Saturday, April 07, 2018

Why Can’t Trump Find Quality Legal Representation

I have been an attorney for over forty years - a frightening thing to admit - and have been in large old line firms, smaller firms and even maintained my own solo practice for 8 years after being forced out of a large firm for being gay. Typically, law firm are eager to represent high profile clients (and charge high profile fees), yet Donald Trump is finding it nearly impossible to retain top tier legal representation, especially in respect to the Russiagate investigation.  It goes without saying, some are asking why.   A column in the New York Times suggests that the refusal of law firms to countenance Trump as a client predates his occupancy of the White House given the campaign donations made by members of elite law firms who eschewed Trump unlike poorer, uneducated whites that my New Orleans belle grandmother would have dismissed as "poor white trash."  The latter category put Trump in office, not the educated legal elites who likewise knew of Trump's abysmal history with attorneys which included not paying legal fees, lying, and not taking their advice.   In short, a client like Trump not only carries a potential ethics complaint costs, but otherwises sullies one's reputation. Here are column excerpts:  
In what is becoming one of the most remarkable chapters in American legal history, [Donald Trump] the president of the United States is in serious need of top-notch legal help, but apparently cannot find top-notch lawyers to represent him.
As Robert Mueller’s Russia probe moves forward, the Trump administration has approached a slew of prominent law firms and attorneys, only to be told that while, in the words of Dan Webb and Tom Buchanan of Winston & Strawn, “the opportunity to represent the president [is] the highest honor” that can come a lawyer’s way, they must respectfully decline that honor. This left the president relying on a legal team who, with the exception of former Hogan Lovells lawyer Ty Cobb, features no criminal defense lawyers, let alone attorneys with experience in the sort of investigation Mr. Mueller is conducting.
The reasons top firms and lawyers are giving for refusing to work for Trump include conflicts of interests with current clients, the possibility of alienating sources of future business, the president’s reluctance to follow legal advice, his tendency to ask lawyers to engage in what Ted Boutrous of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher referred to delicately as “questionable activities,” and his history of not paying his bills.
Although these reasons for not taking on the president as a client are plausible, it seems something more profound is at work.
[C]ampaign contributions to presidential candidates from lawyers at America’s top law firms suggest strongly that the antipathy toward Trump among elite lawyers is especially intense.
I examined federal records of presidential campaign contributions in 2012 and 2016 at the nation’s 10 highest-ranked law firms and other elite institutions known for their political and economic influence, such as Goldman Sachs. The results were striking.
Of the 4,812 contributions originating from these companies, Mr. Trump received a total of 40. Meanwhile, contributions to Hillary Clinton outnumbered those to Mr. Trump by a ratio of more than 100 to 1. . . . . compared with the support they gave to Mr. Romney, contributions from lawyers at these elite firms to Mr. Trump declined by a remarkable 98 percent.
Some of the reluctance to contribute to the Trump campaign may be explained by the belief that he was unlikely to win. Yet the shift in support among elite lawyers between the Democratic and Republican nominees in 2012 and 2016 is extraordinary.
The revealed preferences, in the form of 2016 campaign contributions, of these elite professionals suggest that Mr. Trump’s inability to hire top lawyers to help him with his mounting legal troubles is not merely because he has various hallmarks of a troublesome client. Rather, they suggest the depth of the misgivings Mr. Trump has raised among American elites, and which persist today.
Of course, those misgivings do not appear to extend to one particularly crucial elite: the leadership of the Republican Party. Whether that changes because of the outcome of the Mueller investigation, and in particular because of whatever role the refusal of so many elite lawyers to represent the president plays in that outcome, remains to be seen.

More Saturday Male Beauty

Homeland Security Will Collecting Data on Journalists

In follow up to the previous post and the growing dangers of a revival of fascism, Bloomberg has a piece reporting on a new operation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  In a move that could have legitimate benign purposes yet is also reminiscent of what the Bolsheviks did following the October Russian Revolution and what Hitler did during his rise to power, the Homeland Security will start collecting data on hundreds of thousands of journalists, media outlets and even bloggers.  While useful in identifying anti-American foreign efforts and Russian derived "fake news," the action is fraught with potential abuse.  Yes, the effort could be useful to even identify terrorist operatives, it could also be used to harass, censor or silence those simply reporting the truth and/or those critical of Der Trumpenführer regme which describes any critical pieces as "fake news" regardless of their accuracy and truthfulness.  A fress press is the number one threat to would be dictators.  Here are article highlights: 
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to monitor hundreds of thousands of news sources around the world and compile a database of journalists, editors, foreign correspondents, and bloggers to identify top “media influencers.”
It’s seeking a contractor that can help it monitor traditional news sources as well as social media and identify “any and all” coverage related to the agency or a particular event, according to a request for information released April 3.
The data to be collected includes a publication’s “sentiment” as well as geographical spread, top posters, languages, momentum, and circulation. No value for the contract was disclosed.
“Services shall provide media comparison tools, design and rebranding tools, communication tools, and the ability to identify top media influencers,” according to the statement. DHS agencies have “a critical need to incorporate these functions into their programs in order to better reach federal, state, local, tribal, and private partners,” it said.
The DHS wants to track more than 290,000 global news sources, including online, print, broadcast, cable, and radio, as well as trade and industry publications, local, national and international outlets, and social media, according to the documents. It also wants the ability to track media coverage in more than 100 languages including Arabic, Chinese, and Russian, with instant translation of articles into English.
The request comes amid heightened concern about accuracy in media and the potential for foreigners to influence U.S. elections and policy through “fake news.”
The DHS request says the selected vendor will set up an online “media influence database” giving users the ability to browse based on location, beat, and type of influence. For each influencer found, “present contact details and any other information that could be relevant, including publications this influencer writes for, and an overview of the previous coverage published by the media influencer.”
A department spokesman didn’t immediately return a phone call and email seeking comment.
I have no faith in the current Trump/Pence regime not to put such information to nefarious uses.

