wanted.

(click here to continue reading Opinion | The Slippery Slope of Complicity – The New York Times.)

Very true. Trump is not some aberrant Republican, he is the GOP’s standard bearer, speaking out loud what most say in private. 

Krugman again:

But there are some special aspects of the modern GOP that make it especially vulnerable to this kind of slide into leader-worship. The party has long been in the habit of rejecting awkward facts and attributing them to conspiracies: it’s not a big jump from claiming that climate change is a giant hoax perpetrated by the entire scientific community to asserting that Trump is the blameless target of a vast deep state conspiracy.

And modern Republican politicians are, with few exceptions, apparatchiks: they are creatures of a monolithic movement that doesn’t allow dissent but protects the loyal from risk. Even if they should happen to lose a race in their gerrymandered districts, as long as they toed the line they can count on “wing nut welfare” — commentator slots on Fox News, appointments at think tanks, and so on.

Written by Seth Anderson

August 21st, 2018 at 8:46 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with ,

Treason

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Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason?
For if it proper, none dare call it treason.
– Sir John Harington

Quoted

Written by Seth Anderson

August 19th, 2018 at 10:14 am

Posted in politics

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Russia Hawk Axed From National Security Council Right Before Trump-Putin Summit

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Everything Must Be Done Occasionally
Everything Must Be Done Occasionally

Kate Brannen & Spencer Ackerman report:

Russia Hawk Axed From National Security Council Right Before Trump-Putin Summit

Retired Col. Richard Hooker is pro-NATO, skeptical of Russia, and out at the White House.

 Shortly before Donald Trump detonated a NATO summit, shanked the beleaguered British prime minister and prepped for a face-to-face love session with Vladimir Putin, his White House quietly divested itself of a senior official hawkish on Russia and bullish on the transatlantic military alliance.

The circumstances of retired Army Colonel Richard Hooker’s departure from the National Security Council on June 29 are in dispute. It’s not clear whether Hooker was forced out or if his detail on the NSC came to its natural end. But what’s not in doubt is that for the past 15 months, Hooker was senior director for Russia, Europe and NATO.

And just as his new boss, National Security Adviser John Bolton, was preparing to travel to Moscow to meet with Putin on June 27 to lay the groundwork for Trump’s visit, Hooker was packing up his desk. Now, he’s headed back to the National Defense University, the crown jewel of the Pentagon’s cross-service military-education system, which had loaned him to the NSC. Hooker is the latest NSC staffer to leave as Bolton reconfigures the influential policymaking body in his image. Like Hooker, Bolton has long viewed Russia a strategic threat to the United States, and accused Putin of lying to Trump about interfering in the 2016 election.

Hooker, who is highly respected in military circles, would not comment for this story, and an NSC spokesperson declined to comment on the record as well. But many sources familiar with him portrayed him as the sort of consensus defense official common in both Republican and Democratic administrations in the pre-Trump era.

(click here to continue reading Russia Hawk Axed From National Security Council Right Before Trump-Putin Summit.)

If this was just one incident, nobody would blink an eye. But instead, this is another incident where Trump’s sycophancy to Putin is policy. Or what passes for Trumpianism policy. 

You’d think Putin is Trump’s boss or something…

Written by Seth Anderson

July 15th, 2018 at 7:45 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , ,

EPA blocks warnings on cancer-causing chemical – formaldehyde

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V O T E
V O T E

Politico reports on why elections matter, part the 567,543,566th:

The Trump administration is suppressing an Environmental Protection Agency report that warns that most Americans inhale enough formaldehyde vapor in the course of daily life to put them at risk of developing leukemia and other ailments, a current and a former agency official told POLITICO.

The warnings are contained in a draft health assessment EPA scientists completed just before Donald Trump became president, according to the officials. They said top advisers to departing Administrator Scott Pruitt are delaying its release as part of a campaign to undermine the agency’s independent research into the health risks of toxic chemicals.

Andrew Wheeler, the No. 2 official at EPA who will be the agency’s new acting chief as of Monday, also has a history with the chemical. He was staff director for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in 2004, when his boss, then-Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), sought to delay an earlier iteration of the formaldehyde assessment.

Formaldehyde is one of the most commonly used chemicals in the country. Americans are exposed to it through wood composites in cabinets and furniture, as well as air pollution from major refineries. The new assessment would give greater weight to warnings about the chemical’s risks and could lead to stricter regulations from the EPA or class-action lawsuits targeting its manufacturers, as frequently occurs after these types of studies are released.

“They’re stonewalling every step of the way,” the current official said, accusing political appointees of interfering with the formaldehyde assessment and other reports on toxic chemicals produced by EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System. Industry has long faulted the IRIS program, the agency’s only independent scientific division evaluating the health risks of toxic chemicals, whose assessments often form the basis for federal and state regulations.

Interfering with the formaldehyde study is one of several steps Trump’s EPA has taken to side with the businesses the agency is supposed to regulate and undermine the agency’s approach to science, critics say. Public health advocates also expressed alarm after Pruitt replaced academic scientists with industry advocates on the agency’s influential science advisory boards and sought to limitthe types of human health research the EPA can rely on in rulemakings.

