Tag Archives: republicans

Elon Musk Threatens to Ditch Trump’s Advisory Council Over Paris Climate Treaty Withdrawal

Mother Jones

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Amid news reports that President Donald Trump is preparing to pull the US out of the Paris climate treaty on Wednesday, Tesla CEO and member of Trump’s economic advisory council, Elon Musk, threatened to step down as an adviser if the president went through with the withdrawal.

Musk took to Twitter to insist he had done all he could to convince Trump to remain in the accord. When asked what he would do if his efforts went unheeded, the Tesla CEO said he would have no choice but to leave:

Musk is among a growing list of executives, Republicans, and oil industry leaders urging Trump to remain in the treaty that 195 countries have signed.

In December, Musk attracted widespread criticism for his decision to serve on Trump’s advisory team, which includes other heads of powerful companies such as Disney and Walmart. While he previously expressed reservations regarding Trump’s fitness for the Oval Office, Musk would later rationalize his decision to advise Trump as his effort to provide a “voice of reason” in the increasingly erratic administration.

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer refused to confirm mounting reports of Trump’s plan to pull out of the agreement. When asked specifically about Musks’ threat, Spicer told reporters, “Let’s wait and see what the president’s decision is.”

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Elon Musk Threatens to Ditch Trump’s Advisory Council Over Paris Climate Treaty Withdrawal

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Less Liberal Contempt, Please

Mother Jones

Michael Tomasky writes today that elite liberals need to make peace with middle America. We need to be willing to welcome folks to our side of the aisle even if they don’t agree with every single liberal piety:

There are plenty of liberals out there in middle America, and plenty of liberalish moderates, and plenty of people who lean conservative but who aren’t consumed by rage and who think Barack Obama is a pretty cool guy and who might even have voted for him. These people are potential allies. But before the alliance can be struck, elite liberals need to recognize a fundamental truth: All of these people in middle America, even the actual liberals, have very different sensibilities than elite liberals who live on the coasts.

First of all, middle Americans go to church….Second, politics simply doesn’t consume middle Americans the way it does elites on the coasts….They talk kids, and local gossip, and pop culture, and sports….Third, their daily lives are pretty different from the lives of elite liberals. Few of them buy fair trade coffee or organic almond milk. Some of them served in the armed forces. Some of them own guns, and like to shoot them….Fourth, they’re patriotic in the way that most Americans are patriotic. They don’t feel self-conscious saluting the flag.

….We need to recognize that in vast stretches of this country, hewing to these positions doesn’t make someone a conservative.

There’s nothing especially new here. It’s basically the old problem of Reagan Democrats, which liberals have been wrestling with for a couple of generations. I’d argue that it has two fundamental origins.

First, the great sort. A century ago, hardly anyone had more than a high school education. Both of my grandfathers were plenty smart enough to go to college, but neither one did because they couldn’t afford it. (I don’t need to bother telling you about my grandmothers, do I?) Because of this, people of widely different intelligence mixed together all the time. There wasn’t really much choice.

After the war, that changed. College became widely available, and nearly everyone who was smart enough to go, did so. Thirty years later, their kids mostly went to college too. But among the postwar generation that didn’t go to college, their kids mostly didn’t either. Since then, there’s been yet another generation, and we’re now pretty solidly sorted out. Those of us with college degrees marry people who also have degrees. Our kids all go to college. Our friends all went to college. And we live in neighborhoods full of college grads because no one else can afford to live there.

On the other side, it’s just the opposite. Your average high school grad marries someone who’s also a high school grad. (If they get married at all.) Their kids are high school grads. Their friends are high school grads. And their neighborhoods are full of high school grads.

The two groups barely interact anymore. They don’t really want to, and they’re physically separated anyway. (More and more, they’re also geographically separated, as liberals cluster in cities and conservatives live everywhere else.)

Second, there’s the decline of unions. Fifty years ago, the working class commanded plenty of political respect simply because they had a lot of political power. No liberal in her right mind would think of condescending to them. They were a constituency to be courted, no matter what your personal feelings might be.

