Russia debacle destroys the last rationale for Trump, the myth of the genius CEO

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Matt Bai’s Political World

Russia debacle destroys the last rationale for Trump, the myth of the genius CEO

Matt Bai      June 22, 2017

Let’s begin this week with a question that has nothing to do with a single House election in Georgia, even though it was apparently the most critical and consequential local election in the history of elections, going all the way back to the Greeks.

What have we really learned to this point about the ties between President Trump’s campaign and the Russians, and what does it tell us?

My former colleague David Brooks, no fan of Trump’s, wrote thoughtfully on this subject a few days ago. In a column titled “Lets Not Get Carried Away,” Brooks argued that — at least as of now, which is an important caveat — all the leaks and revelations about the Trump campaign haven’t actually turned up any evidence of collusion with Russian hackers looking to influence last year’s election.

Rather, if I’m paraphrasing Brooks correctly, Trump has played right into the hands of his many critics in Washington, foolishly trying to discredit or even impede an investigation that probably leads nowhere. And in doing so, all he’s managed to do is crank up the modern machinery of scandal politics, which can whir away for years in a search for something — anything — that rises to the level of a crime.

I tend to agree with this analysis. Unless the special counsel, Robert Mueller, has unearthed something we don’t know about, there’s not much here to suggest that Trump himself had any idea of what the Russians were up to, or that any of his pro-Kremlin advisers were actively coordinating with foreign spies.

The closest thing we have to a crime right now is Trump’s sleazy attempt to influence and then destroy the FBI director, and even that feels less like obstruction of justice than like the clueless machinations of a land developer who thought he could push around the Justice Department as he would an unaccommodating city inspector.

In the end, though, if Republicans are going to argue that the whole Russia fiasco has nothing to do with Trump, and is really just a story of incompetence and greed among a few cowboy operatives working for the campaign, then they have to acknowledge something else, too.

Which is that this version of events further obliterates the entire premise of Trump’s campaign, not to mention his party’s principal rationale for having supported him in the first place.

Remember, Republicans in Washington never labored for a minute under the illusion that Trump knew anything about governance or even shared their bedrock ideology. What they settled on, when they finally embraced his candidacy, was that the country could use a CEO who knew how to run a business.

This is what Trump himself kept saying, too. “The best people” — that’s what he promised.

If I had a dime for every conservative insider and voter who told me last year that Trump would surround himself with all the sharpest minds and most experienced hands around, I’d build a garish, exorbitantly expensive hotel and stick my name in fake gold at the top.

What’s become abundantly clear, though, is that Trump didn’t run his campaign like a shrewd corporate titan with a keen eye for talent. He ran it like a sucker, easily played by anyone who knew how to stroke his ego.

OK, so maybe the party’s best and brightest weren’t exactly knocking down the door at Trump Tower last year. Maybe the Jim Bakers and Condoleezza Rices of the world wanted nothing to do with Trump at that point.

But isn’t that supposed to be Trump’s superpower — getting people to “yes”? Don’t you think he would have sought out those folks and determined the bottom-line price of their loyalty, the way a great negotiator would?

Instead, he turned to misfits and marginal characters. He hired Paul Manafort, a long-forgotten consultant who’d lately been doing shady work in Ukraine for a dubious paycheck. He turned to Michael Flynn, a former general with conspiratorial tendencies and murky relationships with foreign despots. He collected people like Carter Page, the gadfly foreign policy aide who was, in effect, if inadvertently, a Russian asset.

These guys used Trump for the purposes of their overseas friends and clients. Just four years after the last Republican nominee had called Russia the greatest threat to American security, the new nominee was praising Vladimir Putin, while Russian spies hacked his opponents.

The only thing Republicans can really argue is that Trump didn’t know. He was new to the political world. How could he have guessed that Manafort was so venal? How could he have known that Flynn wasn’t being straight?

According to the testimony of James Comey, the now deposed FBI director, Trump later said he wanted to know if any of these advisers had betrayed him (and, incidentally, their country).

Only he didn’t, really. Because even after Trump had given Flynn one of the most vital and sensitive posts in American foreign policy, and even after Trump had been personally warned by his predecessor and his Justice Department that Flynn was a blackmail risk, he did nothing.

He personally lobbied Comey to leave Flynn alone. And even now, after Flynn has been publicly disgraced and faces legal jeopardy for the conflicts he failed to disclose, Trump is said to be ruminating on a way to bring him back.