Will We Stop Trump Before It’s Too Late?

                                        Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times        

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the author of “Fascism: A Warning,”whose own family fled Nazi fascism as World War II approached has a column in the New York Times that makes the case that the world could well be facing a new rise of fascism and that Donald Trump is accelerating this dangerous trend, both domestically and internationally.  The warning signs are numerous yet frighteningly many in America's leadership are turning a blind eye, or worse yet, riding the toxic force as a means to retain their own power and or self-enrichment.  The column is a call to decent people who value democracy to stir themselves and get involved to stop what could lead America and the world to yet another round of horrors of war.  If we do nothing or support the status quo, then we will be complicit in whatever horrors follow just as the "good Germans" who sat back and let Hitler rise to power through either laziness or hatred and prejudice.  Here are column highlights:
On April 28, 1945 — 73 years ago — Italians hung the corpse of their former dictator Benito Mussolini upside down next to a gas station in Milan. Two days later, Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his bunker beneath the streets of war-ravaged Berlin. Fascism, it appeared, was dead.
To guard against a recurrence, the survivors of war and the Holocaust joined forces to create the United Nations, forge global financial institutions and — through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — strengthen the rule of law. In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down and the honor roll of elected governments swelled not only in Central Europe, but also Latin America, Africa and Asia. Almost everywhere, it seemed, dictators were out and democrats were in. Freedom was ascendant.
Today, we are in a new era, testing whether the democratic banner can remain aloft amid terrorism, sectarian conflicts, vulnerable borders, rogue social media and the cynical schemes of ambitious men. The answer is not self-evident. We may be encouraged that most people in most countries still want to live freely and in peace, but there is no ignoring the storm clouds that have gathered. In fact, fascism — and the tendencies that lead toward fascism — pose a more serious threat now than at any time since the end of World War II. Warning signs include the relentless grab for more authority by governing parties in Hungary, the Philippines, Poland and Turkey — all United States allies. The raw anger that feeds fascism is evident across the Atlantic in the growth of nativist movements opposed to the idea of a united Europe, including in Germany, where the right-wing Alternative für Deutschland has emerged as the principal opposition party. The danger of despotism is on display in the Russia of Vladimir Putin — invader of Ukraine, meddler in foreign democracies, accused political assassin, brazen liar and proud son of the K.G.B. Putin has just been re-elected to a new six-year term, while in Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, a ruthless ideologue, is poised to triumph in sham balloting next month. In China, Xi Jinping has persuaded a docile National People’s Congress to lift the constitutional limit on his tenure in power. Thanks to allies in Moscow and Tehran, the tyrant Bashar al-Assad retains his stranglehold over much of Syria. In Africa, the presidents who serve longest are often the most corrupt, multiplying the harm they inflict with each passing year.
Meanwhile, the possibility that fascism will be accorded a fresh chance to strut around the world stage is enhanced by the volatile presidency of Donald Trump.
If freedom is to prevail over the many challenges to it, American leadership is urgently required. This was among the indelible lessons of the 20th century. But by what he has said, done and failed to do, Mr. Trump has steadily diminished America’s positive clout in global councils.
Instead of mobilizing international coalitions to take on world problems, he touts the doctrine of “every nation for itself” and has led America into isolated positions on trade, climate change and Middle East peace. Instead of engaging in creative diplomacy, he has insulted United States neighbors and allies, walked away from key international agreements, mocked multilateral organizations and stripped the State Department of its resources and role. Instead of standing up for the values of a free society, Mr. Trump, with his oft-vented scorn for democracy’s building blocks, has strengthened the hands of dictators. No longer need they fear United States criticism regarding human rights or civil liberties. On the contrary, they can and do point to Mr. Trump’s own words to justify their repressive actions.
At one time or another, Mr. Trump has attacked the judiciary, ridiculed the media, defended torture, condoned police brutality, urged supporters to rough up hecklers and — jokingly or not — equated mere policy disagreements with treason. He tried to undermine faith in America’s electoral process through a bogus advisory commission on voter integrity. He routinely vilifies federal law enforcement institutions. He libels immigrants and the countries from which they come. His words are so often at odds with the truth that they can appear ignorant, yet are in fact calculated to exacerbate religious, social and racial divisions. Overseas, rather than stand up to bullies, Mr. Trump appears to like bullies, and they are delighted to have him represent the American brand. If one were to draft a script chronicling fascism’s resurrection, the abdication of America’s moral leadership would make a credible first scene.
Equally alarming is the chance that Mr. Trump will set in motion events that neither he nor anyone else can control. . . . . His threat to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement could unravel a pact that has made the world safer and could undermine America’s reputation for trustworthiness at a critical moment. His support of protectionist tariffs invites retaliation from major trading partners — creating unnecessary conflicts and putting at risk millions of export-dependent jobs. The recent purge of his national security team raises new questions about the quality of advice he will receive. John Bolton starts work in the White House on Monday.
What is to be done? First, defend the truth. A free press, for example, is not the enemy of the American people; it is the protector of the American people. Second, we must reinforce the principle that no one, not even the president, is above the law. Third, we should each do our part to energize the democratic process by registering new voters, listening respectfully to those with whom we disagree, knocking on doors for favored candidates, and ignoring the cynical counsel: “There’s nothing to be done.”
I’m 80 years old, but I can still be inspired when I see young people coming together to demand the right to study without having to wear a flak jacket.
We should also reflect on the definition of greatness. Can a nation merit that label by aligning itself with dictators and autocrats, ignoring human rights, declaring open season on the environment, and disdaining the use of diplomacy at a time when virtually every serious problem requires international cooperation?
To me, greatness goes a little deeper than how much marble we put in our hotel lobbies and whether we have a Soviet-style military parade.
America at its best is a place where people from a multitude of backgrounds work together to safeguard the rights and enrich the lives of all. That’s the example we have always aspired to set and the model people around the world hunger to see. And no politician, not even one in the Oval Office, should be allowed to tarnish that dream.