But young liberals in the 60s and 70s broke with the unions over the Vietnam War, and the unions broke with them over their counterculture lifestyle. This turned out to be a disaster for both sides, as Democrats lost votes and workers saw their unions decimated by their newfound allies in the Republican Party. By the time it was all over, liberals had little political reason to care about the working class and the working class still hated the hippies. Without the political imperative to stay in touch, liberals increasingly viewed middle America as a foreign culture: hostile, insular, vaguely racist/sexist/homophobic, and in thrall to charlatans.

By the early 90s this transformation was complete. On the liberal side, elites rarely interacted with working-class folks at all and had no political motivation to respect them. Republicans swooped in and paid at least lip service to working-class concerns, and that was enough. It didn’t put any more money in their pockets, but at least the Republicans didn’t sneer at their guns and their churches and their fatigue with rapid cultural change.

I don’t think there’s any good answer to the great sort. Certainly not anytime in the near future. But this affects Republicans too, so it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. The bigger problem, I think, is the decline of unions, which broke the political ties between working-class and middle-class liberals. There’s no realistic way that unions are going to make a comeback, which means that liberals need to come up with some other kind of working-class mass movement that can repair those ties. But what? This has been a pet topic of mine for years, but I’m no closer to an answer than I was when Reagan took office.

In the meantime, we can still try to do better. Rhetorically, the big issue dividing liberal elites and middle America is less the existence of different lifestyles, and more the feeling that lefties are implicitly lecturing them all the time. You are bad for eating factory-farmed meat. You are bad for enjoying football. You are bad for owning a gun. You are bad for driving an SUV. You are bad for not speaking the language of microaggressions and patriarchy and cultural appropriation. Liberals could go a long way toward solving this by being more positive about these things, rather than trying to make everyone feel guilty about all the things they enjoy.

Substantively, liberals might have to shift a little bit, but not by a lot. We don’t have to become pro-life, but we need to be more tolerant of folks who are a little uneasy about the whole subject. We don’t need to become Second Amendment zealots, but we should be more tolerant of folks who don’t want to be sneered at for keeping a gun around the house for self defense. We don’t need to tolerate racism, but we should stop badgering folks for not being able to express themselves in the currently approved language of wokeness.

It goes without saying—which is why I need to make sure to say it—that the whole point here is to broaden our appeal to people who are just a little bit on the conservative side of center. That is, persuadable, low-information folks who agree with us on some things but not on others. The hard-right conservatives are out of reach, and there’s no reason to try to appeal more to them.

In the same way that right-wing Republicans need to learn how to talk about women’s issues (see Akin, Todd), Democrats need to learn how to talk about middle America. No more deplorables. No more clinging to guns and religion. Less swarming over every tin-eared comment on race.

In general, just less contempt. Does it matter that working-class folks often display the same contempt toward us? Nope. As any good lefty knows, contempt from the powerful is a whole different thing than contempt from the powerless. We need to do better regardless of what anyone else does.

Can we do it? It’s worth a try.

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Less Liberal Contempt, Please

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Obamacare Is Pretty Stable — Unless Republicans Cripple It

Mother Jones

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The CSR subsidies that President Trump keeps threatening to kill are pretty important:

Here in California, our insurance commissioner has asked all health insurers for two sets of rate hike requests: one that assumes the CSR subsidies continue and one that assumes they don’t. We won’t get the rate requests for several weeks, but I expect that we’ll see the same kind of difference. At a guess, average rate increase requests will be around 6 percent with CSR and 15 percent without.

Just to be crystal clear about this: What this means is that if Republicans stop screwing around with CSR, rate hikes nationwide would probably be in the 5-10 percent range, which is fairly normal. It also shows that the market has started to stabilize after last year’s big increases. The only reason we’re likely to see another year of big increases is because of a deliberate campaign to undermine the Obamacare market by Republicans.

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Obamacare Is Pretty Stable — Unless Republicans Cripple It

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Brennan: CIA Was Original Source of Trump-Russia Investigation

Mother Jones

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How did the FBI’s investigation into the Trump-Russia connection get started, anyway? Former CIA director John Brennan says he was the one who got the ball rolling:

I encountered . . . intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign,” Brennan said, adding that he did not see conclusive evidence of collusion but feared that Trump associates were wittingly or unwittingly being used to advance the interests of Moscow.