No, the president may not have been complicit in this dirty foreign intrigue. “Clueless” and “ineffectual” are the words that come to mind.

None of this should surprise us, though. Because the whole surround-yourself-with-geniuses theory was always just a wishful canard, with zero basis in reality. Trump himself, in a much-quoted interview with CNBC in 2007, offered a truer sample of his management philosophy:

“I hear so many times, ‘Oh, I want my people to be smarter than I am.’ It’s a lot of crap. You want to be smarter than your people, if possible.”

Well, he certainly is making it look possible — I’ll give him that.

Trump’s White House, like his campaign, has nothing to do with recruiting top-rate talent, and everything to do with making the president feel loved and unchallenged.

Just this week, Trump’s 36-year-old son-in-law, whose collective expertise is limited to buying a bunch of buildings in Manhattan with family money, gave a little speech about reorganizing the federal bureaucracy, just before jetting off to the Middle East in a bid to broker world peace.

(By the way, since Trump so admires the House of Saud, it’s worth pointing out that the Saudi king just ousted his crown prince in favor of his 31-year-old son. If I were Mike Pence, I might take this opportunity to spend some quality time with the boss.)

Meanwhile, Trump continues to moan privately about the dysfunction and incompetence among his own senior staff, though he seems at a loss to fix it. He still can’t seem to fill most of the critical jobs at his Cabinet agencies, assuming he even wants to.

To be clear: I’ve never been opposed to this notion of a CEO president, in theory. I agree with Republicans — and maybe some Democrats, too — who think Washington could use some leadership from another arena, especially if it involves a leader who knows what he or she doesn’t know, and who understands the powerful currents reshaping the society, and who can bring imaginative thinking and top-rate intellects into government.

But that’s not this president. What the revelations around Russia are proving is that Trump doesn’t actually run things well. His success in business comes not from being some management guru, but from being a relentless opportunist and a bit of a con man.

His only defense now is that he’s the one who got conned.

Do Not Ignore This Persistent Truth About Republicans

Do Not Ignore This Persistent Truth About Republicans

Republicans vote Republican, even when a fresh face like Jon Ossoff steals the headlines.

By Charles P. Pierce      June 21, 2017

OK, two things before we leave the leafy, tranquil suburbs of rank despair down there in Georgia and hurl ourselves into the heat and desolation of the Hot Take Caldera.

Point The First: Karen Handel, who won the congressional seat previously held by Tom (The Wolf of Wall Street) Price, was not a very strong candidate. She ran for statewide office three times and lost badly. She piled up a resounding 19 percent in the preliminary balloting. Her appeal to that mythical beast, The Independent Voter, was practically nil; on many issues judged to be critical to that critter, from good government to marriage equality, she is an extremist loon. She was nobody’s idea of an ideal Republican candidate for that seat, either.

But she won. Know why? Because there was an ‘R’ next to her name, that’s why, and because that’s all that matters to Republicans, who get out and vote for anyone with an ‘R’ next to their name, and who know how to keep their internecine knife fights largely on the down low and, in any case, even while those are going on, they know how to keep their eyes on the prize. They come out. They vote their party, even in what apparently were godawful weather conditions.

Conclusion: I would like the 2016 Democratic primary elections to be over now.

Point The Second: Now that it’s open season on Jon Ossoff, I’d like to point out that he came within a whisker of avoiding a runoff entirely in an election for a congressional seat that’s been solidly Republican since Jimmy Carter was president. That’s not a win, but it’s not nothing, either. He was a studied, cautious candidate. (His personal affect was thoughtful to the point of occasionally seeming a bit off-plumb, truth be told.) It’s very hard to make a case that a louder, more progressive candidate would have done much better than Ossoff did. (And that’s not even to mention that the Democrats ran a former Goldman Sachs executive in a deep red South Carolina district and came even closer to an upset than they did in Georgia. That would have scrambled some brains among the purity police.) It’s a fair point to say that, especially when all that Paul Ryan PAC money came flooding in at the last minute to link Ossoff to Nancy Pelosi and, most odiously, to the mass shooting in Alexandria.