The officials said Trump appointees have required that career officials receive their permission before beginning the required internal review of the formaldehyde study and have canceled key briefings that would have advanced it. That interference came after EPA career scientists revised the study once already last year to insulate it from political controversy, they said.

(click here to continue reading Sources: EPA blocks warnings on cancer-causing chemical – POLITICO.)

So, scientists at the EPA are leaking to Politico because they don’t want to be hauled in to defend themselves in a class action law suit in a few years…

Tomorrow We Vote
Tomorrow We Vote

Just out of morbid curiosity, I googled formaldehyde manufacturers, and one of the first to come up is Georgia Pacific. You may recall their owner: Koch Industries. The EPA stonewalling makes a lot more sense now, doesn’t it?

And this isn’t a new story, as it was discussed back in 2010, for instance

Kevin Grandia reported:

Our research has uncovered very strong ties between Georgia-Pacific, a company co-owned by David Koch through Koch Industries, and a political lobby group called the Formaldehyde Council that is involved in efforts to downplay the dangers posed by formaldehyde to human health.

Formaldehyde is classified as a “Group 1 Carcinogen” which is defined as an agent that “is definitely carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and “a complete carcinogen” in the words of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The National Toxicology Program also recently revised its characterization of formaldehyde to that of “known human carcinogen.”

But this determination by top scientists and researchers has not stopped Formaldehyde Council Inc. from trying to convince lawmakers on Capitol Hill that the links between Formaldehyde and cancer are highly overstated.

According to IRS filings [pdf], the Formaldehyde Council was formed in 1995 with the mission to,

“encourage accurate scientific evaluation of Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde-based materials and to communicate sound scientific information relating to the uses, benefits and sustainability of these products.”
The Council’s operating budget in 2008 was $2.7 million and it reported $2 million in “membership dues and assessments.”

David Koch’s company, Georgia-Pacific, one of the largest manufacturers of Formaldehyde in the United States, is listed on the Formaldehyde Council’s website as a “member” since at least 2004.

(click here to continue reading Koch Industries Funds Attack on Science Linking Formaldehyde and Cancer | HuffPost.)

We need to have leaders in the EPA who actually care about protecting the environment, and our health, and not the profits of polluters like the Koch family.

Written by Seth Anderson

July 14th, 2018 at 9:34 am

Posted in environment,politics,science

Tagged with , ,

Trump’s trade war is hurting the dairy industry

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CE Zuercher  Co Wholesale Cheese
CE Zuercher & Co Wholesale Cheese

As part of our continuing mocking of Trump-voting industries being screwed by Trump, Slate reports:

As the Wall Street Journal reports Thursday, Mexico and China have decided to target up to $986 million worth of American dairy exports with tariffs as retaliation for the Trump administration’s protectionist moves. Mexico is increasing its duty on cheese, while China is hitting cheese and whey. With their growing middle-class populations, both countries have become important markets in recent years for the U.S. dairy industry, which has found itself struggling with overproduction in the face of declining domestic milk consumption. Milk futures for July are down since Mexico announced its tariffs earlier this year—the last time the country imposed similar tariffs on U.S. cheese, shipments fell by 26 percent—and companies are already fretting. The president of Wisconsin’s BelGioioso Cheese called the situation “a nightmare.”

This is part of a larger pattern for the Trump administration, which the New York Times documents at length. So far, the administration’s efforts on trade and regulation have ended up hurting the very industries they claim to be helping. The 10 percent tariff Trump placed on aluminum, for instance, has made raw materials more expensive for most of the companies that actually produce aluminum products in the U.S., since they’re generally in the business of importing those raw materials and shaping them into more valuable upstream products. Steel tariffs have made pumping crude more expensive for oil companies by adding to the cost of building rigs and buying equipment. Soybean prices are crashing in response to Chinese tariff threats. Detroit’s car-makers are worried about potential tariffs on foreign autos, with executives warning about possible retaliation. The law of unintended consequences is playing out, or about to play out, in sector after sector of the economy.

(click here to continue reading Trump’s trade war is hurting the dairy industry..)

I would guess many dairy company owners and employees in Wisconsin are starting to regret voting for the Trump trauma train… 

Global Cheese
Global Cheese, Kensington Market, Toronto

WSJ:

 Cheese makers that rely on foreign sales are suffering as China and Mexico raise tariffs on U.S. mozzarella and provolone.

 BelGioioso Cheese Inc., a second-generation family company in Wisconsin, has seen sales to Mexico drop since officials there implemented tariffs of up to 15% in early June on most U.S. cheese. The levies were a response to tariffs the U.S. placed on Mexican steel and aluminum.

 On Thursday, Mexico was slated to raise its levy on most U.S. cheese to as much as 25%, while China on Friday is implementing tariffs on $34 billion of U.S. goods, including cheese and whey, a dairy byproduct often fed to livestock.

 “It’s a nightmare,” said BelGioioso President Errico Auricchio.