….Brennan testified that he was disturbed by intelligence that surfaced last year showing a pattern of contacts between Russian agents or representatives and people with links to the Trump campaign. “That raised concerns in my mind,” Brennan said….With that remark, Brennan appeared to identify the point of origin of the FBI investigation that began in July — the first time a U.S. official has provided insight into what prompted the bureau probe.

That’s from the Washington Post. Brennan was testifying before Congress about Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the New York Times adds this disheartening tidbit:

On Aug. 4, as evidence of that campaign mounted, Mr. Brennan warned Alexander Bortnikov, the director of Russia’s Federal Security Service, known as the F.S.B., not to meddle in the election. Not only would interference damage relations between the two countries, he said, it was certain to backfire.

“I said that all Americans, regardless of political affiliation or whom they might support in the election, cherish their ability to elect their own leaders without outside interference or disruption,” Mr. Brennan said. “I said American voters would be outraged by any Russian attempt to interfere in election.”

Mr. Brennan’s warning proved futile. Though intelligence agencies are unanimous in their belief that Russia directly interfered with the election, it has become a divisive partisan issue, with Democrats far more likely than Republicans to accept the conclusion. President Trump has declared that “Russia is fake news” and tried to undermine the conclusions of his own intelligence services.

I don’t blame Brennan for thinking that Russian interference in the election would outrage everyone regardless of party. I suppose I might have thought the same thing. But it ain’t so anymore:

As always, click the link for the whole story.

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Brennan: CIA Was Original Source of Trump-Russia Investigation

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There’s No Way Republicans Will Truly Confront Trump on His Scandals. It Would Destroy Their Party.

Mother Jones

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Following the explosive report that President Donald Trump leaned on then-FBI director James Comey to go easy on former national security adviser Michael Flynn—and the explosive report that Trump’s transition team knew Flynn was under FBI investigation when Trump tapped him to be his top national security aide—an increasing number of congressional Republicans have begun to accept the need for full-scale investigations along with the appointment of Robert Mueller as the new special counsel to examine the Trump-Russia affair. But party leaders have not reached the point where they are willing to truly confront the scandal-plagued president. The GOP establishment can’t and won’t thoroughly challenge Trump over the assorted controversies brewing within his chaotic administration. To do so would risk a nuclear civil war that could blow their party to smithereens.

Ever since Trump moved into the White House, liberals (and others) have plaintively asked, why aren’t Republicans fiercely investigating Trump and his crew and seeking to hold them accountable for various instances of improbity? There’s been plenty to choose from: the Trump-Russia scandal, the smorgasbord of financial conflicts of interests involving Trump and his family members in and out of government, other possible ethics violations (including nepotistic hiring), the ever-widening Michael Flynn affair, and so on. In the wake of Trump’s firing of Comey, the guy in charge of a FBI investigation that could land on Trump’s doorstep, and the subsequent report (denied by the White House) that Trump pressured Comey on Flynn, some GOPers on Capitol Hill have gently called for probes into these matters. But by and large, Republican leaders have not dared to take on Trump vigorously. “The last thing I’m going to do is pre-judge anything,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday.

One reason Republicans have been reticent to criticize Trump is obvious: they care more about working with—that is, using—Trump to attain their most beloved policy desires: generous tax breaks for the wealthy, draconian budget cuts for government programs (including those that assist low- and middle-income Americans), and the repeal-and-replace-or-whatever of Obamacare. But there’s a related reason: if congressional Republicans were to challenge Trump in forceful fashion, it could destroy the GOP.

Pop quiz: who’s the most vengeful politician on the scene today? Yes, it’s Trump. As I reported before Election Day, Trump is completely obsessed with revenge. For years, Trump often said in paid speeches that a key to success is that you have to be a merciless SOB when dealing with foes. Here’s how he spelled it out: “Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe it.” Another time, he elaborated:

One of the things you should do in terms of success: If somebody hits you, you’ve got to hit ’em back five times harder than they ever thought possible. You’ve got to get even. Get even. And the reason, the reason you do, is so important…The reason you do, you have to do it, because if they do that to you, you have to leave a telltale sign that they just can’t take advantage of you. It’s not so much for the person, which does make you feel good, to be honest with you, I’ve done it many times. But other people watch and you know they say, “Well, let’s leave Trump alone,” or “Let’s leave this one,” or “Doris, let’s leave her alone. They fight too hard.” I say it, and it’s so important. You have to, you have to hit back. You have to hit back.