(The Pelosi question is an interesting one. Already, there are cries to replace her as the minority leader in the House, almost all of which are based on election results outside the chamber. However, nobody has been better at herding the cats in the Democratic caucus than she’s been. And now that the Blue Dogs are apparently having delusions of grandeur again, I’m not sure it’s the right time to toss away that essential skill. But I do find compelling the argument that the hyper-nationalization of the Ossoff campaign did it no favors.)

Conclusion: I would like the 2016 Democratic primary elections to be over now.

Yes, it is hard for the Democrats to listen to the mad king cock-a-doodle-doo on the electric Twitter machine. And it probably is almost impossible for them to listen to the thousand voices who Know Better. Some of them will be completely a’skeered and declare themselves open for business with Camp Runamuck. Still others will insist that there is a huge reservoir out there in the boondocks for economic populism detached from the racism and xenophobia into which American economic populism almost always descends.

(Over at Lawyers, Guns, and Money, there is a thread dealing with a proposal from one of America’s most prominent Berniecrats that the key for Democratic candidates in the South is to follow the example of…Zell Miller.)

All of this will be utterly counterproductive and, worse, futile. The Republicans don’t care. They have their vicious primary battles and then, usually, everybody in the choir sings on key. Republicans are remarkably unembarrassed by jettisoning their previous deeply held beliefs for the purposes of winning elections. Ted Cruz’s fealty to the current president* is proof enough of that.

The biggest mistake the Ossoff campaign made was relying too heavily on the notion that there were Republican voters in that district that could be broken off from their party. This almost is never the case. Through decades of constant and unrelenting pressure, and through finagling with the franchise in a hundred ways in a thousand places, the Republicans have compressed the votes they need into an unmovable, diamond-hard core that will vote in robotic lockstep for whoever it is that wins a Republican primary. In American politics today, mindlessness is one of the strongest weapons you can have. Republicans vote for Republicans in Republican districts. Period.

Cops Suspect Slain Muslim Teen Nabra Hassanen Was Raped

Daily Beast

Unspeakable…..Cops Suspect Slain Muslim Teen Nabra Hassanen Was Raped

Darwin Martinez Torres is locked up for the violent attack on the girl whose death raised fears of a hate crime. ICE said he entered the U.S. illegally.

Natalia Megas     June 20, 2017 

Fairfax, Virginia — Authorities suspect Nabra Hassanen may have been raped before she was murdered on Sunday, according to two sources with knowledge of the investigation.

The killing of Hassanen, a 17-year-old Muslim girl, sent shockwaves through the country after a recent string of violent attacks on Muslims and racial minorities. Police said they are not investigating her death as a hate crime.

Hassanen’s body was found in a pond in Sterling, Virginia, hours after Darwin Martinez Torres allegedly struck her with a baseball bat, took her away, and killed her. One source said police found a woman’s pair of underwear near Hassanen’s body, and investigators are awaiting test results from vaginal swabs.

When asked if Hassanen was raped, Fairfax County Police Department Lt. Col. Deputy Chief of Police Tom Ryan said at a Monday press conference: “There was an assault that occurred in Fairfax County and we had another assault that occurred in Loudoun County.”

Torres, 22, is in Fairfax County jail custody for the attack on Hassanen. Torres, a national of El Salvador, entered the United States illegally, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement spokesperson Carissa Cutrell told The Daily Beast. Cutrell said ICE has asked to take custody of Torres after he’s released from Fairfax County jail.

“It appears that the suspect became so enraged over this traffic argument that it escalated into deadly violence,” Fairfax County police spokeswoman Julie Parker said Monday. She added the case may be potentially prosecuted in Loudoun County “due to elements of the various crimes and where they occurred.”

According to a preliminary investigation, sources said, Hassanen and a group of about 15 Muslim teenagers were walking and riding bikes back to the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) mosque in Sterling after leaving a nearby fast food restaurant at about 3:40 a.m. on Sunday.

One boy in the group began arguing with Torres, the sources said, before one of the teens allegedly threw a drink at Torres’ vehicle.

Torres drove his vehicle onto the curb as the teens scattered, the sources said. Witnesses told police that Torres chased part of the group, including Hassanen, with a metal baseball bat into a nearby McDonald’s parking lot.

Hassanen reportedly tripped over her abaya, which is when Torres caught up with her and struck her with the bat in the head, rendering her unconscious. Torres then allegedly dragged her body to his vehicle and drove to another location where police suspect he raped her.