The Trump administration’s trade agenda is threatening that growth, dairies say. The Mexican tariffs affect as much as $578 million in U.S. dairy goods, while China’s duties could hit $408 million of cheese, whey and other products, according to U.S. Chamber of Commerce data.

July milk futures have dropped 12% since Mexico announced May 31 that it would strike back with tariffs. The price for a barrel, or 500 pounds, of white cheddar last week hit its lowest level since 2009. More cheese is in cold storage in the U.S. than any time since the U.S. Department of Agriculture began keeping track in 1917.

U.S. dairy exports last year totaled $5.5 billion, including $1.3 billion to Mexico, the top market, according to the Export Council. China, meanwhile, bought more than $577 million in U.S. dairy products last year, nearly half of it whey. (The recent tariffs don’t affect all dairy exports to Mexico and China.) Almost half of U.S. whey sales went to China last year, the Export Council said. The threat of the Chinese tariffs that take effect Friday has already hurt those sales. 

 

(click here to continue reading Take Our Cheese, Please: American Cheese Makers Suffer Under New Tariffs – WSJ.)

Written by Seth Anderson

July 5th, 2018 at 5:25 pm

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with , ,

How Trump’s Policy Decisions Undermine the Industries He Pledged to Help

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Trump As Joker
Trump As Joker (source unknown)

As part of a continuing series about Trump supporters who have gotten screwed by Trump’s erratic trade policy pronouncements, the NYT reports:

In late March, the Trump administration began imposing a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum from countries including Russia, China, Turkey and Brazil. On June 1, it expanded the levies to include Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

While the steel industry supports the tariffs, the aluminum industry is mostly opposed. The tariffs raise prices for aluminum, which helps smelters, the companies that make raw aluminum here. However, only a handful of smelters still operate in the United States.

The Aluminum Association, which represents the bulk of the American industry, says that 97 percent of American jobs in aluminum are at what are called “downstream” businesses that shape the metal into things like auto parts or other goods. Those companies are hurt by Mr. Trump’s tariffs, because they must now pay higher prices for their raw materials.

(click here to continue reading How Trump’s Policy Decisions Undermine the Industries He Pledged to Help – The New York Times.)

It turns out electing a president who gets all his policy ideas from Fox News maybe isn’t such a good thing for the nation. Who woulda guessed?

Storing Wheat  Agfa Scala 200
Storing Wheat / Soy – Agfa Scala 200

And yet, despite all the evidence of Trump’s incompetence, and indifference, some Trumpsters remain on the Trump train:

“I would like to tell the president, ‘Man, you are messing up our market,’” said Kevin Scott, a soybean farmer in South Dakota and the secretary of the American Soybean Association. The idea of changing Nafta, he said, “gives us a lot of heartburn in farm country.”

 At the same time, Mr. Scott said, China’s threat to impose tariffs this weekon United States soybeans — in direct response to Mr. Trump’s tariffs on other Chinese-made products — is already having a negative effect on the prices farmers see. In recent days, Canada imposed its own retaliatory tariffs against the United States. And on Friday, General Motors warned that Mr. Trump’s threat of tariffs on imported cars could backfire, killing American jobs and leading to “a smaller G.M.”

Mr. Scott voted for Mr. Trump, and he approves of administration efforts to roll back environmental regulations, “But if we lose those Chinese and Mexican markets, it will be hard to get them back,” he said. China and Mexico are the two biggest markets for American soybean exports.

Richard Newell, president of Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington, described the administration’s overall approach as “whac-a-mole policy” that suggests a lack of appreciation of the complexity of global commerce. “The law of unintended consequences abounds,” Mr. Newell added.

Written by Seth Anderson

July 5th, 2018 at 6:58 am

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with ,

Trump repeatedly suggested invading Venezuela

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Trump Eventually We Will Get Something Done
Trump: Eventually We Will Get Something Done

The Guardian UK reports on an AP story filed earlier today:

Donald Trump repeatedly raised the possibility of invading Venezuela in talks with his top aides at the White House, according to a new report.

Trump brought up the subject of an invasion in public in August last year, saying: “We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option, if necessary.” But the president’s musings about the possibility of a US invasion were more extensive and persistent than that public declaration, according to the Associated Press.

The previous day Trump reportedly took his top officials by surprise in an Oval Office meeting, asking why the US could not intervene to remove the government of Nicolas Maduro on the grounds that Venezuela’s political and economic unraveling represented a threat to the region.

Quoting an unnamed senior administration official, the AP report said the suggestion stunned those present at the meeting, which included the then national security advisor, HR McMaster, and secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. Both have since left the administration.

The administration officials are said to have taken turns in trying to talk him out of the idea, pointing out that any such military action would alienate Latin American allies who had supported the US policy of punitive sanctions on the Maduro regime.

Their arguments do not seem to have dissuaded the president.

A grim-faced Tillerson stood alongside Trump the next day at his New Jersey golf course at Bedminster as the president warmed to his theme.

“We have many options for Venezuela, this is our neighbour,” Trump said.