I am very much afraid that she is 100% correct in her warning.  Will Americans get off their assess and stop this approaching nightmare?   Each of us bear a role in answering that question.  Laziness or the excuse "I don't like politics" will not excuse one from responsibility for what happens.  

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, April 06, 2018

More Friday Male Beauty

A Damning Image of the Trump/Pence Regime

I continue to be amazed at those who are willing to prostitute themselves and accept positions within the Trump/Pence regime with seemingly no concern for how their reputations may be sullied and the morally bankrupt positions they be pressured to take. Many of these individuals ultimately end up leaving the administration - indeed, the White House staff has become a revolving door - and then belatedly tell the truth about the foul state of affairs that they have witnessed.  These confessions serve two purposes: an effort to regain moral standing and restore their reputations, and secondly, to issue a warning to Americans that things are seriously wrong under this utterly unfit occupant of the White House.  A column in the Washington Post looks at some of these tell all exits.  Here are excerpts:

From an administration’s departures we learn how it conducts itself. Honesty comes easier to those with little left to lose.
In this regard, the Trump administration offers much to analyze. The pace of disillusioned exits is rapid. And what the departing have chosen to emphasize reveals much about daily life in the executive branch.
In the case of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the complaint was an atmosphere toxic with cruelty. President Trump made a habit of undermining his chief diplomat in public. . . . . Tillerson was fired via tweet — a first for the office once held by Thomas Jefferson. Chief of Staff John F. Kelly reportedly told White House staffers that Tillerson received the news of his impending dismissal while on the toilet.
Jobs in the executive branch are hard enough without an added layer of stress caused by constant humiliation. But Trump emphasizes his own importance by diminishing those around him. So creative cruelty is essential to his management style. The result is fear, distrust and resentment — hardly a situation conducive to deliberation.
During his departure, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin made a similar point about civility. He says he was informed of his own firing just hours before a Trump tweet thanking him for his service was posted, and then the administration claimedhe had resigned. “It should not be this hard to serve your country,” he complained in a New York Times op-ed.
But Shulkin also described an atmosphere not just of cruelty but also of attempted corruption. He wrote of a “brutal power struggle” within his department with “political appointees choosing to promote their agendas instead of what’s best for veterans.” Their goal was “to put VA health care in the hands of the private sector.” And the reason for this, as Shulkin describes it, was not only ideological. “They saw me as an obstacle to privatization who had to be removed,” he said. “That is because I am convinced that privatization is a political issue aimed at rewarding select people and companies with profits, even if it undermines care for veterans.”
To summarize: The departing head of VA has accused swaggering White House appointees of trying to betray the interests of veterans for the financial benefit of favored individuals and businesses. A serious charge. But in the Trump administration’s carnival of corruption, this barely rates as a sideshow.
The departure of Trump’s second national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, brought a different sort of indictment. In his final public remarks, he was careful to preserve his ties to the president. But the topic he chose was Russia — particularly Russian cyber­operations against the United States and other NATO countries. And his judgment was harsh: “We have failed to impose sufficient costs” for such actions. The result? “The Kremlin’s confidence is growing as its agents conduct their sustained campaign to undermine our confidence in ourselves and in one another.”
For a national security adviser to make this statement in an administration where the president has been equivocal, even exculpatory, in his language about Russia is the most serious critique of all. 
The composite image of the Trump administration left by these departing officials is damning — a picture of cruelty, attempted corruption and national weakness. Instead of hearing gratitude for the experience of a lifetime, we are getting distress signals.