A source close to the investigation said Hassanen may have regained consciousness and resisted during the sexual assault before Torres struck her again. Autopsy results showed that Hassanen suffered blunt force trauma to the upper body.

Hassanen’s body was later found in a pond.

The Washington Post reported Hassanen was the first born of four daughters, a diligent and popular student who just finished 10th grade. The Hassanen family lived in a modest apartment near Washington, D.C., usually overflowing with friends and laughter.

“It’s a family where if you’re feeling down and you need to laugh, this is where you go,” Samar Ali, 26, who grew up in the Hassanens’ apartment complex told the Post.

“Why would you kill a kid? What did my daughter do to deserve this?” her mother said to the Post.

Deny ‘Til You Die


Deny ‘Til You Die

Scott Pruitt and Co. can talk all they want. The storms are coming.

By Charles P. Pierce    June 20, 2017

It seems that it’s too hot in Phoenix these days for airplanes to fly, or at least that’s what USA Today tells us.

Extreme heat affects a plane’s ability to take off. Hot air is less dense than cold air, and the hotter the temperature, the more speed a plane needs to lift off. A runway might not be long enough to allow a plane to achieve the necessary extra speed.

The Phoenix area is going to experience heat in excess of 115 degrees for a while. This is not merely uncomfortable; it’s damned near uninhabitable. But at least, unlike Portugal, Phoenix isn’t burning down at the moment. From the BBC:

The week’s highest temperatures of around 38C (100F) are expected on Tuesday and together with windy conditions could reignite fires already quelled. Civil protection officials say although 70% of the fire is under control, what remains is a source “of great concern”. At least 64 people have died in the fires since Saturday. The latest of the victims was identified as a 40-year-old firefighter who died in hospital. Many died inside their cars or a short distance away from them as they tried to flee. More than 130 other people have been injured.

Here is where I remind you that we have a president* committed, at least rhetorically, to reviving the dead coal industry, and who was loudly applauded by the members of his party—and quietly applauded by the CEOs who own them—for pulling the US out of the Paris climate accords, and who installed at the Environmental Protection Agency an extraction industry sublet who doesn’t even believe that Carbon dioxide and climate change have anything to do with each other. In turn, this cluck appointed a former lobbyist for various polluters to head the enforcement division of the EPA, which, in any case, is savaged in the new proposed federal budget.

Hugely anomalous and destructive weather events are going to be the new normal in no small part because a hugely anomalous and destructive political event took place last November. Some day, that whole election may be looked on as a crime against humanity.

Oh yeah, Louisiana has the first bull’s-eye of the season painted on it.

The Southwest is broiling. Are you paying attention, President Trump?


The Southwest is broiling. Are you paying attention, President Trump?

By Jill Filipovic        June 20, 2017

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Jill Filipovic: There’s plenty of reason to believe extreme heat in West is climate change portent. Yet Trump, many in GOP continue to deny reality.

She says they are mistaken to believe their base is with them on this: they will be as affected by ruined crops, rising sea level as everyone else.

(CNN) Record temperatures. Roads cracking and buckling. Planes that can’t take off. Power knocked out. Wildfires raging. These are just some of the trying conditions currently roiling America’s West Coast, which is in the midst of a record-breaking heatwave.

Nervous about how these disruptions will negatively impact the economy and even cost human life? You should be. And there’s more to come.

Changing weather patterns are the new normal, thanks to decades of trashing the environment and a refusal from many in the party currently controlling Washington, the Republicans — and their corporate patrons — to even acknowledge climate change as a reality, let alone do anything about it.

Entire nations may soon be under water. Mega-cities that are home to hundreds of millions are set to drown, leaving huge numbers of people stranded, constraining already-limited resources, fueling violence and competition over those resources, and creating a whole new category of need: climate refugees. A delayed flight out of Phoenix will soon be the least of our worries.

Yes, of course, heat waves happen, and the causes are complex. There is not a direct A to B line from “pollute the environment” and “die in a scorching June.” But there is virtually no real dissent that the Earth is getting warmer. The ice at the poles of our oceans is melting. Irregular and dangerous weather patterns are increasing. Sea levels are rising.

We have polluted, depleted and abused this planet so badly that there is much damage that can’t be undone. But there remain ways to rein in the ills we continue to reap — and ways to at least slow our progress toward a chaotic and barren global hellscape.

