Late Night Open Thread: 24-Carat Ingratitude

Much more of a symbolic protest than an actual boycott, of course; if not to the Repubs, where are a bunch of bloodthirsty economic parasites gonna go?

As national Republicans scramble their resources for a high-stakes midterm election year, some of the party’s biggest and most reliable donors have quietly withheld their support for Senate and House Republican groups out of frustration with the new tax law, CNN has learned…

…[S]ome of the Republican Party’s powerhouse donors in fact feel deeply stung by the law and have made their displeasure known to party leaders by keeping their wallets shut, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation, who spoke with CNN on condition of anonymity. Although some of the donors have not sworn off contributions to individual campaigns or even the Republican National Committee, all have so far withheld contributions to the House and Senate Republican campaign arms — which are key players in the 2018 midterm elections — as a way to send a message over the law.

The donors who have boycotted, all of whom are leaders of prominent hedge funds, include Paul Singer, of Elliott Management; Citadel’s Ken Griffin; Warren Stephens of Stephens Inc.; Cliff Asness of AQR; Bruce Kovner, formerly of Caxton; and Third Point’s Daniel Loeb. Combined, their donations accounted for more than $50 million to Republican groups during the 2016 election cycle; Singer ranked among the top 10 donors of either party, while Griffin and Stephens ranked in the top 20.

Collectively, they have bristled at what they view as favored treatment for corporations under the law. While the corporate tax rate was slashed from 35% to 21%, hedge funds are largely taxed at the top individual rate, which ticked down from 39.6% to 37%…

Although Singer has donated six figures to the Republican National Committee this year and has given directly to the campaigns of Reps. Martha Roby and Claudia Tenney, he has uncharacteristically not donated to groups supporting House and Senate Republicans. Stephens’ only engagement has been maxing out to a few congressional campaigns in Arkansas, his home state. Griffin has not donated to any federal campaigns or committees this year, according to FEC data, although a source familiar with his thinking said donations to congressional candidates and national Republicans are forthcoming.

Asness donated $250,000 to the Congressional Leadership Fund last year, in addition to more than six figures to the NRCC — but has not given since Trump signed the tax law. Loeb has supported Mitt Romney’s Senate campaign in Utah and Roby’s reelection bid but has not opened his wallet for any national Republican groups. And Kovner has not donated this year to federal candidates or committees — after last year giving six-figure sums to the NRSC and Speaker Paul Ryan’s PAC…



Tuesday Morning Open Thread: The Sorrow of the Repubs


 
Paul Ryan’s tears, they are delicious! From the Washington Post, “GOP increasingly fears loss of House, focuses on saving Senate majority”:

Republicans are increasingly worried they will lose control of the House in the midterm elections, spurring an urgent campaign to hold the Senate with a simple message: Only the majority will ensure confirmation of conservative judges and President Trump’s nominees.

To many, the Senate is emerging as a critical barrier against Democrats demolishing Trump’s agenda beginning in 2019. Worse yet, some in the GOP fear, Democrats could use complete control of Congress to co-opt the ideologically malleable president and advance their own priorities.

Democratic enthusiasm is surging in suburban districts that House Republicans are struggling to fortify, causing GOP officials, donors and strategists to fret. They have greater confidence in more-rural red states that Trump won convincingly and that make up the bulk of the Senate battlefield.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his allies are seeking to capitalize on ­concerns about the House. He is leading an effort to motivate ­conservative voters by reminding them that his side of the Capitol has the unilateral power to confirm federal judges to lifetime appointments and Trump administration nominees.

Trump is showing a keen interest in the Senate landscape, raising money for a highly touted challenger, helping clear the primary field for an endangered senator and playfully engaging in an intraparty contest…

Oh yeah, Donny Dolllhands is gonna be such a big help right now — in the time he can spare from avoiding Robert Mueller. And Stormy Daniels. And all the other Trump-scam-victim plantiffs…

While some Republicans believe they can expand their 51-to-49 Senate advantage, simply holding the slim majority has grown increasingly more complicated. Hard-right Republicans running in Arizona and Mississippi and a competitive open race in Tennessee could lead to Democratic gains. An even better pickup opportunity exists for Democrats in Nevada.