Be very afraid.

Teacher Strikes: Exposing the GOP’s Achilles Heel

Oklahoma Gov. Fallin trashes teachers.
For many years now the Republican Party has pushed an agenda of huge tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations best illustrated by the $1.5 trillion give away last December under the GOP/Trump tax bill.  Typically, Republican voters are induced to support this agenda by falling for the GOP's appeals to racism and/or right wing Christian religious extremism.  But constant tax cuts can go on for only so long before the larger public wakes up to the reality that this tax cut agenda is wreaking havoc on public education, state infrastructures, and other social services that average Americans want and support.  Paul Ryan may blame the federal budget debt on "entitlement spending" but even the dumbest soccer mom can grasp the reality that it was the GOP tax cuts that are the real root of the problem.  Now, teacher strikes in red states are helping to expose the GOP's Achilles heel: voters do not want public schools and necessary government programs gutted. The big question is whether Democrats can play on this growing realization that the GOP agenda does nothing for average voters.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at the situation.  Here are highlights:
On the surface, the wave of teacher strikes that has rippled through red America over the past month looks like a labor story; an object lesson in the power of solidarity, and the hazards of underpaying workers and then leaving them no source of leverage save walking off the job. And it certainly is that kind of story — but it is also a political one. After all, public workers can only gain leverage through a strike if a significant portion of the public rallies behind their picket line. It took the fortitude of West Virginia teachers to get this strike wave started — but it required the political weakness of the GOP’s prevailing ideology to keep it rolling.
Teachers scored improbable victories in West Virginia and Oklahoma by exploiting the biggest open secret in American politics today: The Republican Party and its voters have radically different political views.
The former has made cutting taxes on the wealthy and corporations its top economic priority on both the state and federal levels; the latter oppose such tax cuts by overwhelming margins. GOP office-holders have worked tirelessly (if unsuccessfully) to reduce federal spending on health care; most GOP voters would like to see such spending increased. Nearly all House Republicans have repeatedly affirmed their support for financing ever-lower taxes on the rich with draconian cuts to public investment in virtually everything but the military, including Medicare benefits; when pollsters referenced this reality to right-leaning voters in a 2012 focus group, the respondents found Paul Ryan’s agenda so absurdly offensive, they “simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.
The GOP has not made support for tax cuts (no matter the economic conditions, geopolitical circumstances, or resulting consequences for social spending) the first principle of its domestic agenda because that is a popular and rational governing ideal — but because it is an excellent value proposition to offer to well-heeled reactionaries in search of a medium-risk, high-return investment opportunity.
To this point, the GOP has paid no great electoral price for the fact that there is no significant constituency for its economic agenda; over the past decade, Republicans have managed to grow more fanatically committed to fiscal policies that their voters find abhorrent — and more politically powerful. A variety of factors have abetted this odd achievement, not least the fact that most voters pay far less attention to the details of policy than to identity-based appeals. Through “culture war” rhetoric and legislation, the GOP has established itself as the party of rural Americans, cultural traditionalists, gun enthusiasts, and the (proudly) white and native-born. The broad appeal of this reactionary brand of identity politics (combined with copious Koch network cash, the right’s vast propaganda apparatus, and a touch of voter suppression) has allowed the Republican Party to have its fringe fiscal agenda, and its electoral majorities, too.
Donald Trump tried to pay for his supply-side tax cuts by decimating Obamacare — but once doing the latter proved untenable, he and his allies were content to put the former on the nation’s credit card, just as George W. Bush had done with his tax cuts, years earlier.
But Oklahoma can’t print its own currency. On the state level, budgets have to balance. Congressional Republicans can obscure (and/or defer) the trade-offs inherent to “starving the beast” — GOP governors have no such luxury. And eight years after the tea party wave lifted far-right Republicans to unprecedented power in states all across the country, those trade-offs have become unmistakeable — especially to anyone with an investment in a (typical) red state’s public-school system.
The idea that the government has a responsibility to provide a quality K–12 education to all of its young people is among the least controversial in our politics. And yet, it is a notion that is nearly impossible to reconcile with the contemporary GOP’s theological commitment to ever-lower taxes. Talented educators must be wooed with competitive pay and benefits; textbooks must be regularly updated; curricula, revised. The disparity between the actual fiscal cost of guaranteeing universal access to a public education — and what conservative Republicans are prepared to spend on schools — is currently fueling a constitutional crisis in Kansas: The Sunflower State’s founding document requires its legislature to make “suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state” — a requirement that Republican legislators have routinely failed to meet, in the estimation of the Kansas Supreme Court.
Between 2008 and 2015, per-student education spending in Kentucky fell by 11.4 percent; in Oklahoma, by 15.6; and in Arizona, by 17.5. In all of these states, Republican legislators paired such disinvestment from education with tax cuts for high-earners and business interests. Even in these “conservative” states, it is highly doubtful that voters would have ever directly endorsed supply-side tax cuts financed by reductions in school spending, were such a matter put to the ballot. But now that the former have failed to produce the miraculous growth that Republicans promised — while the latter have yielded decaying textbooks, four-day school weeks, and teacher shortages — support for a change in fiscal priorities is overwhelming in deep-red Oklahoma.
The fact that the unpopular consequences of right-wing governance are becoming increasingly visible in red states does not guarantee the conservative movement’s imminent collapse; but it does create an opportunity for opponents of conservatism to launch a few wrecking balls in its direction.
This is the lesson that the striking educators are teaching us. When a well-organized movement — with genuine roots in “conservative” communities (and no plausible ties to George Soros or Nancy Pelosi) forces the GOP’s fiscal agenda to the center of public debate, the political terrain shifts — and conservatives struggle to stand their ground. Suddenly, Oklahoma Republicans can vote to take money from oil companies and give it to teachers; and those teachers can meet their offer with protests instead of gratitude.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, April 05, 2018

