Archive for September, 2018

The New York Times “Anonymous” Op-ed

September 10, 2018

I defer to another guest column, by Francis Wilkinson in Bloomberg Opinion. Every word is on target. Edited by me for brevity:

Some people in the White House think Trump is ignorant, dangerous and unhinged. They told author Bob Woodward that, though not allowing him to use their names. One wrote a New York Times op-ed about Trump’s deranged reign — also anonymously.

Basically, everyone in the political business, including lots of people who collect taxpayer-funded salaries to pretend otherwise, know that Trump is a malicious, incompetent buffoon.

But 63 million voted for him, some venting their resentments and insecurities. Others hoped Trump, upon taking office, would magically rise from the ethical sewer in which he had spent a lifetime.

Nothing in the Times op-ed, or in comments to Woodward, alters GOP political dynamics. Republican insiders tell one another Trump is an abomination doing an abysmal job. What they tell their voters is something else. Eight in 10 — or more — Republicans approve of Trump’s performance. And because Republican leaders have spent years telling their voters to distrust legitimate news media and to believe only loyal partisans such as Fox News, there is no reason to expect the op-ed or the Woodward book or any other manifestation of truth to penetrate the carefully constructed unreality.

The Republican Party had already become ideologically extreme; contemptuous of inherited social and economic policy; scornful of compromise, of conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

Now it has embraced Trump’s rampant personal corruption and attacks on blacks and Hispanics and women. The party has escalated bad-faith attacks on news media that accurately chronicle Trump lies, and on institutions that resist the almost daily assaults on the rule of law and public ethics.

A nuclear holocaust has thus far been averted — thanks for that, Anonymous. But other acts of aggression, from the Muslim ban to voter suppression, continue undeterred.

The Trump administration planned and executed a policy of seizing infants from their parents at the U.S. border. It did so with such grotesque callousness that it is thus far unable to reunite hundreds of literally kidnapped children with their parents.

Not one Republican in Congress has held a hearing to find out how this crime occurred, and who is responsible. The corruption of the party is endemic. Anyone who thinks they escape the moral and political taint of this administration by murmuring anonymous misgivings about Trump is a fool as well as a coward.

The dishonest Kavanaugh charade

September 7, 2018

Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh says Roe v. Wade is “settled law.” Well, settled law is what the Supreme Court says. “Separate but (supposedly) equal” was settled law for 57 years until in 1954 the Court said it wasn’t. Kavanaugh refuses to admit that he would (with alacrity) provide the needed fifth vote to overturn Roe.

In fact that’s precisely his nomination’s raison d’etre. A lot of voters abide a stinking piece of shit as president just to get a Supreme Court that will end abortion rights. Trump is delivering on that devil’s bargain.

Kavanaugh’s record makes it a sure thing that he’d vote to reverse Roe. That was clear from Senator Hirono’s questioning. In one case Kavanaugh ruled that having to file a two-page form was an “undue burden,” while in another it wasn’t an “undue burden” on a woman to be held in involuntary detention — where in both cases the result was to prevent abortions.

Roe was a legal case but abortion is a political issue. If you want to curtail abortion rights, then at least have the honesty to say so — instead of hiding behind this “settled law” crap, which makes the whole process a dishonest charade.

Of course, honesty is the last thing we can expect from the Trump administration. There’s not an honest bone in its body.

For the record, I’m not pro-abortion, and always thought Roe was both badly decided and politically bad. Abortion rights were inexorably progressing through normal democratic processes, until the Court’s action made the issue toxically divisive. But for it to turn things upside down again now, by reversing Roe, would be even worse, unleashing political Armageddon. Saner heads on the Court should recoil from doing that.

But, like honesty, sanity is in short supply among today’s Republicans.

The Trump Tax on cars

September 6, 2018

NAFTA was a bad deal, the worst deal ever, sending jobs to Mexico. Our imports exceed exports, a bad thing. Trump’s tough talk of tariffs against Mexico made them give us a better deal. A big win. So much winning!

That’s the Trump story. Every word is a lie, including “the” and “to.”

NAFTA reduced trade barriers among Canada, Mexico, and America. This enabled Mexico and Canada to produce and export more — thereby becoming richer, and hence a bigger market for stuff we produce. (After NAFTA we export more to Canada and Mexico than we import from them.) Low production costs in Mexico enable Americans to buy stuff cheaper, and thus to buy more. Which creates more jobs — more than the ones lost to Mexico. That’s how free trade makes everybody better off.

That’s Economics 101. Which Trump flunked. (He got rich as a con artist.)

But isn’t Trump’s new deal with Mexico better for America? No, it’s worse — and worse for Mexico as well. Mexico agreed to it because the Trumpian alternative of full punitive tariffs was worse still (and Mexico’s incoming and outgoing presidents both wanted this issue resolved before the handover).

Cars are the main target. Trump’s deal will make Mexican car production costlier, so more production will occur in America. Good, no? No, because North American car makers don’t compete just against each other, but against the whole rest of the world. Making North American car production more expensive makes it less competitive against cars from all those other countries. And Trump’s idiotic trade policy raises the costs of not only Mexico’s car production, but our own. Cars use a lot of metal, and tariffs on metal, like aluminum, raise prices for it. Surely a plan for killing both U.S. and Mexican jobs and making us all poorer.

We don’t know yet how things will wind up with Canada. But meantime it’s estimated that Trump’s “great deal” with Mexico will add over $2000 to the cost of your next car purchase. Call it the Trump MAGA tax. (But don’t forget the big tax cut he gave millionaires.)