“We’re all over the world and we have troops all over the world in places that are very very far away, Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering and dying. We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary.”

(click here to continue reading Trump repeatedly suggested invading Venezuela, stunning top aides – report | US news | The Guardian.)

Honestly, this scares me quite a bit. Trump is a creature of the corporate media (Fox, obviously, but CNN and the major newspapers too – Trump cares if they cover him), and has been trained by years of corporate media’s jingoistic support of any military action the United States happens to be involved in. Trump saw what happened to Bush’s ratings during the Iraq War1, how the invasion of Grenada played out, Noriega’s overthrow, yadda yadda. Trump is looking for any excuse to send our troops into battle, not for any geopolitical reasons, but to juice his approval ratings.

Footnotes:
  1. both of them, actually, Bush the Smarter, and W’s adventures in the Middle East []

Written by Seth Anderson

July 4th, 2018 at 4:01 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

The Shrinking Ambitions of Donald Trump’s Infrastructure Plan

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Stop Standing So Still 

The Nation reports:

Other than shouting about building a wall on the US-Mexico border, one of Donald Trump’s most frequently proclaimed promises on the 2016 campaign trail was the launching of a half-trillion-dollar plan to repair America’s crumbling infrastructure (employing large numbers of workers in the process). Eighteen months into his administration, no credible proposal for anything near that scale has been made. To the extent that the Trump administration has a plan at all for public investment, it involves pumping up Pentagon spending, not investing in roads, bridges, transportation, better Internet access, or other pressing needs of the civilian economy.

Not that President Trump hasn’t talked about investing in infrastructure. Last February, he even proposed a scheme that, he claimed, would boost the country’s infrastructure with $1.5 trillion in spending over the next decade. With a typical dose of hyperbole, he described it as “the biggest and boldest infrastructure investment in American history.”

Analysts from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania—Trump’s alma mater—beg to differ. They note that the plan actually involves only $200 billion in direct federal investment, less than one-seventh of the total promised. According to Wharton’s experts, much of the extra spending, supposedly leveraged from the private sector as well as state and local governments, will never materialize. In addition, were such a plan launched, it would, they suggest, fall short of its goal by a cool trillion dollars. In the end, the spending levels Trump is proposing would have “little to no impact” on the nation’s gross domestic product. To add insult to injury, the president has exerted next to no effort to get even this anemic proposal through Congress, where it’s now dead in the water.

(click here to continue reading The Shrinking Ambitions of Donald Trump’s ‘Infrastructure’ Plan | The Nation.)

Is anyone surprised? Really? Has Trump acted upon any of his campaign promises, other than his anti-immigrant histrionics? Even that is more flailing about than pouring concrete to build his Mexico wall. Creating actionable political plans is not something Trump’s team has ever been competent at, why should infrastructure be any different? 

A Poem Interrupted By Jealousy
A Poem Interrupted By Jealousy

Written by Seth Anderson

July 3rd, 2018 at 7:03 am

Posted in politics

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Trump donor vows to cut off funding to Republicans who don’t back DACA immigration fix

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Screaming In the Night
Screaming In the Night

The Chicago Tribune reports:

Frustrated by congressional gridlock, WeatherTech founder David MacNeil, a megadonor to Donald Trump’s inauguration, said Friday he is cutting off funding to any Republican candidate who doesn’t support pending legislation protecting young immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children.

“I’m not supporting politicians that aren’t working hard to get this done, from the dogcatcher on up,” MacNeil said by phone from Italy, where he was traveling.

MacNeil, an entrepreneur who built a car floor mat manufacturing empire in south suburban Bolingbrook, donated $1 million to Trump’s January 2017 inauguration. He shares the “made in America” mantra that dominated Trump’s campaign, as well as the call for tighter border security.

But Trump’s September decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has hit home for MacNeil, who has at least two people covered by the program among the 1,600 employees at WeatherTech.

(click here to continue reading WeatherTech founder, a Trump donor, vows to cut off funding to Republicans who don’t back DACA immigration fix – Chicago Tribune.)

I’d be more sympathetic to this dude if he put his money where his mouth is, and supported the party that actually does support a DACA immigration fix: the Democratic Party. But for Mr. MacNeil, the other parts of the Republican agenda are just fine: shredding the social safety net, reversing Roe vs. Wade, tax cuts for the 1% and corporations, destroying the EPA, etc. etc. But not immigration reform.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  

So, uh, yeah, I’m not throwing a party for David MacNeil. 

Written by Seth Anderson

May 29th, 2018 at 10:16 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

Trump Tells Congress it Has Deal to Help Out ZTE

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Up To 10 1 11 Number of People Dump Chinese Communist Party
Up To 10-1-11, Number of People Dump Chinese Communist Party

The New York Times reports:

The collapse of ZTE would be an embarrassing outcome for China and the company’s fate has become a hurdle in trade negotiations between the two countries. President Trump directed the Commerce Department to re-examine ZTE’s penalty based on a personal request from Chinese president Xi Jinping, triggering a fierce pushback from some of Mr. Trump’s national security advisers, as well as lawmakers from both parties.