More Thursday Male Beauty

Trump, Trade Wars and the Stock Market

In gathering materials together for my accountant yesterday, I noticed that the recent declines in the stock market had literally cost me thousands of dollars.  No small part of the stock market decline has been triggered by the idiocy of the occupant of the White House who thinks he knows everything when in fact, he knows little about seemingly anything.  Wild talk and trade wars may thrill Der Trumpenführer's base in the short term, but the stock market does not like wild talk, unhinged reality TV behavior and/or unneeded trade wars.  As a column in the New York Times notes, the stock market and investors like stability, predictability and no barriers to trade/investment.  What Trump is pushing is the exact opposite and the stock market is revealing what it thinks of the batshitery.  Here are column excerpts:
As I write this, China’s announcement of a new round of tit-for-tat tariffs has stoked fears of trade war and sent stock futures plunging. If this morning’s futures hold, the S&P 500 will be about 10.5 percent off its January peak, around 6 percent off its level when Gary Cohn, the last of the Trump “globalists,” was pushed out.
My question is, why such a large fall?
One good answer is, that’s a stupid question. The three rules you need to bear in mind when discussing the stock market are (1) the stock market is not the economy (2) the stock market is not the economy (3) the stock market is not the economy. And stocks move for all sorts of reasons, or no visible reason at all. As Paul Samuelson famously quipped, the market has forecast nine of the last five recessions.
Another answer is that the trade war is a signal: Trump, Navarro et al are showing that they really are as unhinged and irresponsible as they seem, and markets are taking notice. Imagine how these people would handle a financial crisis.
[T]here is a reason why stock prices might overshoot the overall economic costs of a trade war. For a trade war that “deglobalized” the U.S. economy would require a big reallocation of resources, including capital. Yet you go to trade war with the capital you have, not the capital you’re eventually going to want – and stocks are claims on the capital we have now, not the capital we’ll need if America goes all in on Trumponomics.
Or to put it another way, a trade war would produce a lot of stranded assets.
The costs of protectionism, according to conventional economic theory, are not that tariffs caused the Great Depression, or anything like that. They come, instead, from moving your economy away from things you’re relatively good at to things you aren’t. American workers could sew clothes together, instead of importing apparel from Bangladesh; in fact, we’d surely produce more pajamas per person-hour than the Bangladeshis do. But our productivity advantage is much bigger in other things, so there’s an efficiency gain – for both economies – in having us concentrate on the things we do best.
And a trade war, by imposing artificial costs such as tariffs on international trade, undoes that productive specialization, making everyone less efficient.
Under free trade, we import anything that costs less to produce abroad than at home. If we impose a tariff, we end up not importing stuff unless the price of the import is sufficiently low that it’s cheaper even including the tariff. The marginal good we import, then, is actually much cheaper than a domestic product, and the marginal good we don’t import costs the economy a lot – specifically, the tariff that we would have paid if we did import it. . . . at each step we are imposing costs on the economy equal to the extra cost of the domestic product that replaces an import. Since about 1990 corporate America has bet heavily on hyperglobalization – on the continuance of an open-market regime that has encouraged complex value chains that sprawl across borders. The notebook on which I’m writing this was designed in California, but probably assembled in China, with many of the components coming from South Korea and Japan. Apple could produce it entirely in North America, and probably would in the face of 30 percent tariffs. But the factories it would take to do that don’t (yet) exist. Meanwhile, the factories that do exist were built to serve globalized production – and many of them would be marginalized, maybe even made worthless, by tariffs that broke up those global value chains. That is, they would become stranded assets. Call it the anti-China shock.
Of course, it wouldn’t just be factories left stranded by a trade war. A lot of people would be stranded too. The point of the famous “China shock” paper by Autor et al wasn’t that rapid trade growth made America as a whole poorer, it was that rapid changes in the location of production displaced a significant number of workers, creating personal hardship and hurting their communities.
[M]y original question was why stocks are dropping so much more than the likely costs of trade war to the economy. And one answer, I’d suggest, is disruption – which business leaders love to celebrate in their rhetoric, but hate when it happens to them.