Even if you are a climate change skeptic and doubt human agency in this crisis — if you write off the consensus of the overwhelming majority of scientists who study this issue — now that we are regularly faced with weather extremes, why not at least entertain the idea that scientists are onto something?

And if you allow that you just might be wrong — that climate change could be real — how about reconciling to the idea that the downside of doing nothing is so immensely catastrophic that it’s our immediate obligation to act?

Let’s say the climate change skeptics get their way and we don’t act according to the pleas of environmentalists and scientists. If the doubters are right, then the upside is that we save a good deal of money on palliative measures. If they’re wrong, though, and if people who study the environment professionally are in fact better able to predict its condition than businessmen and politicians, the downside is massive — many will die.

What marginally sane person would ever take that gamble?

Our President and many in the Republican Party, it turns out.

For one example, candidate Trump made a campaign pledge to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, and as President has settled instead for appointing an administrator who is cozy with the oil and gas industry; who is reluctant to acknowledge the human causes of global warming; who has announced cuts that essentially gut the agency that stands between Americans and environmental disaster. For his part, the President has signed an executive order targeting regulations that had aimed to slow climate change.

For another, Trump has backed the country out of the Paris climate agreement — a move wildly opposed by Americans!

This is just a short list (there is more) of the steps this administration is taking to undo climate protections.

In all, it represents a shocking combination of greed and shortsightedness, compounded by an apparent urge to appeal to the worst impulses of the Trump base — people he and Republicans seem to assume are motivated by an urge to stick it to Prius-driving egghead liberals, even if doing so means their grandchildren might suffer or perish in a world of flooded metropolises, un-breathable air and expansive, unlivable deserts.

Surely this calculation is wrong: Republican voters whose livelihoods depend on the ability to harvest corn crops in Iowa or ship goods to their store in Arizona (or who live near the water and can’t afford flood insurance that’s more than their mortgage) can take a look around and realize this “see no evil” strategy is going to hurt them, and soon.

Indeed, that the American right has transformed climate change into a partisan issue defies all reason and rational self-interest. Climate change will have the largest and most immediate impacts on the world’s poor — not a demographic the GOP has shown much concern for. But make no mistake — rich or poor we all share the earth, and the catastrophic impacts of defiling it are coming for all of us.

If you’re stranded in Phoenix right now, or worried about an elderly acquaintance in California, or are without power in the Bay Area, or nervous about a wildfire taking your home, you can thank the long list of politicians who do the bidding of polluting corporations instead of their constituents and protect profit over the environment.

You can thank the President who tore up the Paris climate agreement. And you can show your displeasure by refusing to support candidates who don’t take climate change seriously, and don’t do whatever they can to keep the world inhabitable.

Anything less is global suicide.

Report: 1 In 5 Plants In Danger Of Extinction

MintPress News

Report: 1 In 5 Plants In Danger Of Extinction

The number one cause of plant extinction, according to the study, is habitat destruction.

By Amelia Kinney     June 20, 2017

Experts at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew have just published their second ever State of the World’s Plants report. They reveal there are 390,000 known species of plants, with over 30,000 being used by humans. Unfortunately, the report also says that 1 in 5 plant species are in danger of extinction.

“Plants are absolutely fundamental to humankind. Plants provide us with everything – food, fuel, medicines, timber and they are incredibly important for our climate regulation. Without plants, we would not be here. We are facing some devastating realities if we do not take stock and re-examine our priorities and efforts.” said Prof. Kathy Willis, director of science at Kew.

The biggest driving factor behind plant extinction is the loss of habitat. Loss of habitat is caused by farming, deforestation and infrastructure expansion. Climate change isn’t currently a major contributor, but the report warns that it will have a dramatic impact on plants within the next 30 years.

On a positive note, new scientific discoveries offer hope. “I find that really encouraging and exciting. We are still finding new species of trees, new species of food: five new species of onion were found last year, for example.” says Prof. Willis.

She went on to say, “There are huge areas of the world where we just don’t know what is growing there. They may hold the key to the future of food. Genetic diversity in our foods is becoming poorer and poorer.”

The report references the global challenges of “population size, land-use change, plant diseases and pests” and says preserving biodiversity is urgent, as well as finding and conserving wild relatives of crops.

