Sunday, November 12, 2017

Last Call For Doing The Electric Slide

Turns out that Whitefish Energy was all set to bilk Puerto Rico out of tens of millions for getting the lights back on, and they couldn't even do that right.

The small energy outfit from Montana that won a $300 million contract to help rebuild Puerto Rico’s tattered power grid had few employees of its own, so it did what the Puerto Rican authorities could have done: It turned to Florida for workers.

For their trouble, the six electrical workers from Kissimmee are earning $42 an hour, plus overtime. The senior power linemen from Lakeland are earning $63 an hour working in Puerto Rico, the Florida utility said. Their 40 co-workers from Jacksonville, also linemen, are making up to $100 earning double time, public records show.

But the Montana company that hired the workers, Whitefish Energy Holdings, had a contract that allowed it to bill the Puerto Rican public power company, known as Prepa, $319 an hour for linemen, a rate that industry experts said was far above the norm even for emergency work — and almost 17 times the average salary of their counterparts in Puerto Rico.

A spokesman for Whitefish, Chris Chiames, defended the costs, saying that “simply looking at the rate differential does not take into account Whitefish’s overhead costs,” which were built into the rate.

“We have to pay a premium to entice the labor to come to Puerto Rico to work,” Mr. Chiames said. Many workers are paid overtime for all the time they work. Overtime pay varies by type of worker, union membership, mainland utility company and many other factors.

The markup is among the reasons that federal officials are scrutinizing all other contracts involving Puerto Rico. The control board that oversees Puerto Rico’s finances is seeking more authority over the billions headed the island’s way, including the power to review big contracts and randomly inspect smaller ones.

Two weeks after Prepa abruptly withdrew the contract from Whitefish following strong criticism by federal and congressional officials of the company’s expected ability to perform the work needed, more questions are being raised about the deal, including how much it will actually cost. Whitefish will keep repairing power lines until Nov. 30.

As the Trump administration prepares to spend billions of dollars on rebuilding Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, the Whitefish deal — hatched in a dim powerless room six days after a storm packing winds of nearly 150 miles an hour knocked down thousands of power poles and lines — has served as a cautionary note about the potential for soaring costs that are common in the wake of disasters.

The Whitefish Energy contract is not serving as a "cautionary note" at all. As Naomi Klein warned us about some ten years ago with Dubya, it's serving as an instruction manual for the Trump regime.  The entire year of 2017 has been the GOP's brutal application of Klein's "Shock Doctrine" theory in action.

It will only get worse. They're not hiding it anymore because they don't have to.

The Return Of The 50-State Strategy

DNC Chair Tom Perez makes the strong argument that in the Trump Era, all GOP seats should be considered "in-play" and that Democrats should leave no federal or state seat uncontested.

"Democrats can compete and win everywhere," Perez told "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatzin an interview Sunday. "That's what we showed last week not just in New Jersey and Virginia, but in mayor's races and state senate races."

Democrats won governorships in Virginia, with the victory of Ralph Northam, and New Jersey, where Phil Murphy came out on top.

Perez said it is the first time since 2005 that Democrats won the governor's office in both states.

It's about time, too. Dems can and should fight on the issues, and if they do, they win.

Raddatz asked the DNC chair about a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showing that 61 percent of Americans say Democratic leaders are mainly criticizing Trump, not presenting alternatives.

Perez countered that the party's candidates led with "our values" in the 2017 elections.

"We were leading with our values in Virginia and elsewhere. We talked about health care a lot because health care is a right for all, not a privilege," he said. "The number one issue for voters in Virginia was health care. They understand that the Republicans are trying to take their health care away.”

We already know what the Democratic alternative to Trump is, we saw eight years of it and Trump is doing his dead-level best to eliminate it.   For Democrats to take back the House and Senate, that means candidates who can win in redder districts, and that means backing military veterans.

"There's no doubt that veterans have unique qualifications and experiences that give them important credibility with Democrats, independents and Republican voters alike," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Tyler Law told ABC News.

Party officials acknowledge that when they were looking for strong recruits to replenish the Democratic party bench this year, their teams often sought candidates with military experience. But, they argue, veterans have also stepped up in droves and decided to run on their own since the presidential election last year.

The DCCC expects 30 or 40 of its candidates next year will be veterans, a major uptick from recent cycles.

VoteVets, an organization that supports Democratic candidates, told ABC News they recently hired additional staff to handle the increased number of calls from veterans who are thinking about running for office. The group’s co-founder, Jon Soltz, said the DCCC reached out to his group early on, despite the fact that the two organizations have not always seen eye to eye. In 2014, VoteVets backed Rep. Seth Moulton’s, D-Mass., campaign against a sitting Democratic incumbent. This year, though, the two teams are meeting monthly to review the status of veteran candidates’ campaigns.