China’s Retaliatory Tariffs Will Hit Trump Country Hard

Areas to be impacted by China tariffs.
Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer,  seems hell bent on sparking a trade war with China.  Since Trump seemingly listens to no one and finds even briefings of more than a single page too taxing to read, perhaps he was oblivious to the fact that China would not just roll over and play dead when hit by tariffs by Trump.  Perhaps all he was focused on was bluster and "tough guy talk" so loved by his (in my view) cretinous/racist base.  In any event, China announced that it would play tit for tat and impose its own round of tariffs.  What is almost enough to make a progressive smile, is that China's proposed tariffs will hit Trump voting red states particularly hard.  Indeed, some states could find their economies significantly damaged and, rather than bring better economic times, Trump would have delivered economic hardship to his most loyal supporters.  China definitely knows how to deliver pay back to Trump.  Here are highlights from a piece in the Washington Post:

It was inevitable that China would respond in kind to tariffs levied against it by President Trump. [Trump] the president argued that the trade deficit and Chinese theft of intellectual property necessitated taking economic action. But the net effect is that China also will charge more for American products to enter its country — tariffs that are likely to affect places whose residents voted for Trump more significantly than voters in other areas.
The products to which China will add additional duties include manufactured products such as airplanes and vinyl records. (For some reason.) But they will also apply tariffs to a number of agricultural goods, according to CNBC, including:·        Yellow soybeans
·        Black soybeans
·        Corn
·        Corn flour
·        Uncombed cotton
·        Sorghum
·        Other durum wheat
·        Other wheat and mixed wheat
·        Tobacco
It won’t surprise you to learn that agricultural areas produce most of these goods. And rural areas supported Trump over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
Take soybeans. Soybeans are heavily produced in the Mississippi River region . . . A tariff on soybeans affects a lot of places that backed Trump.
We can do the same thing for other products on the list, such as corn, which is heavily produced in the upper Midwest — a region that helped propel Trump’s narrow electoral-vote victory.  The map for wheat is dramatic, encompassing wide swaths of the country, mostly red.
[A]ny action taken by Trump that might negatively affect agriculture is almost necessarily going to affect places that preferred him to Clinton by a lopsided margin.
That seems clearly to be the case with the duties China will apply in retaliation for Trump’s tariffs.

Should these tariffs be implemented, frankly, I will find it difficult to not smile at the self-inflicted suffering of Trump voting regions. Deliberately put an unfit, racist, morally bankrupt individual in the White House and you deserve whatever misfortunes come your way.  Actions do have consequences. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Corruption Is Trump’s Greatest Political Liability

While all eyes remain on the Russiagate investigation, a lengthy piece in New York Magazine lays out why Trump's corruption and monetizing of his position in the White House may end up being what takes him down politically.  It also proposes a road map for Democrats to build a strong anti-Trump, anti-Republican narrative that looks at the rapaciousness of the Trump/Pence regime and the Republican majorities in Congress that have either looked the other way when corruption appears or who have outright enabled and abetted the corruption and transfers of wealth to the wealthiest Americans or huge corporations which are not reinvesting in America as Trump/the GOP promised.  Here are opening highlights (read the entire piece):