Mr. Trump, however, has appeared unmoved by those concerns and has been pushing to reach some type of trade resolution with China, which has so far proved elusive. The administration wants to cut a deal on ZTE in exchange for trade concessions from China, including purchases of American agriculture and energy products, people familiar with the discussions said.

Such an agreement is likely to face fierce resistance on Capitol Hill. Top lawmakers, including Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic senate leader, and Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, have urged the administration not to bend on ZTE, which they consider a law enforcement and national security issue.

“ZTE presents a national security threat to the United States — and nothing in this reported deal addresses that fundamental fact,” Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, said in a statement. “If President Trump won’t put our security before Chinese jobs, Congress will act on a bipartisan basis to stop him.”

(click here to continue reading Trump Administration Tells Congress it Has Deal to Revive ZTE – The New York Times.)

Make China Great! Isn’t that what the Trumper hat said?

Pope Doesn t Want to Wear Her Make Donald Drumpf Again Hat for some reason
Pope (RIP) Doesn’t Want to Wear Her Make Donald Drumpf Again Hat for some reason

Especially because the reason why ZTE was penalized is such a talking point of the right wing, trade with Iran and North Korea:

 

 

Last year the US imposed a trade ban on American companies supplying equipment to Chinese telecoms giant ZTE Corp. Now, it appears the two countries are trying to work things out. According to sources briefed on the confidential negotiations, there has been a “handshake deal” between US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He which will lift the ban that effectively crippled ZTE’s operations.

 

The ban was imposed after ZTE was found to be illegally shipping US goods to Iran and North Korea. The US hit the company with a $1.9 billion fine, and originally agreed to suspend the ban for a three-year probation period. However, after the company was then caught lying about the way it punished those involved in the scandal, the ban was revived.

 

 

(click here to continue reading The US will help save ZTE even though it broke international laws.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 25th, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with ,

Trump vents his anger over immigration at Homeland Security secretary

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Symphony of White Number 97
Symphony of White, Number 97 

The Washington Post reports:

President Trump began berating Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in the Oval Office earlier this spring, according to administration officials, griping about her performance and blaming her for a surge in illegal border crossings. 

Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, who installed her in the job, jumped in to defend her. 

The two men then sparred over Nielsen as she silently watched.

[Trump] has also seen her as a proxy for Kelly, whose relationship with the president has frayed in recent months. Trump has decided, according to several aides, that Nielsen is a George W. Bush kind of Republican, the worst in his view.

President Trump walks with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen during his visit to Joint Interagency Task Force South anti-smuggling center in Key West, Fla., in April. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP) Nielsen has complained that it is almost an impossible task working for Trump, according to administration officials and others familiar with her thinking, and that he doesn’t understand the nuances of immigration law.

…“The president has a very rudimentary understanding of what the border is all about and how you secure it,” said a former DHS staffer who worked closely with Nielsen. “And she’s also not one of the border fire-eaters that have his ear right now. She’s in an impossible, no-win situation.”

Tensions between the two could soon flare again — the Border Patrol’s May arrest numbers are due to be released early next month, and immigration hawks, including the president, now treat them as a kind of barometer for Nielsen’s performance.

Now, five months into her tenure as Homeland Security secretary, the measures Nielsen has implemented — separating families, boosting arrests, increasing prosecutions — have made her a villain to many Democrats and immigrant rights’ groups. 

But they have not delivered the immediate results the president demands. In April, the number of illegal border crossers arrested by U.S. agents topped 50,000 for the second consecutive month. The increase has stripped the president of one of his proudest accomplishments — the sharp drop in illegal migration in the months immediately following his 2016 win.

(click here to continue reading ‘We’re closed!’: Trump vents his anger over immigration at Homeland Security secretary – The Washington Post.)

I have zero sympathy for any of these thugs, Ms. Nielsen included. However, Trump and Kelly seem even worse. What evil people…

The NYT reports about the “pro-lifers” in the White House:

 

A top official with the Department of Health and Human Services told members of Congress on Thursday that the agency had lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children it placed with sponsors in the United States, raising concerns they could end up in the hands of human traffickers or be used as laborers by people posing as relatives.

 

The official, Steven Wagner, the acting assistant secretary of the agency’s Administration for Children and Families, disclosed during testimony before a Senate homeland security subcommittee that the agency had learned of the missing children after placing calls to the people who took responsibility for them when they were released from government custody.

 

The children were taken into government care after they showed up alone at the Southwest border. Most of the children are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, and were fleeing drug cartels, gang violence and domestic abuse, government data shows.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Federal Agencies Lost Track of Nearly 1,500 Migrant Children Placed With Sponsors – The New York Times.)

You’d think misplacing 1,500 children would be as big a story as the so-called Fast and Furious pseudo-scandal. But to the right wing, guns are more important than children. If it were 1,500 fetuses, maybe the Fox News team might mention it, but kids and especially immigrant kids are not important to the GOP.

