What’s happening in the US, November 27, 2018

Morning all.

An interesting day yesterday. The biggest story was probably General Motors announcement that would be closing several US plants along with one in Canada, reducing its overall workforce by 15,000 and generally downsizing as it moves toward more electric and autonomous cars. There was a lot of brouhaha from both Republicans and Democrats in Ohio and Michigan, not to mention Donald Trump trying to sound like Kaiser Wilhelm in his talks with the head of General Motors. Only to be expected.

There will only be more new stories like this, however, in the future. Technology is driving many sectors in the American economy, like automobiles, to face new realities. One of those realities is that people are not buying as many gas-guzzling automobiles as they were in the past.

Let me give you a personal example. Every now and then my 14-year-old Subaru needs to go to the shop for yet another repair. My neighbor across the street lets me borrow her car, an electric/gas hybrid, if I need to make a run for groceries or to take one of my kids to the doctor. On a good day, my Subaru manages about 22 miles to the gallon. Meanwhile, my friend’s car gets 58 miles to the gallon. And her car is about four years old. Newer models of hybrids or electric cars have only gotten better.

That’s why General Motors is closing several plants. People want cars that will give them 58 miles to the gallon. Not to mention someday the phrase “to the gallon” will have the same kind of cultural relevance as “buggy whip.” And Trump’s tariffs have an effect that creates a tipping point. But it was going to happen sooner or later. General Motors decision to concentrate more on autonomous and electric cars is a smart one. Not for politicians, but for consumers. Technology is here to stay. As my mother used to say, “it is what it is.”

Democrats Learn a Big Lesson for 2020 Vote About Taking on Trump

This interesting piece from Bloomberg. The point of the article is that one of the main things the Democrats learned from the 2018 midterms is don’t talk about Donald Trump. Focus on local issues. Yes, Trump will be out there blowing his own horn, rallying his base. But as the midterms proved, Democrats and Independents want to focus on getting things done. I think this will play an enormous role in deciding who will be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020.

The case for Beto O’Rourke

Can you win a presidential election after losing another election? It seems unlikely but it has been done before. Richard Nixon lost both the presidential election to Kennedy in 1960 and then the election for California governor 1962. By 1968 he was president. I think it all depends on if it’s your “moment.” Barack Obama knew it was his moment in 2008. America was ready for what he had to offer. Beta O’Rourke came within 2% of defeating an incumbent Republican senator in what is one of the most Republican states in the union. (Or was.) This piece by a former Obama official argues that it may also be O’Rourke’s moment. I think he might be right.

Trump Suggests U.S. Create Network to Take on CNN

Sounds of guffaws and muffled laughter.

Trump says he doesn’t believe his administration’s climate report

Trumpet doesn’t believe in climate change. Trump doesn’t believe his intelligence services. Trump doesn’t believe the teargas affects children. Trump doesn’t believe that his tariff policies had anything to do with the General Motors plant closures in Ohio and Michigan. Trump doesn’t believe that he had anything to do with the Democratic wave in the 2018 midterms.

On the other hand, Trump does believe that Vladimir Putin knew nothing about Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 election. He believes that Mohammed bin Salmon, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, was “shocked, I say shocked” to hear the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. And Trump believes that he is the only source of truth in American politics.

Need one say more?

U.S. ambassador to Israel says peace plan will come at “appropriate time”

It’s a punchline, right? What he really meant to say was the first of never. This “peace plan” has about as much chance of being successful as the Cleveland Browns have of winning this year’s Super Bowl.

Voter Suppression During the 2018 Midterm Elections

This just in…

While more people voted in the 2018 midterms than any other midterm in recent elections, millions of other Americans were denied the right to vote because of blatant attempts by Republican politicians to suppress the votes of minorities, college students and anybody else was on their hit list. Their cries of voter fraud have about as much credibility as a Lindsay Graham statement about protecting Jeff Sessions as Atty. Gen.