“My whole life I’ve been greedy, greedy, greedy,” declared Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign. “I’ve grabbed all the money I could get. I’m so greedy. But now I want to be greedy for the United States.” To the extent that Trump’s candidacy offered any positive appeal, as opposed to simple loathing for his opponent, this was it.
Since Trump took office, his pledge to ignore his own interests has been almost forgotten, lost in a disorienting hurricane of endless news. It is not just a morbid joke but a legitimate problem for the opposition that all the bad news about Trump keeps getting obscured by other bad news about Trump. Perhaps the extraordinary civic unrest his presidency has provoked will be enough to give Democrats a historic win in the midterms this fall, but it is easy to be worried.
As the races pick up in earnest, some kind of narrative focus is going to be necessary to frame the case against Trump. Here, what appears to be an embarrassment of riches for Democrats may in fact be a collection of distractions. It is depressingly likely that several of Trump’s most outrageous characteristics will fail to move the needle in the states and districts where the needle needs moving. His racism and misogyny motivate the Democratic base, but both were perfectly apparent in 2016 and did not dissuade enough voters to abandon him.
Trump’s core proposition to the public was a business deal: If he became president, he would work to make them rich. Of course, the fact that Trump was able to reduce the presidency to such a crass exchange, forsaking such niceties as simple decency and respect for the rule of law, exposed terrifying weaknesses in the fabric of American democracy. But the shortest path to resolving this crisis is first to remove Trump’s party — and it is Trump’s party — from full control of the government in 2018, and then to remove Trump from the White House in 2020.
The clearest way to do that is to demonstrate that Trump is failing to uphold his end of the deal. After all, the students at Trump University once constituted some of the biggest Trump fans in America. Until they realized Trump had conned them. Then they sued to get their money back.
Historically, corruption — specifically, the use of power for personal gain — has played a central and even dominant role in American political discourse. In the 1870s, revelations that public officials were caught lining their pockets with millions of dollars from alcohol taxes (the Whiskey Ring) and inflated railroad costs (Crédit Mobilier) exploded into spectacular scandals. One of the triumphs of the Progressive Era was establishing rules and norms of professionalism in government so that public officials would not be tempted to sell their favors.
There is a reason Trump labeled his opponent “Crooked Hillary,” and it stems from a law of American politics Democrats would be wise to remember: To be out for yourself is probably the single most disqualifying flaw a politician can have.
The sheer breadth of direct self-enrichment Trump has unleashed in office defies the most cynical predictions. It may not be a surprise that he continues to hold on to his business empire and uses his power in office to direct profits its way, from overseas building deals down to printing the presidential seal on golf markers at the course near Mar-a-Lago. It is certainly not a surprise that Trump has refused to disclose his tax returns. What’s truly shocking is how much petty graft has sprung up across his administration. Trump’s Cabinet members and other senior officials have been living in style at taxpayer expense, . . . Not since the Harding administration, and probably the Gilded Age, has the presidency conducted itself in so venal a fashion.
It is hardly a coincidence that so many greedy people have filled the administration’s ranks. Trump’s ostentatious crudeness and misogyny are a kind of human-resources strategy. Radiating personal and professional sleaze lets him quickly and easily identify individuals who have any kind of public ethics and to sort them out. . . . . Trump is legitimately excellent at cultivating an inner circle unburdened by legal or moral scruples. These are the only kind of people who want to work for Trump, and the only kind Trump wants to work for him.
It should take very little work — and be a very big priority — for Democratic candidates to stitch all the administration’s misdeeds together into a tale of unchecked greed. . . . . Having burned enough American banks throughout his career that he could not obtain capital through conventional, legitimate channels, Trump turned to Russian sources, who typically have an ulterior political motive. Just what these various sources got in return for their investment in Trump is a matter for Robert Mueller’s investigators to determine. But Trump’s interest in them is perfectly obvious.
Trump’s campaign followed his patented human-resources strategy, filling its ranks with other rapacious and financially precarious men. Paul Manafort was deeply in debt to a Russian oligarch when he popped up on Trump’s doorstep. Michael Flynn was selling his credentials to Russian and Turkish dictators while advising Trump. Jared Kushner was flailing about in an effort to make good on a massive loan he took out on a white-elephant Manhattan building . . .
The virtue of bribery is a subject of genuine conviction for Trump, whose entrée to politics came via transactional relationships with New York politicians as well as Mafia figures. Trump once called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars American corporations from engaging in bribery, a “ridiculous” and “horrible” law. Enforcement of this law has plummeted under his administration.
[Trump] and his inner circle feel most comfortable in the company of the wealthy and corrupt. They have built closer ties to Russia, the Gulf States, and China, all of which are ruled by oligarchs who recognize in Trump a like-minded soul. They share the belief that — to revise a favorite Trump saying — if you don’t steal, you don’t have a country.
Trump’s behavior runs directly contrary to his most important promises. “Draining the swamp” was not supposed to mean simply kicking out Democrats and competent public officials. He made speeches promising good-government reforms: a ban on lobbying by former members of Congress and stricter rules on what lobbying meant; campaign-finance reform to prevent foreign companies from raising money for American candidates; a ban on lobbying by former senior government officials on behalf of foreign governments.
Not only has Trump made no effort to raise ethical standards but he and his administration have flamboyantly violated the existing guidelines. Lobbyists are seeded in every agency, “regulating” their former employers and designing rules that favor bosses over employees and business owners over consumers.
[I]n Trump’s case, the smaller and larger scandals reinforce each other. Why is Trump giving rich people and corporations a huge tax cut? Why has he been threatening to take away your health insurance? Why is he letting Wall Street and Big Oil write their own rules? Above all, if Trump supposedly believed that “if I become president, I couldn’t care less about my company — it’s peanuts,” why are his children still running it? For the same reason he has let his Cabinet secretaries run up large travel expenses, and why his son-in-law met with oligarchs in China and the Gulf States whose money he was trying to get his hands on.
Rather than sit back and allow Trump to take credit for a recovery he inherited, Democrats can press the point that he and his allies are doing little more than skimming off the top of it.
Somebody persuaded corporations, fattened by a trillion-dollar tax windfall, to publicize the same raises and bonuses they had been handing out for years as a special dividend of the Trump tax cuts. If Democrats win control of a chamber of Congress and thus the ability to hold hearings, they should investigate whatever coordination yielded this nexus of self-interest.
A Democratic House or Senate could also compel disclosure of Trump’s tax returns, and both the documents themselves and any drama surrounding them would attract more attention to the administration’s commitment to self-enrichment.
But that can happen only if the Democrats win the midterms, and the best way to do that is to tell a very simple story. Trump represented himself as a rich man feared by the business elite. He had spent much of his life buying off politicians and exploiting the system, so he knew how the system worked and could exploit that knowledge on behalf of the people. In fact, his experiences with bribery opened his eyes to what further extortion might be possible. Trump was never looking to blow up the system. He was simply casing the joint.