But on the whole, the Democratic path to the Senate majority is more daunting: They are defending 26 seats to just nine for the Republicans. Trump won in 10 of the states where Democrats are playing defense. They include North Dakota, West Virginia, Indiana and Missouri — all states he won by 19 points or more.

In the House, Republicans have built their ranks on locking down seats in suburban and exurban districts. But in these areas, Democratic turnout has been high in elections over the past year, ­fueled by anger with Trump. If Democrats can gain 23 House seats, they will clinch the majority.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) put the chances of holding the House majority at “50-50.” The veteran party strategist warned that “the environment could easily continue to deteriorate,” and said he didn’t begrudge McConnell for pitching his case for the Senate….

But how does Pauly Blue Eyes feel about getting thrown under the Trump bus caravan?

Michael Steele, a former Republican National Committee chairman, said the House “may be further gone than people like to admit publicly.” While many in the party worry about a Democratic House and Senate launching an endless string of hearings and investigations into Trump, Steele said he has a different concern — that Democrats will work with the president to pass legislation that Republicans won’t like.

“Trump will cut whatever deal he can get a vote on,” he said. The president, he argued, “is an opportunist.”…

After the way the GOP dumped Michael Steele a hot second after promoting him as their ‘Black Best Friend’ was no longer so important, the man has to be enjoying his former employers’ plight, just a little. What’s the old Chinese proverb — Sit by the river long enough, and the bodies of your enemies will float past



King Knut Knew What He Was Doing. These Bozos Don’t

Today’s climate change updates in the LALALALALALALA I Can’t Hear You file…

Exhibit A:

National Park Service officials have deleted every mention of humans’ role in causing climate change in drafts of a long-awaited report on sea level rise and storm surge, contradicting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s vow to Congress that his department is not censoring science.

The document was supposed to report results of studies on the risks to National Park properties from sea level rise, which is one of the major proximate consequences of anthropogenic global warming.  Stuff like this:

The report, titled, “Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge Projections for the National Park Service,” reveals that national treasures will face severe flooding if global greenhouse gases keep increasing. Some of its projections, according to the drafts, include:

  • In North Carolina, the Wright Brothers National Memorial has the highest projected increase in sea level among parks nationwide – 2.69 feet by 2100 under a scenario of high growth of greenhouse gases. Along with Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras national seashores, the memorial could face significant permanent flooding. “Future storm surges will be exacerbated by future sea level rise nationwide; this could be especially dangerous for the Southeast Region where they already experience hurricane-strength storms,” the report says.
  • In Virginia, three parks – Colonial National Historical Park, home of Historic Jamestowne; Fort Monroe National Monument; and Petersburg National Battlefield – face the biggest potential sea level increases in the park service’s Northeast region – 2.66 feet by 2100.
  • Parks in the Washington, D.C., region could experience some of the greatest sea level increases – 2.62 feet by 2100. “Storm surge flooding on top of this sea level rise would have widespread impacts,” the report says.
  • If a Category 2 hurricane hit Florida’s Everglades National Park, the entire park could be flooded, with most of it under several feet of water.

This is the kind of information that would be useful — complete with an analysis of causes and mechanisms — to anyone trying to think how to protect America’s parks, and/or mitigate the damage that human action has set in train.  Interior Secretary Zinke and his staff — and the Trump administration as a whole, and the GOP in toto — seem to think that not saying certain words means that what those words name won’t happen.

Sadly, of course, carbon dioxide don’t care if Mr. Zinke doesn’t want to pay attention to its radiative properties. The atmosphere in bulk isn’t somehow going to get rid of the last 20 years of CO2 ppm increase just because Republicans shout at it.  The ocean isn’t going to turn around in its tracks because Deadbeat Donnie, the orange hemorrhoid-cream salesman now sadly infesting the White House wiggles his ample posterior over a putt (that he’ll miss) on some seaside golf course.

King Knut knew better, even if he had to make the live demonstration to prove it too his court.

And then there’s Exhibit B:

Dead Man Walking Trump/GOP Corruption Poster Child Scott Pruitt won’t be dynamited out of his office at the EPA without attempting to gut one more Obama-era accomplishment, the increase in fleet fuel efficiency requirements for American light trucks and cars:

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt announced Monday that he would revoke Obama-era standards requiring cars and light trucks sold in the United States to average more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025, a move that could change the composition of the nation’s auto fleet for years.