This is one reason why the runoff election for Secretary of State in Georgia is so important. Georgia Gov. elect Brian Kemp had been Secretary of State and without a doubt put his thumb on the scales to help his own election. This needs to be an office the Democrats focus on in future elections to make sure that everyone has the right to vote.

Study: Concealed Carry Leads to 15% Increase in Violent Crime

And this is why that domestic terrorist organization known as the National Rifle Association doesn’t want anybody to do any studies on gun violence in the United States. Because when studies are carried out they show that more guns mean more violence and more violent deaths.

Researchers ran several regressions analyzing 14 years of data in 11 states that have “right-to-carry” laws, seeing whether there was any movement in crime statistics after the adoption of these laws.

Turns out being able to carry a handgun spikes up crime in states: By the tenth year of these laws, violent crime was up between 13 and 15 percent.

Here’s a statistic I always like to quote. When Canada brought in more extensive gun control in the early 2000s the cry from gun rights advocates was”this means only criminals will have guns!” Well, Statistics Canada, the government’s official statistics agency, found that in the first four years after the legislation was introduced, the number of gun crimes committed in Canada dropped by 25%. When you make guns hard to get for law-abiding citizens, you also make them harder for criminals to get them.

Alabama Mall Cops Blame Shooting Victim for Holding Gun While Fleeing Active Shooter

“If you’re black and you’re a good guy with a gun,” Crump added, “the police [don’t] see you as a good guy. They see you as a criminal and they shoot and kill you.”

And since I like to end the daily news update on a positive note…

The Proud Boys Are Imploding
It couldn’t happen to a creepier, more violent, Trump-loving, idiotic bunch of guys. What these morons represent will not go away, but every now and then is nice to see how their inherent stupidity is exposed. Racist are naturally stupid. It’s a universal fact, like the sun coming up every morning.

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America and the world on Monday, November 26

As I promised when I left Facebook, here are a few of the stories that I think are interesting and worth viewing and commenting on.

White House lacks lawyers to deal with empowered Democrats

I remember reading a few weeks ago how in early 2005 the Bush administration realized that the Democrats were going to take the House in 2006. They literally spent the next year preparing defenses against what they knew would be a tsunami of subpoenas and appearances in front of hostile Congressional committees.

Then there’s the Trump administration. Seemingly unable to believe that the Democratic wave actually happened (and it kind of happened like a tsunami – slow-moving building to a huge surge) this piece by Politico shows the Bush administration is completely unprepared for what is going to start to happen in January. Down to a skeleton staff and still without a permanent leader since October the office of the White House counsel is not prepared to defend President Trump. If you thought he was cranky before, wait until January…

Alan Dershowitz Predicts Mueller Report Will Be ‘Politically Very Devastating’ For Trump

I’m not a fan of Alan Dershowitz. Never have been, never will be. But this is an interesting take on the Mueller Report. While he doesn’t think it will lead to criminal charges against Trump, its effects will be “devastating” on the Trump administration. We can only keep our fingers crossed that he’s right.

Franklin Graham: Trump “defends the faith”

I’m not a Christian, but I know many good Christian people who live their lives in a meaningful Christian way. When I think of what a good Christian is I do not think of Franklin Graham. In this shining example of what it means to equivocate, Graham basically says Trump is a lousy Christian but he “defends the faith.” With friends like these…

The GOP is now the party of neo-Confederates

In this interesting column by neocon Max Boot I find his definition of neoconservatism to be a little…self-serving…but he makes a good point about who the neocons that can be found circling around Donald Trump-neo-Confederates. As he writes, “The neocons who are now in the ascendancy are the neo-Confederates who have been encouraged to come into the open by President Trump’s unabashed appeals to racist and xenophobic prejudices.”

“The neocons who are now in the ascendancy are the neo-Confederates who have been encouraged to come into the open by President Trump’s unabashed appeals to racist and xenophobic prejudices.”

How Southern politicians defended white supremacy — and made the South poorer

To go along with the above piece, here is another good story from the Washington Post about how Southern politicians (both Democratic and Republican) efforts to defend white supremacy ended up making the South the poorest region in the country.

