Weekend Hate-Reading

Because I am not a professional, I keep thinking this should’ve been headlined “You can’t make this stuff up, folks!” Good use of low-cost interactive media, just in case you’re stuck at a family reunion for someone else’s family or kept indoors during your vacation trip by a spate of nasty weather. When reporters say it’s impossible to keep up with the sheer volume of Trump research, they’re not kidding:

The Post is making public today a sizable portion of the raw reporting used in the development of “Trump Revealed,” a biography of the Republican presidential nominee published August 23 by Scribner. Drawn from the work of more than two dozen Post journalists, the archive contains 408 documents, comprising thousands of pages of interview transcripts, court filings, financial reports, immigration records and other material. Interviews conducted off the record were removed, as was other material The Post did not have the right to publish. The archive is searchable and navigable in a number of ways. It is meant as a resource for other journalists and a trove to explore for our many readers fascinated by original documents.



Friday Morning Open Thread: Cats Know

Not that it’s likely to happen, but Garrison Keillor has just the right tone for addressing Hair Fuhrer:

The cap does not look good on you, it’s a duffer’s cap, and when you come to the microphone, you look like the warm-up guy, the guy who announces the license number of the car left in the parking lot, doors locked, lights on, motor running. The brim shadows your face, which gives a sinister look, as if you’d come to town to announce the closing of the pulp factory. Your eyes look dead and your scowl does not suggest American greatness so much as American indigestion. Your hair is the wrong color: People don’t want a president to be that shade of blond. You know that now…

What the fans don’t know is that it’s not much fun being a billionaire. You own a lot of big houses and you wander around in them, followed by a waiter, a bartender, a masseuse, three housekeepers, and a concierge, and they probably gossip about you behind your back. Just like nine-tenths of your campaign staff. You’re losing and they know it and they’re telling mean stories about you to everybody and his brother…

Thoughts & prayers with our loved ones & friends in the Top-of-the-Newscast-Weather target area. Apart from that, what’s on the agenda as we wrap up an interminable week at the end of an abominable month?



Quite True, Actually

President Obama for several years has been trying to spend a good bit of money in West Virginia to help out all the people whose lives have been impacted by the decline in coal jobs. Things like this:

The plan, called POWER Plus and is part of the President’s proposed Fiscal Year 2016 Budget, provides more than $55 million in funding for job training, job creation, economic diversification, and other economic efforts in communities that have experienced layoffs due to the declining coal industry. According to the White House, that funding is “unprecedented” and will go toward improving the economic security of coal miners and their families, who have “helped keep the lights on in this nation for generations.”

Those investments include $20 million in funding for coal miners or coal plant workers who have lost their jobs in recent years. The money will go toward job transitioning services and programs for those who have lost their jobs in the coal industry. Another $25 million will go toward the Appalachian Regional Commission, which works to improve economic opportunities in Appalachia.

“Our point here is that while policymakers can disagree about the reasons why the coal industry is struggling, all Americans should be able to agree that these workers and communities, who are in some of the most economically distressed parts of the country, deserve help from the federal government,” Jason Walsh, a senior White House policy adviser told the Charleston Gazette.

I’ll give you one guess what has been standing in the way of this. Just one. At any rate, Obama finally got some money trickling in to the state, and this is how Joe Manchin and Shelly Moore-Capito responded:

West Virginia got some welcome news last week. A round of President Obama’s POWER initiative grants will pour $16 million into infrastructure and entrepreneurship projects to help West Virginians get back to work.

It is money well spent and well-deserved. Just because the world is moving away from fossil fuels doesn’t mean communities whose livelihoods and economies were built around the coal industry should bear all the painful economic change and job loss on their own.

President Obama believes that, and enough members of Congress agreed. So plenty of elected officials were celebrating the much-needed money coming to these counties. Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Capito put out their own joint announcement.

And in this good news, they could not help but take a shot at the Obama administration: “Years of onerous regulations that have targeted our state have put many West Virginians out of work and hurt local communities,” Republican Sen. Capito said in their news release.

“West Virginia has been devastated by this administration’s harmful regulations and we must continue to fight to keep our coal jobs and to make sure every out-of-work coal miner has access to meaningful job opportunities,” Democrat Sen. Manchin said in the release.

They still aren’t done humping the energy industry, and the delusional gomers down state still think coal si the future, so they are shitting all over the hand that feeds them. Fortunately, the Gazette-Mail is sick of the bullshit:

Perhaps if West Virginia leaders like Capito and Manchin had talked straight with their constituents on this issue for the last 10 years, fewer Southern West Virginians would have been in denial about the situation for all this time.

The coal jobs are going to disappear, whether people choose to protect their air and water or not. Why shouldn’t West Virginians have something left of their Almost Heaven when coal is done?

Sometimes, we wonder why President Obama bothers with places like West Virginia, which seem to give him nothing but grief, even when he is looking after the people’s needs and best interests. It’s because he is the bigger person.

You could pretty much say the last paragraph about every god damned state run by wingnuts these past eight years.