Mueller: Trump Is a Subject of his Investigation

Special counsel Robert Mueller told Der Trumpenführer's attorneys that while Trump is not currently a "target" of Mueller's investigation, he is, in fact, a "subject" of the investigation.  That equates to a reality that Mueller doesn't yet have enough to file criminal charges against Trump, but that matters could be edging closer to targeting Trump.  Either way, one does NOT want to be a subject of this type of investigation, although this reality seemingly has not fully registered with the mental midget in the White House.  One can only hope that Trump does submit to an interview with Mueller and his team since, in my view, the chances of Trump not engaging in lies is slim to none.  And once he lies to the investigators, Trump will have opened a new avenue for criminal or perjury charges.  The Washington Post looks at the current situation.  Here are excerpts:
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III informed President Trump’s attorneys last month that he is continuing to investigate [Trump] the president but does not consider him a criminal target at this point, according to three people familiar with the discussions.
In private negotiations in early March about a possible [Trump] presidential interview, Mueller described Trump as a subject of his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Prosecutors view someone as a subject when that person has engaged in conduct that is under investigation but there is not sufficient evidence to bring charges.
The special counsel also told Trump’s lawyers that he is preparing a report about [Trump's] the president’s actions while in office and potential obstruction of justice, according to two people with knowledge of the conversations.
Mueller reiterated the need to interview Trump — both to understand whether he had any corrupt intent to thwart the Russia investigation and to complete this portion of his probe, the people said.
Mueller’s description of [Trump's] the president’s status has sparked friction within Trump’s inner circle as his advisers have debated his legal standing. [Trump] The president and some of his allies seized on the special counsel’s words as an assurance that Trump’s risk of criminal jeopardy is low. Other advisers, however, noted that subjects of investigations can easily become indicted targets — and expressed concern that the special prosecutor was baiting Trump into an interview that could put [Trump] the president in legal peril.
Trump’s chief counsel, Jay Sekulow, and Dowd declined to comment for this report. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders referred questions to White House attorney Ty Cobb.
Mueller’s investigators have indicated to [Trump's] the president’s legal team that they are considering writing reports on their findings in stages — with the first report focused on the obstruction issue, according to two people briefed on the discussions.
Under special counsel regulations, Mueller is required to report his conclusions confidentially to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who has the authority to decide whether to release the information publicly.
“They’ve said they want to write a report on this — to answer the public’s questions — and they need [Trump's] the president’s interview as the last step,” one person familiar with the discussions said of Mueller’s team.
Trump’s attorneys expect [Trump] the president would also face questions about what he knew about any contacts by his associates with Russian officials and emissaries in 2016, several White House advisers said. [Trump's] The president’s allies believe a second report detailing the special counsel’s findings on Russia’s interference would be issued later.
[Trump] The president has privately expressed relief at the description of his legal status, which has increased his determination to agree to a special counsel interview, the people said.
[L]egal experts said Mueller’s description of Trump as a subject of a grand jury probe does not mean he is in the clear.
Under Justice Department guidelines, a subject of an investigation is a person whose conduct falls within the scope of a grand jury’s investigation. A target is a person for which there is substantial evidence linking him or her to a crime.