This is no surprise from Pruitt, of course, who never met a fossil he didn’t want to burn (and whose long term livelihood and political ambitions turn entirely on making sure Big Carbon loves them some Scott).  It will be challenged in court, and California may yet save the day.

Before that gets settled, though, two thoughts:

First: this is a reminder that you cannot trust oligopoly capital under any circumstances. The new standards were negotiated over a quite a long time with the big automakers, and they signed on to the Obama deal. As soon as Trump was elected, they reneged:

Pruitt’s decision reflects the power of the auto industry, which asked him to revisit the Obama administration’s review of the model years 2022-2025 fuel-efficiency targets just days after he took office.

The Auto Alliance (these guys) will tell you that they’re all about clean transportation — just look at their home page!  But it took them less than a month (see p. 4) into the new guy’s term to write to the Trump administration and seek a do-over.  You could have had these guys put up Agamemnon’s pledge and they’d have backed out on this deal as soon as they got the chance.

So:  moral one. Don’t trust anyone with that much cash on the line until you have at least one of their kidney’s in pawn. And maybe not even then.

Moral two: this is how big US industries die.  I’m sure it will be nice for those who pay for their hookers and blow by selling SUVs that the gravy train will run a few years longer.  But the rest of the world isn’t completely ignorant of climate change and, more immediately, the insane and expensive toll that air pollution takes on their cities.

I’m old enough to remember the ’70s, when the Big Three US automakers discovered in a shocking short time just how destructive it could be to miss the next technological and design shift.  Fuel efficient and alternate fuel vehicles are not just coming; they’re here. If the US-based auto industry wants to let China or whoever get one, two, three generations ahead of domestic production, that’ll happen.  And those companies and vehicles will roll, and ours will straggle behind.

Again: our kleptocratic leaders can say what they want. Shortsighted corporations can grab for the next dollar, and miss next year’s millions. Don’t change a thing.

So, in sum: this is one dumb move on every level, and puts yet more pressure on an already breaking climate system. But I don’t think that a change in US fleet standards is nearly as big a deal as Pruitt et al. wish it were.  Much of the world doesn’t give a shit about our stupidity, and the creation of a more efficient transport system is already on rails (sorrynotsorry).  ISTM that this move is mostly a surrender of crucial industrial ambition and opportunity to other regions and will have only a minor effect on emissions going forward.

IOW: Trump, Pruitt, the Republicans and Big Auto just punched America in the nuts, for all the joy it brings them.

Also too: King Knut was a pretty smart guy.

Images: Joseph Mallord William Turner, Calais Pier1803.

Jan Steen, The Sacrifice of Iphigenia1671.



RWNJ “American Priveledge” Open Thread — Everybody JUMP!

Another reminder: We Democrats just have to work harder at organizing, because we lack that lemming instinct which makes astroturfing the GOP so easy and profitable. Political scientist David A. Hopkins, “Why The “Liberal Tea Party” Doesn’t Exist (And Why Some People Think It Does)”:

Matt Grossmann and I explained in Asymmetric Politics why the Democrats are much less vulnerable to ideological purification campaigns than Republicans are, and we summarized our argument in this piece for Vox Polyarchy. Part of the story is that the American left simply lacks much of the institutional infrastructure that promoted and sustained the Tea Party rebellion on the right, such as powerful ideologically-driven media sources, interest groups, and financial donors. (The number of politically active leftist billionaires is….not large.) But it’s also true that many Democratic voters simply don’t think of politics in ideological terms or prize doctrinal fidelity over other qualities—such as perceived electability, group identity, or ability to deliver concrete policy achievements—when making their choice of candidate.

So if there isn’t much evidence of a “liberal Tea Party,” why is anybody talking about it? One reason is that the assumption of party symmetry is deeply entrenched in the minds of many political observers, who expect any trends on one partisan side to inevitably appear in comparable form on the other. Another is the well-documented tendency of media coverage to frame stories in ways that emphasize conflict, or at least the possibility of conflict (“if it bleeds, it leads”)… A third is that Republicans, facing a poor electoral climate this year, have adopted the talking point that their fortunes will be salvaged by a raft of extremist opponents nominated by far-left Democratic primary electorates.