Major agriculture companies like Monsanto put world food security in jeopardy by propagating homogenous crops, known as “mono-cropping”. This is in contradiction with natural evolutionary processes which promote strong diverse crops with area-specific defenses and characteristics.

“As the global population rises and the pressure increases on our global food system, so does our dependence on the global crops and production systems that feed us. The price of failure of any of these crops will become very high.” says Luigi Guarino, senior scientist at the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

According to the report, “Having access to this large and diverse genetic pool is essential if we are to furnish crops with the valuable traits that enable resilience to climate change, pests and diseases, and ultimately underpin global food security.”

Watch State of the World’s Plants 2017 by Kew:

America’s Oligarchs Will Control 70% Of National Wealth By 2021

MintPress News

America’s Oligarchs Will Control 70% Of National Wealth By 2021

A new study by the Boston Consulting Group has found that while wealth inequality is growing on a global scale, it has kicked into overdrive in the United States – where America’s 1% are expected to control 70 percent of the nation’s private wealth by the year 2021.

By Whitney Webb      June 20, 2017

America’s rich just won’t quit getting richer, according to a new study released in mid-June by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a global management consulting firm. The study, which seeks to analyze the global wealth management industry, as well as the evolution of private wealth, uncovered some startling statistics that suggest that global financial inequality will grow significantly by the year 2021.

The firm found that the already massive gap between the world’s wealthy elite – the approximately 18 million households that hold at least than $1 million in assets – and everyone else is continuing to widen at a remarkable rate. The estimated 70 million people who make up these households were found to control 45 percent of the world’s $166.5 trillion in wealth. And in just four more years, it is estimated that they will control more than half of the world’s wealth, despite representing less than 1 percent of the world’s current population.

However, while rising inequality is a global phenomenon, it is especially pronounced in the United States. While wealth inequality in the U.S. is by no means an unknown phenomenon, the U.S. is significantly more unequal than most other countries, with the nation’s elite currently holding 63 percent of the private wealth. The U.S. elite’s share of national wealth is also growing much faster than the global average, with millionaires and billionaires expected to control an estimated 70 percent of the nation’s wealth by 2021.

The U.S.’ high wealth inequality largely owes to post-World War II government policies that have seen almost a quarter of all national income go to its wealthiest residents. Meanwhile, wages for the majority of Americans have remained stagnant for decades – in contrast to the richest Americans, their future economic outlook is incredibly bleak by comparison.

The U.S. is also home to more billionaires and millionaires than anywhere else in the world, which partly explains how U.S. policy has come to favor them over the years. According to Bloomberg, two out of five millionaires and billionaires live in the United States – and their ranks are growing.

While the world’s richest citizens may be pleased by the results of BCG’s recent study, there is plenty for them to be worried about if history is any indicator. Indeed, history shows that societies with drastic wealth inequality are much more unstable and more likely to experience drastic economic failure or outright societal collapse.

For instance, a 2014 study conducted by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center noted that over-consumption and wealth inequality have occurred in the collapse of every civilization over the last 5,000 years. That same study also warned that rising inequality could easily lead to an unsustainable use of resources and the “irreversible collapse” of global industrial civilization.

This warning seems particularly prescient, given that wealth inequality in the U.S. is well above that of past civilizations that eventually collapsed as a result of these factors. For example, at the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire, the top 1 percent of the Roman elite controlled just 16 percent of the society’s wealth, a measly figure compared to the percentage commanded by the 1-percenters of the U.S.

While the BCG study paints a rosy picture for the world’s millionaires and billionaires, particularly in the United States, they should be gravely concerned that their growing accumulation of wealth could have drastic consequences – not just for those poorer than them, but for everyone.

Whitney Webb is a MintPress contributor who has written for several news organizations in both English and Spanish; her stories have been featured on ZeroHedge, the Anti-Media, 21st Century Wire, and True Activist among others – she currently resides in Southern Chile.

Donald Trump’s Approval Rating Plummets to New Low as Republicans Grow Wary Amid Russia Investigation


Donald Trump’s Approval Rating Plummets to New Low as Republicans Grow Wary Amid Russia Investigation

T. Marcin, Newsweek June 20, 2017

Another day, another low point for Donald Trump. The president’s approval rating, which has proved historically bad since he took office, has sunk again.