Alice in Wonderland
Alice in Wonderland

And as a parenthetical:

Many senior staffers at DHS were stunned when Nielsen was appointed to lead the department. She had never lead a large organization, let alone one as unwieldy as DHS.

Nielsen, 46, worked as a Homeland Security adviser and DHS staffer under George W. Bush, then spent the Obama years remaking herself as a cybersecurity expert. Her high-level management experience was thin.

When Trump was elected in 2016, Nielsen was running Sunesis Consulting, a firm whose online profile listed her as its lone employee. The company’s business address was a condo in Alexandria. The firm’s phone number, still visible online, is Nielsen’s personal cellphone.

All the best people:

 

Contact Information Sunesis Consulting, LLC 926 N Columbus St Alexandria, VA 22314

 

Contact: Kirstjen Nielsen Title: President Phone: (202) 841-2107 Website: www.sunesisconsultingllc.com

 

Sunesis Consulting, LLC is the only company located at 926 N Columbus St, Alexandria, VA 22314

 

 

(click here to continue reading Sunesis Consulting, LLC in Alexandria, VA – (202) 841-2107 – Profile.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 25th, 2018 at 8:58 am

China has called Trump’s bluff

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Storing Wheat  Agfa Scala 200
Storing Soy – Agfa Scala 200

The NYT reports:

China has called President Trump’s bluff.

Chinese negotiators left Washington this weekend with a significant win: a willingness by the Trump administration to hold off for now on imposing tariffs on up to $150 billion in Chinese imports. China gave up little in return, spurning the administration’s nudges for a concrete commitment to buy more goods from the United States, and avoiding limits on its efforts to build new high-tech Chinese industries.

China’s propaganda machine took a victory lap after the talks, proclaiming that a strong challenge from the United States had been turned aside, at least for now. “Whether in Beijing or Washington, in the face of the unreasonable demands of the United States, the Chinese government has always resolutely fought back, never compromised, and did not accept the restrictions set by the other side,” the official Xinhua news service said in a commentary on Sunday.

In a cheeky expression of China’s rising power, two juxtaposed photos were widely circulated on Chinese social media, a post that was shared (but later deleted) by the Communist Youth League. One photo was taken during the trade talks in Washington, appearing, if somewhat biasedly, to trumpet the youthfulness of Chinese delegates compared to American lawmakers. Another, dated from 1901, showed the opposite as representatives from China and colonial powers signed an accord to end the Boxer Rebellion, considered a national humiliation.

(click here to continue reading Trump’s Charm and Threats May Not Be Working on China. Here’s Why. – The New York Times.)

Like so many of the other self-given descriptions of the Orange Dotard, the Best Negotiator is a lousy deal maker. 

China gave up nothing, and Russian farmers got a big sale of soy beans that American farmers lost. Heck of a job, Trumpie…

Wheel of Life
Wheel of Life

As Bloomberg reported:

 

China, the world’s biggest soybean importer, almost tripled purchases from Russia amid a trade dispute with the U.S., the biggest producer.

 

Russia sold about 850,000 metric tons of soybeans to China from the start of the 12-month season in July through mid-May, according to Russia’s agriculture agency Rosselkhoznadzor. That’s more than during any season before and compares with about 340,000 tons sold during all of the previous period, Chinese customs data show.

China has already canceled several shipments from the U.S. in anticipation of tariffs on the country’s products. While Brazil is expected to take much of that market share, Russia is also benefiting.

 

 

(click here to continue reading China Buys Record Amount of Russian Soy as It Shuns U.S. Growers – Bloomberg.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 21st, 2018 at 2:04 pm

Posted in Business,politics

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House Farm Bill Collapses Amid Republican Disarray

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Smiling Tractors Sometimes
Smiling Tractors Sometimes

The NYT reports:

The factional rancor threatening Republicans heading into the midterm elections this fall erupted into the open on Friday when a slugfest among moderates, hard-line conservatives and House leaders over immigration and welfare policy sank the party’s multiyear farm bill.

The twice-a-decade measure — which would have imposed strict new work requirements on food aid recipients while maintaining farm subsidies important to rural lawmakers — failed on a 213-to-198 vote. It was a rebuke of Speaker Paul D. Ryan by a key bloc of conservatives over his refusal to schedule an immediate vote on a restrictive immigration bill sponsored by the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Republican moderates, for their part, were moving in the opposite direction, shrugging off the pleas of their leaders as they worked toward forcing votes on legislation to protect from deportation young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

The fights were striking, not only because of their intensity but also because of the participants. Capitol Hill has grown used to altercations between Republican leaders and their adamant right flank — showdowns that have shut down the government and edged the government toward defaulting on its debt. But in past fights, the party’s moderates have proved compliant.

This time, with their districts dominating the Democrats’ target list for the coming midterm races, the moderates are holding firm to their own demands.

(click here to continue reading House Farm Bill Collapses Amid Republican Disarray – The New York Times.)

More Congressional disfunction, and with no easy solution, at least until the 2018 elections. Paul Ryan has no “juice” left, as he’s a lame duck. He actually should go ahead and resign his Speakership now.