Midterms reveal South split along urban, rural differences

And to go along with those two pieces above here is a Associated Press story on how there is no longer any such thing as the “Solid South.” The voting block that for decades supported Democrats, and then Republicans after the civil rights movement, has been blown up. Now you have an urban and rural split. Urban centers – home to minority voters and college-educated younger voters, while the suburbs that surround them, are filled in particular with college-educated women – are no longer a reliable voting block for the Republicans.

How climate change could be causing miscarriages in Bangladesh

While the Trump administration did their best to bury the US government report on climate change, this is an interesting BBC article that looks on how climate change is affecting women who live near increasingly rising waters in Bangladesh. Basically, the closer they live to the water, the more women suffer miscarriages.

I believe that the attempts by Trump, his administration and conservatives across the United States and the world to ignore the perils of climate change will ultimately be their undoing politically. As I heard discussed on Morning Joe today as increasing numbers of millennials vote (as they did in the last election in huge numbers) their number one issue is climate change followed closely by healthcare. While there are some members of the Republican Party who understand this peril, are reluctant to challenge Trump on the issue speaks to their cowardice. It will be their undoing.

More to come…

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The problems with Trump’s strike on Syria

RED SEA (Sept. 23, 2014) The guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke launches a Tomahawk Cruise Missile. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Carlos M. Vazquez II/Released)

By Tom Regan

If you want US talking heads, liberal or conservative, to hyper-ventilate for your presidency, it appears you just need to blow something up, preferably somewhere in the Arab world. Suddenly, you become “presidential” and every other misfire, error and mistake of the past few weeks is forgotten about.

Considering the horrific deaths suffered by the people of Khan Sheikhoun, and the images of dead and dying children broadcast around the world, you can understand that people were legitimately horrified when a Syrian (or Russian) jet dropped a deadly Sarin gas bomb on the town. Assad is a butcher and his regime does need to go. President Trump’s bombing of Syria looks like a winner for him on the surface level. But it doesn’t take much digging to find the cracks in its foundation.

1) Until Friday, the Trump administration’s ‘policy,’ if you can call it that, was totally hands off Syria. Trump wasn’t interested in replacing Assad and there had been no expression of horror at the almost half a million Syrians who had died in the preceding years, including ‘beautiful babies’ who had already perished in horrible bombings, or who had drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean to escape Assad. In the past, Trump had suggested that he believed many Syrian refugees were terrorists. While it’s interesting to think that Trump suddenly overwhelmed by a surge of humanitarianism, he hasn’t changed his position on his Muslim ban that includes Syrian refugees, many of whom currently live in abysmal conditions. It’s hard to see his concern as more than a hiccup in his emotional state.

2) Policy? What policy? The world is a complicated place. The leader of the world’s only superpower needs a plan to deal with those complicated matters. It is a somewhat disturbing idea that President Trump will jettison whatever policies he does have every time he sees horrible images on cable news. Did he think about how Russia would respond? Or Turkey or Egypt? Will one attack lead to more? The Syrians already have the base back in operation. Will he bomb it again to ensure it’s not used again for a similar kind of attack? If this attack hinted at more than ‘feel good’ retaliation, it might be more understandable. But it’s hard to see any master design behind the attack. And the sudden “guest” appearance by Rex Tillerson as the Secretary of State only seems to have confused the issue even more.

3) That creeping question of emoluments, domestic and foreign, that just never seems to go away with Trump. Trump ordered that 59 Tomahawk missiles be fired. Raytheon, the company that makes the missile, immediately saw its stock price go up. Guess who has stock in Raytheon – Trump the man who ordered they be used. By taking this action, Trump also made himself a bit of money. The Trump tendency to see the presidency as a cash cow – already under question because of his use of his own properties for cash-payer supported events at Mar-A-Lago, or having the taxpayers support his wife staying at Trump Towers in New York – seems to get worse and worse. Sooner or later, his blatant actions to make himself even richer than he is at the expense of the US taxpayer will blow up in his face.