With the president showing signs of narcissism and paranoia—on Tuesday, he declared, “No politician in history…has been treated worse or more unfairly” than he has been—Republican politicians who dare to confront Trump can expect to be targeted and mowed down by Trump.

Prior to the recent Comey and Flynn controversies, many GOPers were scared of Trump. A House Democrat a few weeks ago told me of a conversation he had with a Republican colleague whom he was close to persuading to sponsor a piece of legislation that would likely be popular in the GOPer’s district but not fancied by the Trump White House. “I just can’t do it,” the Republican finally admitted to the Democrat. “He’ll come after me on Twitter.” The wrath of Trump was something this Republican feared deeply—just over a policy disagreement.

Imagine if Republicans squared off against Trump regarding a matter involving his integrity—or one that could pose an existential threat to his presidency. (Examining the Comey issues as possible acts of obstruction of justice could well lead to the question of impeachment.) Trump certainly would not consider such action kindly. And if he were going to screw them back 10 times as hard, what would that mean for congressional Republicans?

It would be quite improbable that a raging and revenge-seeking Trump would be able to collaborate with Republicans on legislative priorities. What would be more important for Trump: working with Republicans to achieve tax reform or extracting payback?

If the going gets tougher, Trump will insist on fealty from his fellow Republicans. Yet if some opt to join the forces of investigation, a dividing line would be created within the party: you’re with Trump, or you’re not. Of course, Trump and his minions would be keeping score. During the the first and chaotic effort of House Republicans to gut Obamacare, the Trump White House considered compiling an enemies list of those GOPers who opposed the Trump-backed bill. Republicans who threatened his presidency could expect much worse than being placed on a roster of unfriendlies.

This is far more than an inside-Washington affair. Trump’s base is the party’s base. Despite all the screw-ups, false assertions, broken promises, and flip-flops of Trump’s still young (but exhausting) presidency, he remains hugely popular among Republicans—84 percent of Republicans still approve of Trump in the latest Gallup poll—who presumably buy his “fake news” attacks on media reports that cast him as an autocratic, truth-challenged, and bumbling president. If Republicans on Capitol Hill turn against Trump they could well encounter the fury of their most dependable voters. In the fight for the soul of the party, could GOP leaders (Washington insiders!) best the demagogic Trump? Sen. Mitch McConnell or Rep. Paul Ryan would be no match for him. The idea of a President Pence would likely be little consolation for the base during a clash between Republicans and Trump.

The Republican establishment has already demonstrated that political calculations, not principles, are its driving force. And one calculation is easy to process: if the GOP breaks rank with Trump on any of these scandals, there will be no turning back. An irate (and irrational?) Trump would demand retribution. A base already suspicious of GOP insiders could become furious. Tax cuts and the like would be at risk. The party itself would be endangered. Of course, as is so often noted, if the Republicans start to feel Trump-related electoral pain—say, they lose one of the upcoming special House elections in GOP-leaning districts—they might reevaluate their situational loyalty to Trump. But the smart ones know the costs of such a course—even if necessary for survival—could be exceedingly high.

There is no good answer for congressional Republicans facing the dilemma of what to do about Trump. They long ago decided to lash themselves to a man with a decades-long record of dishonesty, arrogance, bullying, sleazy deal-making, and score-settling. There are no easy escape routes. No convenient off-ramps. No lifeboats on this ship. He made the bed, and they leaped into it. (Oh, Donald!) Now they’re screwed. The old cliché is that you don’t go after the king unless you can kill the king. But for Republicans, the situation is worse that that: it may not be possible for them to battle their king without razing their kingdom.

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There’s No Way Republicans Will Truly Confront Trump on His Scandals. It Would Destroy Their Party.

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