Late Night Hate-Fic Open Thread: Entertaining But *Very* NSFW

Owen Ellickson is an evil genius, and if you have a taste for nasty political humor you should most definitely be reading him on the regular. Just not at work, or around people with delicate sensibilities…



Long Read: “Soul of A New (Political) Machine”

I am personally pro-machine, both out of filial piety (my Irish grandparents owed their livelihoods to Tammany Hall) and because the known alternatives are so much worse. Perhaps the concept is due for revival, as the retro vintage artisanal alternative to the kleptocrats of our Second Gilded Age? Are we sophisticated enough, technologically or socially, to harness the machines’ benefits without the corruption for which they were infamous?

Kevin Baker, in TNR — “Political machines were corrupt to the core–but they were also incredibly effective. If Democrats want to survive in the modern age, they need to take a page from their past”:

How is it possible for Democrats—seemingly the natural “majority party,” on the right side of every significant demographic trend—to suffer such catastrophic losses? Explanations abound, most of which revolve around the money advantage Republicans derived from the Citizens United decision. Or the hoary, self-congratulatory fable of how Democrats martyred themselves to goodness, forsaking the white working class forever because it passed the landmark civil rights bills of 1964 and 1965. Or how the party must move to the left, or the right, or someplace closer to the center—Peoria, maybe, or Pasadena.

But there’s a more likely explanation for these Democratic disasters. While 61.6 percent of all eligible voters went to the polls in the historic presidential year of 2008, only 40.9 percent bothered to get there in 2010, and just 36.4 percent showed up in 2014, the worst midterm showing since 1942. What the Democrats are missing is not substance, but a system to enact and enforce that substance: a professional, efficient political organization consistently capable of turning out the vote, every year, in every precinct.

What they lack is a machine.

New York’s Tammany Hall, the first, mightiest, and most feared of the political machines, went online on May 12, 1789—less than two weeks after George Washington took the oath as president in the same city…. [T]he man who turned Tammany into a full-fledged political machine never actually joined the society: that murky intriguer, Aaron Burr. By 1799, Alexander Hamilton and his Federalists held a virtual monopoly on banking in New York, frustrating smaller businessmen who wanted to start their own banks and “tontines”—investment companies that would not only make them money, but also get around property requirements that kept even most white men from qualifying for the franchise. Burr marched a bill through the state legislature that created the Manhattan Company, which promised to slake the island’s thirst for a dependable water supply. But Burr slipped a provision into the bill that allowed the company to invest any excess funds however it desired—which was the legislation’s main purpose all along.

The upshot was that the Manhattan Company laid down a lot of water pipes that were little more than hollowed-out logs. They leaked badly and absorbed sewage, thus contributing to the city’s constant, deadly epidemics of cholera and yellow fever. But Burr’s company used the money it made from the scheme to found the Manhattan Bank (later to become Chase Manhattan, later to become JPMorgan Chase). The Hamilton banking monopoly was thus broken, and new banks and tontines proliferated, allowing financial speculation to run wild, and untold numbers of middle and working-class New Yorkers to gain the franchise for the first time. In this one coup, Burr established the defining characteristics of political machines for all the years to come: They would be first and foremost about making money, no matter the cost to the general good; they would supply significant public works, no matter how shabbily or corruptly; and they would expand the boundaries of American democracy in the face of all attempts by conservatives or reformers to contain it…

… Republicans have always been, for better and for worse, the truly radical party in this country, from the abolitionists and Lincoln’s “Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men” platform, to Progressivism and Teddy Roosevelt’s “New Nationalism,” to the right-wing conservatism of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, to the Ayn Rand utopianism of Paul Ryan. By contrast, machines made Democrats—again, for better and for worse—the party of compromise and inclusion…

***********
By the 1960s, even the mightiest machines were grinding to a halt. The Tammany tiger finally ran out of lives in 1961, put down for good by a coalition of Greenwich Village rebels, whose ranks included Eleanor Roosevelt, Jane Jacobs, and Ed Koch. Even Daley’s notorious Chicago organization, the last one standing, was no longer a machine in the old sense, surviving only on a combination of ruthless efficiency and ethnic resentment. The turmoil at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago completely unhinged Daley, who was caught by the cameras screaming “you fucking kike!” at Senator Abe Ribicoff on the convention floor, a previously unimaginable violation of machine etiquette.

Its death, however, did not stop politicians from continuing to rage against the machine. The silliest example of all is the fervent Republican contention that Barack Obama brought “Chicago politics” into the White House, as if the president learned his trade at Dick Daley’s knee. What they really mean by “the machine” is whatever clique of state legislators or local pols have figured out some new means of boodling public funds or soliciting bribes. But that’s simple theft. Today our politicians don’t steal because the machine helps them, but because we have ceded them the entire political system—as reflected in our miserable voter turnouts.