The latest survey from CBS News out Tuesday found his approval rating had hit a new low of 36 percent, while 57 percent disapproved of the job he is doing. Trump’s approval rating has declined over the last few months in the CBS News poll. Forty-three percent approved of him in early April, a number that dropped to 41 percent by late April and now has hit the new low of 36 percent in late June. The previous low for Trump was 39 percent in February.

Trump’s support among Republicans might have been a factor in the drop. Seventy-two percent of GOP respondents approved of the president’s job performance—which sounds like a lot but actually represents an 11-percentage-point fall compared with April.

The poll found that the investigation into Trump’s potential ties with Russia, the country that interfered in the 2016 election as it aimed to help get the GOP candidate into office, has dragged down his popularity. His firing of FBI Director James Comey and comments suggesting the move was connected to the bureau’s Russia probe, as well as his near-constant focus on the investigation, might not be helping him with the American people. Just 28 percent of respondents approved of the way he’s handled the probe, according to CBS, while 63 percent disapprove. About one-third said Trump’s approach on the process has left them thinking less of the president. Fifty-seven percent of GOP respondents approved of Trump’s handling of the Russia investigation.

Thirty-nine percent of all respondents thought the Russia investigation was a critical national security issue, while 32 percent thought it was a distraction. Twenty-seven percent thought it was a serious issue but not as serious as other issues.

The CBS News survey, conducted by SSRS, sampled 1,117 adults across the country though telephone interviews from June 15 through June 18. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points for the full sample.

Other recent surveys haven’t brought good news for Trump either. The tracking poll from the generally right-leaning Rasmussen Reports, a survey often cited by the president on Twitter, found Trump’s approval rating had fallen 2 percentage points over the weekend, to 48 percent. Gallup tracking poll, meanwhile, pegged Trump’s approval at just 38 percent Monday, closing in on the president’s lowest point in the survey—35 percent—which he hit in late March.

The weighted average from data-focused website FiveThirtyEight had Trump’s approval rating at 38.7 percent Tuesday morning, while his disapproval stood at 55.3 percent. FiveThirtyEight aggregates public polls to come up with the average figure and accounts for each survey’s quality, timeliness, sample size and any partisan leanings.

Supreme Court could restore the power of your vote

Sun Times Editorial

Supreme Court could restore the power of your vote

Sun-Times Editorial Board     June 19, 2017 

If you were properly appalled by the shooting of a Republican congressman on a baseball field last week, we expect you were cheered by the news Monday that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider a key reason American elections have grown so partisan and vitriolic.

It is safe to say that the uncompromising politics and overheated rhetoric of our times contributed to the dark atmosphere in which an unstable man went on a shooting spree against Republicans. He wounded five people, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana.


It is also fair to say that this polarization in politics, in which increasing numbers of congressmen and state legislators answer only to the hard-core ideologues of their respective party’s base, is the direct result of how voting districts are drawn. Legislatures across the country increasingly draw boundaries in a painfully contorted manner — what’s known as gerrymandering — to create extreme partisan advantages. In a gerrymandered “safe” seat, an incumbent faces no serious challenger in a general election. The only race that matters is the party primary, where voters are likely to reward the candidate who is the most uncompromising.

It was because of gerrymandering that Republicans in the House earlier this year approved a draconian new health care bill, a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, without bothering to work with Democrats. They didn’t have to. They know they will be rewarded, not punished, in next year’s primary elections for refusing to budge on this issue and others, including tax reform and immigration policy.

It is also because of gerrymandering, in part, that Illinois suffers from political paralysis. Dozens of state representatives and senators have little incentive to work across party lines on a compromise state budget because they represent lopsidedly Democratic or Republican districts. They don’t fear the voters. Thanks to gerrymandering, they picked their voters. State senate and house districts are so gerrymandered that in almost 60 percent of all races last fall, the incumbent ran unopposed for reelection.

Many legislators in Springfield fear only party bosses and people with money. They worry, above all, about House Speaker Mike Madigan and Gov. Bruce Rauner, who could run a well-funded challenger against them in a primary. They do the leaders’ bidding, not the voter’s.

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear the case of Gill v. Whitford, in which it is alleged that the Wisconsin Legislature and governor gerrymandered the state’s legislative map so completely that Democrats have been robbed of the power of their vote. The proof is in the numbers: Last fall, slightly fewer than half of all Wisconsin voters voted for Donald Trump for president, but Republicans won two out of every three state House seats.