But there’s something else at work here as well. Purist leftism, to the extent it exists in America, is especially concentrated in the circles—metropolitan, professional, well-educated, highly internet-active—in which many media members themselves travel…

Put simply, the online left is not representative of the Democratic Party. Visitors to local Democratic caucus or committee meetings in most parts of America will find that the public employees, union officials, trial lawyers, nonprofit association administrators, and African-American church ladies who actually constitute the party’s activist backbone are, by and large, neither preoccupied with ideological purity nor in a state of rebellion against its current leadership. And though the election of Donald Trump has surely angered and energized the Democratic base, there’s no particular reason to think that anti-Trump sentiment will lead to an internal ideological transformation….

Which, again: This has been true of the Democratic Party, and its GOP counterpart, at least back to the days of Finley Peter Dunne ragging on the McKinley administration’s kleptocrats. Dems are better at compromising than at enforcing ‘party discipline’… which is why, among so many other reasons, we’re not Republicans!



Another #Memo Open Thread: Trump’s Reverse-Midas Touch Remains Unrivaled

At least Carter Page, assuming he ever gets out of jail and the Russians don’t terminate him, will be able to support himself by taking his maniacal performance on the road. Devin Nunes, on the other hand…



Oligarch Open Thread: Koch Bros, Still Monsters

The Boston Globe:

“We’ve made more progress in the past five years than I had in the last 50,” declared Charles Koch, the 82-year old billionaire, addressing a group of about 550 donors who gathered in Indian Wells for the Kochs’ winter policy and politics weekend seminar.

But this era of gains, which brought them a massive tax cut, a queue of conservative federal judges, and an administration full of friendly regulators, could all be gone if Democrats claw back control of the government.

So the vast network has pledged to devote around $400 million toward politics and policy in the midterms to hold the GOP majorities in both chambers. That’s 60 percent more than the network spent in 2014, when Republicans picked up nine seats in the Senate and 13 seats in the House of Representatives.

The sum includes $20 million that Koch and his brother David plan to put behind efforts to popularize the $1.5 trillion tax cut. The network spent $20 million last year pushing the legislation.

“We have a ways to go,” said Koch, teeing up his Big Ask to the well-coiffed group of donors who contribute at least $100,000 a year to Koch-aligned groups. “So my challenge to all of us is to increase the scale and effectiveness of this network by an order of magnitude. By another 10-fold on top of all the growth and progress we’ve already made. Because if we do that, I’m convinced we can change the trajectory of this country.”…

Voters have been skeptical of the tax law in part because much of the benefit is focused on businesses like those run by the Kochs and their allies. The tax cuts directly benefit Koch Industries by $1 billion to $1.4 billion a year, according to a recent analysis from Americans for Tax Fairness, a liberal advocacy group.
Read more



Thank You, Repubs Open Thread: Poster Boy for the GOP Tax Scam

All hail Dave Roth, who first introduced Political Twitter to this remarkable member of the Lucky Sperm Club…

Spin has some video:

The Post describes the Wyatt Ingraham signature aesthetic as “out-there patterns and colors” which is a charitable way of saying that these are the busy shirts a middle-manager who fancies himself the office comedian wears on casual Friday. The remarkable part of this vanity endeavor is the short video Koch produced to sell the brand, construct his own self-mythology, and peel the curtain back on his creative process. One of the video’s boldest choices entails a Koch heir sitting for his talking head interview wearing a shirt emblazoned with bags of money, as if that image alone couldn’t resurrect the guillotine.

“My father said to me, ‘Wyatt, you can do whatever you want to in life. Just make sure you do it well and do it with passion,” the designer said to the camera, without a hint of self-awareness. The sons of literal billionaires do typically get to do whatever they want in life. That’s the perk of being born into a Scrooge McDuck vault full of gold coins…

This guy so totally needed further protection from the estate tax. Hey, it’s not as though he were capable of surviving without a deep, deep cushion of daddy’s money…

What’s the lives and health of thousands of sick kids and poor people, compared to such visions of pure CLASS?