Hay Bales
Hay Bales

Tom Philpott of Mother Jones adds a little context:

 

Back in 2016, the Republican Party won the presidency and both chambers of Congress with strong support in rural areas, particularly among farmers. But since that triumph, the Grand Old Party hasn’t exactly been a champion of rural interests. As I’ve written in recent months, President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration is essentially an attack on the workers who keep America’s farms and many rural towns humming. And his trade belligerence with China and Mexico amount to near-surgical strikes against farmers who supported him in California, the Southeast, and the Midwest’s corn and soybean belt.

 

In the middle of this drama, Congress is tasked with renewing the farm bill—twice-a-decade legislation that shapes US agriculture and food-aid policy. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), chair of the House Agriculture Committee, hopes to bring his version to a vote on the House floor this week. Let us count the ways it would bring pain to the US heartland:

The US House of Representatives voted down the farm bill this morning by a margin of 198-213. The Washington Post called it a “major embarrassment to GOP leaders” like outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who had hotly promoted the bill. In a Thursday Twitter thread, I laid out the political dynamics that ultimately killed the bill. It remains unclear whether the House Agriculture Committee chair, Rep. Mike Conaway (R.-Texas), will attempt to bring it back to the floor for another vote. House Democrats, who universally opposed the bill, hailed the failure as a victory for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which the bill would have effectively cut. Here’s Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.)

 

 

(click here to continue reading The House Farm Bill Just Failed – Mother Jones.)

Wisconsin countryside
Wisconsin countryside

and from that referenced WaPo article, the bill is dead anyway, as the Senate is not even close to accepting the House version:

 

 

A sweeping farm bill failed in the House on Friday in a blow to GOP leaders who were unable to placate conservative lawmakers demanding commitments on immigration.

 

The House leadership put the bill on the floor gambling it would pass despite unanimous Democratic opposition. They negotiated with members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus up to the last minutes.

 

But their gamble failed. The vote was 213 to 198, with 30 Republicans joining 183 Democrats in defeating the bill.

 

The outcome exposed what is becoming an all-out war within the House GOP over immigration, a divisive fight the Republicans did not want to have heading into midterm elections in November that will decide control of Congress.

The House farm bill would have been a non-starter anyway in the Senate, which is writing its own farm bill. Any legislation that ultimately makes it to Trump’s desk will have to look more like the version in the Senate, where bipartisan support will be necessary for anything to pass and there is not sufficient support for the food-stamp changes.

 

 

(click here to continue reading In blow to GOP, House fails to pass massive farm bill in face of conservative Republican showdown – The Washington Post.)

Sad that these are the supposed leaders of our country, and they can’t get anything accomplished. I blame gerrymandered districts…

Written by Seth Anderson

May 20th, 2018 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Food and Drink,government,politics

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NRA gathers docs amid scrutiny over ties to Kremlin-linked banker

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Buy A Dog Not A Gun
Buy A Dog Not A Gun

CNN reported recently:

The National Rifle Association is setting aside years of documents related to its interactions with a Kremlin-linked banker, as the gun-rights group appears to be bracing for a possible investigation, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The NRA has faced fresh scrutiny from congressional investigators about its finances and ties to Alexander Torshin, one of the 17 prominent Russian government officials the US Treasury Department recently slapped with sanctions. The gun-rights group has said it is reexamining its relationship with Torshin, who is a lifetime NRA member, in the wake of the sanctions. The renewed attention has highlighted the close-knit if sometimes uneasy alliance between top NRA officials and Torshin — a relationship that ensnared members of Trump’s team during the presidential campaign, inviting further congressional scrutiny.

Those inquiries could shed light on the tightly held fundraising practices and political activities of the NRA. The political powerhouse shelled out more than $30 million in 2016 to back Donald Trump’s candidacy — more than it spent on 2008 and 2012 political races combined, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

(click here to continue reading NRA gathers docs amid scrutiny over ties to Kremlin-linked banker – CNNPolitics.)

A deep, longstanding relationship between Russia and the NRA would not surprise me in the slightest. Where does the NRA get all of its funds anyway? Not from individual contributions, the math doesn’t work. At best, the NRA has 5 million members, and allegedly, many of these are inactive.

I find it extremely plausible that the Russians were funneling funds through the willing NRA leadership to help Trump, and other Republicans. 

FCK NRA
FCK NRA

McClatchy reported earlier this year:

The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency, two sources familiar with the matter have told McClatchy.

FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said.

It is illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections.

It’s unclear how long the Torshin inquiry has been ongoing, but the news comes as Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sweeping investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including whether the Kremlin colluded with Trump’s campaign, has been heating up.

Last February when Torshin visited Washington, Rockefeller heir and conservative patron George O’Neill Jr. hosted a fancy four-hour dinner for the banker on Capitol Hill, an event that drew Rohrabacher, Erickson and other big names on the right. Rohrabacher has labeled Torshin as “conservatives’ favorite Russian,” Torshin was in Washington at the time to lead his country’s delegation to the National Prayer Breakfast, where Trump spoke. The banker also was slated to see the presidentat a meet-and-greet event prior to a White House breakfast, but Torshin’s invitation was canceled after the White House learned of his alleged mob connections, Yahoo News reported.