If the Supreme Court rules that there is a constitutional limit to how much party-based gerrymandering a legislature can get away with, that could reshape dramatically the way district lines are drawn following the 2020 Census. The court previously has ruled that race-based gerrymandering is unacceptable, but it has never ruled on party-based gerrymandering, though the practice grows ever more common and sophisticated with every new clever software program.

That growing sophistication may be why the high court has decided to wade in now. Computer analysis could provide the court with, in the words of Justice Anthony Kennedy in 2004, the “limited and precise” rationale necessary to set rules.

Thanks to computer analysis, it is possible now to count the exact number of “wasted” votes in a gerrymandered district — the votes that went to the candidate who was sure to lose, plus the votes that went to the winning candidate that were in excess of what was needed to win. From this, an “efficiency gap” can be measured, which could be used to set a limit on possible gerrymandering.

After Rep. Scalise was shot last week, Americans by the millions called for a more civil tone in our politics. But raw self-interest today so often works against comity and bipartisanship, especially on primarily election day in a heavily gerrymandered district.

For decades, good government groups in Illinois and elsewhere have worked to end gerrymandering, proposing constitutional amendments and the like. They have been thwarted at every turn by powerful party leaders like Mike Madigan.

Nobody in politics voluntarily gives up power.

If ever there were a job for the Supreme Court, this is it.

Too hot to handle: Study shows Earth’s killer heat worsens

Associated Press

Too hot to handle: Study shows Earth’s killer heat worsens

Seth Borenstein, Associated Press    June 19, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) — Killer heat is getting worse, a new study shows.  Deadly heat waves like the one now broiling the American West are bigger killers than previously thought and they are going to grow more frequent, according to a new comprehensive study of fatal heat conditions. Still, those stretches may be less lethal in the future, as people become accustomed to them.

A team of researchers examined 1,949 deadly heat waves from around the world since 1980 to look for trends, define when heat is so severe it kills and forecast the future. They found that nearly one in three people now experience 20 days a year when the heat reaches deadly levels. But the study predicts that up to three in four people worldwide will endure that kind of heat by the end of the century, if global warming continues unabated.

“The United States is going to be an oven,” said Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii, lead author of a study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change .

The study comes as much of the U.S. swelters through extended triple-digit heat. Temperatures hit records of 106, 105 and 103 in Santa Rosa, Livermore and San Jose, California on Sunday, as a heat wave was forecast to continue through midweek. In late May, temperatures in Turbat, Pakistan, climbed to about 128 degrees (53.5 degrees Celsius); if confirmed, that could be among the five hottest temperatures reliably measured on Earth, said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of Weather Underground.

Last year 22 countries or territories set or tied records for their hottest temperatures on record, said Masters, who wasn’t part of the study. So far this year, seven have done so.

“This is already bad. We already know it,” Mora said. “The empirical data suggest it’s getting much worse.”

Mora and colleagues created an interactive global map with past heat waves and computer simulations to determine how much more frequent they will become under different carbon dioxide pollution scenarios. The map shows that under the current pollution projections, the entire eastern United States will have a significant number of killer heat days. Even higher numbers are predicted for the Southeast U.S., much of Central and South America, central Africa, India, Pakistan, much of Asia and Australia.

Mora and outside climate scientists said the study and map underestimate past heat waves in many poorer hot areas where record-keeping is weak. It’s more accurate when it comes to richer areas like the United States and Europe.

If pollution continues as it has, Mora said, by the end of the century the southern United States will have entire summers of what he called lethal heat conditions.

A hotter world doesn’t necessarily mean more deaths in all locales, Mora said. That’s because he found over time the same blistering conditions — heat and humidity — killed fewer people than in the past, mostly because of air conditioning and governments doing a better job keeping people from dying in the heat. So while heat kills and temperatures are rising, people are adapting, though mostly in countries that can afford it. And those that can’t afford it are likely to get worse heat in the future.

“This work confirms the alarming projections of increasing hot days over coming decades — hot enough to threaten lives on a very large scale,” said Dr. Howard Frumkin, a University of Washington environmental health professor who wasn’t part of the study.

Mora documented more than 100,000 deaths since 1980, but said there are likely far more because of areas that didn’t have good data. Not all of them were caused by man-made climate change.

Just one heat wave — in Europe in 2003 — killed more than 70,000 people.