4) In a different vein, the US media’s reactions were also problematic for the US and the world. In times of conflict, American editors and reporters grow epaulets. And the attack on the Syrian air base was deja vue all over again with the media. Across the board, media talking heads and experts fell over themselves to applaud Trump’s decision to bomb. Fareed Zakaria of CNN said this was the “start” of Trump’s presidency. David Ignatious of the Washington Post said Trump put “credibility” back into American power. And Brain Williams, of MSNBC, practically wrote a love poem on the air describing the beauty of the missiles as they were fired. It was as the American media had learned nothing from the long nightmare of their miscalculations and errors about the Gulf War. Years ago, I had a senior foreign editor at a national media outlet where I worked tell me to be careful of inside-the-beltway journalists. “They are just a pack of lemmings attracted by bright shiny things,” he said. He was right.

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Little difference between London and New York terrorist attacks

Attacks in London and New York were both terrorist incidents. [Photo by Ben Rowe, Creative Commons]

By Tom Regan

On Wednesday there was a “lone wolf” terrorist attack in London. Four people, including a police officer and the attacker, were killed. Late on Monday, there was also a “lone wolf” terrorist attack in New York. A 28-year old white man named James Harris Jackson, a military veteran, started roaming the streets of the city looking to kill black men. He proceeded to attack and kill Timothy Caughman, a black man he had never met before. After the killing, he looked for more victims but says something “spooked” him and he hid in his New York hotel room instead until he surrendered to police Wednesday.

Both attacks were done by men who, while acting alone, identified with groups who promote a violent agenda. Both men deliberately choose to commit their terrorism to attract as much media attention as possible. Jackson admitted that he came to kill black men in New York because it’s the “media capital” of the world and he wanted ”to send a message.” The London attacker, who has not been identified yet, was “inspired by international terrorism” according to police reports (as in ISIS) and obviously choose London and Parliament because it would attract the most media attention. Both men wanted to start a “war.” The London attacker is part of ISIS’s attempt to start a war between the West and Islam. James Jackson said, like Dylan Roof who killed nine Africans-Americans in Charleston in June 2015, that he wanted his actions to inspire a war between blacks and whites in America.

Looking specifically at the New York attack, it can be seen as part of a consistent uptick in hate-related crimes since the start of Donald Trump’s campaign for president. While Trump has not made an overt racist comment during the 2016 campaign and election, or during his short-term as president, his reluctance to condemn outpourings of support from white-supremacist, racist, and neo-Nazi groups has acted like a dog whistle to these groups, who see this reluctance as an invitation to be more open with their often violent hatred and bigotry towards Muslims, Jews, Hispanics and African-Americans.

As well, Trump’s hesitation in condemning recent attacks against Jewish cemeteries and community centers, or the murder of a visiting Indian engineer who was mistaken by a racist attacker for a Muslim, has also led leaders of these targeted communities to question Trump’s motives. Some have been quite specific. Steve Goldstein, head of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, said Trump “quacks, walks and talks like an anti-Semite. That makes him an anti-Semite.”

Where this becomes a problem is in how Trump deals with hate-crime terrorism in the United States, because make no mistake, these attacks are designed to terrorize a community as much as yesterday’s London attack was. It must have been more than a bit disturbing for members of these minority communities to read the report from the Reuters news agency in early February that the Trump administration “wants to revamp and rename a U.S. government program designed to counter all violent ideologies so that it focuses solely on Islamist extremism.” This deliberately ignores the reality of frequently deadly violence directed towards minorities in the United States by people who adhere to a white supremacist, anti-Semitic or Islamophobic ideology.

Donald Trump needs to be president for all Americans, not just his hard-core supporters. He needs to denounce these white supremacist terrorist groups as much as he denounces the Islamic State or Al-Qaeda. Until he does that millions of his fellow countrymen will be concerned that they may be violently attacked, not by Islamist terrorists, but by Americans who do not like the color of their skin or their personal religious beliefs.

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