Torshin’s involvement with the NRA may have begun in 2013 when he attended the group’s convention in Houston. Keene, the ex-NRA leader and an avid hunter, was instrumental in building a relationship with the Russian, according to multiple conservative sources.

Keene also helped lead a high-level NRA delegation to Moscow in December 2015 for a week of lavish meals and meetings with Russian business and political leaders. The week’s festivities included a visit to a Russian gun company and a meeting with a senior Kremlin official and wealthy Russians, according to a member of the delegation, Arnold Goldschlager, a California doctor who has been active in NRA programs to raise large donations.

Others on the trip included Joe Gregory, who runs the NRA’s Ring of Freedom program for elite donors who chip in checks of $1 million and upwards, Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke and Pete Brownell, a chief executive of a gun company and longtime NRA board member.

In a phone interview, Goldschlager described the trip as a “people-to-people mission,” and said he was impressed with Torshin — who, he noted, hosted both a “welcoming” dinner for the NRA contingent and another one.

“They were killing us with vodka and the best Russian food,” Goldschlager said. “The trip exceeded my expectations by logarithmic levels.”

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article195231139.html#storylink=cpy

 

(click here to continue reading FBI investigating whether Russia funneled cash to NRA to aid Trump’s campaign | McClatchy Washington Bureau.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 18th, 2018 at 12:57 pm

Posted in crime,politics

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Trump cuts to H-2B guest worker visas hurt small business

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Stark beauty of snowy cemetery
Stark beauty of snowy cemetery

There’s an evergreen news topic: Trump voter screwed by Trump. It’s almost a joke, but certainly real for the people and business screwed by Trump and the GOP.

The Lexington Herald Leader reports:

Eddie Devine voted for President Donald Trump because he thought he would be good for American business. Now, he says, the Trump administration’s restrictions on seasonal foreign labor may put him out of business.

“I feel like I’ve been tricked by the devil,” said Devine, owner of Harrodsburg-based Devine Creations Landscaping. “I feel so stupid.”

Devine says it has been years since he could find enough dependable, drug-free American workers for his $12-an-hour jobs mowing and tending landscapes for cemeteries, shopping centers and apartment complexes across Central Kentucky.

Devine says he lost a $100,000 account because he didn’t have enough men to do the job. He’s worried he may be out of business next year if things don’t improve.

He isn’t alone. Cuts in H-2B visas are hurting small businesses across the country that can’t find Americans willing to do hard, manual labor: Maryland crab processors, Texas shrimp fishermen, and Kentucky landscapers and construction companies.

But what makes him most angry is that Trump’s properties in Florida and New York have used 144 H-2B workers since 2016. “I want to know why it’s OK for him to get his workers, but supporters like me don’t get theirs,” Devine said.

(click here to continue reading Trump cuts to H-2B guest worker visas hurt small business | Lexington Herald Leader.)

Do I have sympathy for Eddie Devine? Not much. Trump’s anti-immigration stance wasn’t some secret, only known to Steven Miller and John Kelly, no, Trump led chants of “Build the Wall” at seemingly every rally. Perhaps in the future, Trumpers might think a little bit harder about what they are really voting for, instead of becoming part of the Fox News mob. I doubt it, though. 

Fading One By One
Fading One By One

Thomas Frank wrote a book about this phenomena, even before Trump made this worse:

Wikipedia:

 

What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (2004) is a book by American journalist and historian Thomas Frank, which explores the rise of populist anti-elitist conservatism in the United States, centering on the experience of Kansas, Frank’s native state. In the late 19th century, says Frank, Kansas was known as a hotbed of the left-wing Populist movement, but in recent decades, it has become overwhelmingly conservative. The book was published in Britain and Australia as What’s the Matter with America?.

Frank applies his thesis to answer the question of why these social conservatives continue to vote for Republicans, even though they are voting against their best interests. He argues that politicians and pundits stir the “Cons” to action by evoking certain issues, such as abortion, immigration, and taxation. By portraying themselves as champions of the conservatives on these issues, the politicians can get “Cons” to vote them into office. However, once in office, these politicians turn their attention to more mundane economic issues, such as business tax reduction or deregulation. Frank’s thesis goes thus: In order to explain to the “Cons” why no progress gets made on these issues, politicians and pundits point their fingers to a “liberal elite,” a straw man representing everything that conservatism is not. When reasons are given, they eschew economic reasons in favor of accusing this elite of simply hating America, or having a desire to harm “average” Americans. This theme of victimization by these “elites” is pervasive in conservative literature, despite the fact that at the time conservatives controlled all three branches of government, were being served by an extensive media devoted only to conservative ideology, and had won 6 of the previous 9 presidential elections.

 

 

(click here to continue reading What’s the Matter with Kansas? – Wikipedia.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 15th, 2018 at 10:41 am

Posted in Business,politics

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