My New York primary endorsements

September 3, 2018

I enrolled last year as a Democrat, to vote in primaries to keep the party from veering too far left. That is complicated in New York because of the Cuomo corruption effect.

For Governor:

Nixon

Actor Cynthia Nixon is challenging Governor Cuomo’s renomination, from the left. I previously criticized her for trying to out-“progressive” Cuomo, when her big issue should be public corruption. In their August 29 TV debate, almost the first word out of her mouth was “LGBT.” It should have been “Moreland.”

That refers to the blue-ribbon commission Cuomo convened, pursuant to the Moreland Act, to investigate Albany corruption. Which was stinking to high heaven. Cuomo meant for the commission to focus on the state legislature. But when it started to look at his own office, Cuomo abruptly shut it down! Declaring it was his commission, and he could do whatever he wanted with it. (Actually, his fig leaf was that the objective had been accomplished with the legislature adopting some ethics reforms. Of course those reforms were a shell game, not even nibbling at the problem.)

Nixon did pronounce the word “Moreland,” just once, later in the debate. She had previously pledged to convene a new Moreland Act commission. But failed even to mention this.

The debate’s headline moment was when Cuomo told Nixon “Can you stop interrupting?” She shot back, “Can you stop lying?” “I will when you do,” he said. So he had been lying. Probably not an admission he intended. But sometimes the tongue is more candid than the brain.

Regarding leftness there really is little to choose between the two. But Cuomo is a repellent person whose corrupt approach to politics defines him (as I’ve detailed). Voting for Nixon is a no-brainer.

The other offices present tougher dilemmas.

For Lieutenant Governor (in primaries we vote for that office separately):

Hochul

Kathy Hochul, the incumbent, was Cuomo’s choice of a running mate. That was before he decided his political bread was buttered on the left side. Hochul was actually a nod to a more conservative upstate sensibility. I’ve heard her speak and have a pretty positive impression of her.

Her challenger is Nixon’s running mate, Jumaane Williams, an African-American NYC Council member. I knew, like Nixon, he stresses “progressive” issues, and has had some financial/business problems. Open-minded, I welcomed seeing a long interview on PBS’s New York Now.

At first I thought there was something wrong with my TV, but then realized it was not the picture twitching, but Williams himself. “He’s got Tourette syndrome,” I said to myself. By and by the interviewer said, “Viewers will notice your twitching.” Williams replied, “I have Tourette syndrome. And ADHD.”

Well, OK. I’m willing to contemplate some affirmative action there. That he’s gotten where has in politics despite his disabilities says something. The guy did speak normally and well, and showed some positive qualities of energy and civic commitment.

But the lieutenant governor has no importance, other than the possibility of becoming governor. So I ask myself, which of the two would I rather have as governor? I can’t see Williams being ready for that. Despite Hochul’s having been picked by Cuomo, she is not actually his creature. She’s the better choice.

For Attorney General:

With four candidates, it should be easy to pick one. Barbara Underwood was installed by the legislature to replace Schneiderman, who resigned for beating up women. But Underwood isn’t running. None of the actual candidates wanted to be picked by the legislature, seeing that as the kiss of death. Which tells you the esteem in which our legislature is held.

James

Letitia James is the NYC “Public Advocate” (the #2 elected position), the party’s official candidate, backed by Cuomo. Otherwise she might be an attractive candidate.

Now, James started her political career winning a city council seat running only on the Working Families Party line. (I’ve always thought that party name was great marketing, but really smarmy.) In 2014, Cuomo managed to get the left-leaning WFP to back him over his left-leaning challenger Zephyr Teachout. But this time the WFP went rogue and backs Nixon. Infuriating Cuomo. So he’s insisted that Letitia James turn her back on her WFP roots. This isn’t going down well. I couldn’t vote for her anyway because Cuomo wants her.

Leecia Eve

Sean Patrick Maloney is an “openly gay” Congressman, running for both re-election and Attorney General simultaneously — which isn’t going down well. Leecia Eve is the African-American daughter of Arthur Eve, who was a powerful longtime Buffalo assemblyman. She’s been “mentioned” for practically every big gong that’s come up in modern times. Eve did sound reasonable in the one short clip of her I saw. But in polls she lags far behind the others.

Teachout

Then there’s Zephyr Teachout, white and not actually gay (recently marrying a man, how retro is that?) yet nevertheless still a “progressive” darling, who lost races for governor in 2014 and Congress in 2016. I admit to feeling Teachout fatigue. I didn’t like her blast against charter schools. Her campaign has been boosted by endorsements by Saint Alexandria and the New York Times (neither of which move me).

I originally wrote this thing saying I’d vote for Teachout anyway. Then yesterday’s Albany Times-Union (which interviews the candidates) surprised me, with a strong endorsement for Eve. It was quite persuasive on her relevant broad experience and capabilities. She is independent of Cuomo, and not a “progressive” ranter like the others. So I was persuaded — power of the press!

*    *    *

The November choice will be equally difficult. Cuomo’s Republican opponent is Marc Molinaro, who is actually quite a good candidate, who says he did not support Trump. An absolute must if I’ll consider voting for a Republican. Still, I believe the whole party is so poisoned by Trumpism that it has to be electorally exterminated. Then there’s Stephanie Miner, former Syracuse mayor, another excellent candidate, who should have run in the primary, but instead chose a pointless third party run. And Larry Sharpe, the Libertarian, and also a really excellent, dynamic guy.

We’ll see.