So the machines died, their demise hastened by the sweeping social revolutions of the 1960s and ’70s, which made them look reactionary and ludicrous—pudgy gray men in gray suits and hats, holding back the future. Good riddance. But what was to replace them? For a short time, it was constituent groups: disparate organizations fighting for civil rights and liberties, environmental causes, the poor and the dispossessed, community empowerment, and above all labor, which provided the bulk of the party’s funding and its ground troops. But this new arrangement soon began to unravel as well. As Thomas Frank points out, “Big Labor” was viewed as suspiciously by the Democratic left as the machines were, scourged for its cultural conservatism and support for the Vietnam War, caricatured as hopelessly mobbed-up and resistant to progress…

With the traditional pillars of their party crumbling, the Democrats turned to that balm for all political wounds in America: big money. In the process, they further abandoned their traditional populism, as well as their appeals to working people—appeals that, however imperfectly, stretched all the way back to the start of the machines. And those few leaders in the party who weren’t pandering to corporate and financial interests began to think in idealistic terms that have nothing to do with “practical politics,” habits that prevail to this day. For many years now, liberal/left campaigns have rarely revolved around specific bills or policies, but instead around broader and more abstract demands: climate change, say, or racial equality. The Occupy and Black Lives Matter movements have proven to be balky, fitful vehicles for social change. They lack the ruthless practicality and organization of their right-wing counterparts. Occupy invented the human microphone. The Tea Party took Congress.

Democrats need a Tea Party—less delusional, less hell-bent on destruction—that can do what the machines did…

Baker argues — and I don’t think he’s wrong — that the oligarchs and kleptocrats have bankrolled the Republican “machine” because it’s been a good investment for them. If we’re going to compete with them, Democrats need an equivalent structure that can nuture activists starting at the lowest levels of government (school boards, county commissions). We’ve gotten into the habit of assuming that the “public service” of running for office will mostly be funded by the would-be office holders, which — barring corruption, or outside financial support — means relying on the independently wealthy or the voluntarily penurious. And while we have sometimes been extraordinarily lucky (as when a patrician like FDR or a once-in-a-generation leader like Barack Obama decides to compete) it’s demonstrably not working as a process to keep this messy nation on an even keel.



Long Read: “Massive new Gallop study debunks a widespread theory for Donald Trump’s success”

I’m reading Richard Russo’s Everybody’s Fool — sequel to Nobody’s Fool — and the Trump voters in this Gallup survey are reminding me of Russo characters. (Certainly shifty, worthless developer Carl Roebuck would idolize Donald Trump.) Despite the mealy-mouthed punditry about “economic anxiety,” these Trump supporters would be the first to tell you they’re doing okay, mostly, considering everything. But they’re constantly irritated by a sense that it used to be so much easier for guys like them. Max Ehrenfreund and Jeff Guo, in the Washington Post:

Economic distress and anxiety across working-class white America have become a widely discussed explanation for the success of Donald Trump… Yet a major new analysis from Gallup, based on 87,000 interviews the polling company conducted over the past year, suggests this narrative is not complete. While there does seem to be a relationship between economic anxiety and Trump’s appeal, the straightforward connection that many observers have assumed does not appear in the data.

According to this new analysis, those who view Trump favorably have not been disproportionately affected by foreign trade or immigration, compared with people with unfavorable views of the Republican presidential nominee. The results suggest that his supporters, on average, do not have lower incomes than other Americans, nor are they more likely to be unemployed.

Yet while Trump’s supporters might be comparatively well off themselves, they come from places where their neighbors endure other forms of hardship. In their communities, white residents are dying younger, and it is harder for young people who grow up poor to get ahead…
Read more



Long (Encouraging) Read: “A Hillary confidante’s letters reveal a window into her friend’s life”

Isaac Stanley-Becker, in the Washington Post:

Hillary Clinton was first lady when an influential legal journal featured her in its spring volume, drawing tributes from such luminaries as Elie Wiesel, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and the Queen of Jordan.

But the most intimate portrait came from Diane Blair, a woman Clinton befriended in Arkansas who was not a Nobel laureate or legal scholar and never held elected office. Through 30 years of friendship, Blair knew more than perhaps anyone about Clinton’s private struggles as she became the governor’s wife, moved to the White House and transformed herself into the most famous woman in American politics.

In her tribute to Clinton in the 1995 Annual Survey of American Law, Blair portrayed her friend as a female crusader, setting an example at great personal cost.

“When I was a schoolchild I was both fascinated and horrified by stories of the canaries who were carried down into the mines as early warning systems for the miners; if poisonous gases started seeping into the mine-shafts, the canaries would quickly expire, thereby giving warning to the men in the mines. I wonder now whether Hillary is playing the risky part of national canary for the women of America,” Blair wrote.

Clinton wrote back to Blair in the summer of 1995, calling her a “fellow canary.”

“We flap our little wings harder and harder, while chirping as loudly as our voices permit about what’s happening around us,” she said. “Sometimes we even are heard outside our cages!”

Blair never sought the limelight, but she became one of Clinton’s closest confidantes as the first lady wrestled with what she saw as a legion of political detractors and a hostile press. Clinton turned to Blair with her fears that her husband was “ruining himself” and the presidency because he had no strategy to fight back at his enemies.
Read more