“This was an equation that worked for Democrats in 2006,” Soltz told ABC News, referring to the last time the Democrats won back the majority in the House. “People trust a veteran as a messenger. They are running because they want to continue to serve their country. They can talk to working class Americans where the Democratic party is struggling.”

You have only to see how Donald Trump treats the US military -- as his personal plaything -- to see why veterans are stepping up to run against the GOP.  Here in Kentucky that means folks like Lt. Col. Amy McGrath.

McGrath offers a pretty standard Democratic response to GOP tax cuts (“fiscally irresponsible and in my opinion just morally wrong”) and attacks on the Affordable Care Act (from which Kentucky has benefitedimmensely). But she packs some surprises, too.

The most important may be McGrath’s unusually positive message on American government. As a Marine, she toured the world (“except for the nice places”), living in tents in Afghanistan, Kuwait and Kyrgyzstan. After looking around, she thinks American democracy isn’t as swampy, dysfunctional and broken as it's advertised to be.

“The concern I have is this constant bashing of our institutions, of our principles, bashing the government itself,” she said. “Trust me, I’ve been to countries where there’s no government. And our government’s pretty damned good.”

We can make American governing institutions better, she said, "but we can’t make them better if nobody wants to go into them because we’re bashing them.”

She’s similarly concerned that core American principles are being undermined by attacks and indifference. “Our constitutional principles, which you can say, ‘Well, they’re on a paper and they’ll never be taken away.’ Folks, we have to fight for those every day. Freedom of the press -- you think that can’t go away? OK. Maybe.”

McGrath is mounting her first campaign systematically, pragmatically, balancing fundraising against other concerns. She has kept her distance from Emily's List, the financial engine that powers the campaigns of many Democratic pro-choice women. I thought that might suggest unorthodox Democratic views on abortion; I was wrong.

“I’m one-hundred percent pro-choice. I align with everything Emily's List aligns with,” she told me.

Then why isn’t she raking in the pro-choice dough?

“I don’t want to be tied to a litmus test,” McGrath said. “I don’t want to be tied to any national interest like that, where people can say, you’re just a puppet.”

I wish she was running here in KY-4 against Thomas Massie, but I'll take her winning KY-6 back. Like it or not, being the Emily's List candidate in Kentucky isn't a good thing.  We have to have Dems that can win so we can get the majority in order to make policy if we're going to have any hope of redeeming the government after Trump.

We need more of this.  A lot more.  And I'm glad we're getting it.

Sunday Long Read: You Can Lead White Voters To Water...

...but you can't make them think.

Pam Schilling is the reason Donald Trump is the president. 
Schilling’s personal story is in poignant miniature the story of this area of western Pennsylvania as a whole—one of the long-forgotten, woebegone spots in the middle of the country that gave Trump his unexpected victory last fall. She grew up in nearby Nanty Glo, the daughter and granddaughter of coal miners. She once had a union job packing meat at a grocery store, and then had to settle for less money at Walmart. Now she’s 60 and retired, and last year, in April, as Trump’s shocking political ascent became impossible to ignore, Schilling’s 32-year-old son died of a heroin overdose. She found needles in the pockets of the clothes he wore to work in the mines before he got laid off.

Desperate for change, Schilling, like so many other once reliable Democrats in these parts, responded enthusiastically to what Trump was saying—building a wall on the Mexican border, repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, bringing back jobs in steel and coal. That’s what Trump told them. At a raucous rally in late October, right downtown in their minor-league hockey arena, he vowed to restore the mines and the mills that had been the lifeblood of the region until they started closing some 40 years ago, triggering the “American carnage” Trump would talk about in his inaugural address: massive population loss, shrinking tax rolls, communal hopelessness and ultimately a raging opioid epidemic. When Trump won, people here were ecstatic. But they’d heard generations of politicians make big promises before, and they were also impatient for him to deliver. 
“Six months to a year,” catering company owner Joey Del Signore told me when we met days after the election. “A couple months,” retired nurse Maggie Frear said, before saying it might take a couple years. “He’s just got to follow through with what he said he was going to do,” Schilling said last November. Back then, there was an all-but-audible “or else.” 
A year later, the local unemployment rate has ticked down, and activity in a few coal mines has ticked up. Beyond that, though, not much has changed—at least not for the better. Johnstown and the surrounding region are struggling in the same ways and for the same reasons. The drug problem is just as bad. “There’s nothing good in the area,” Schilling said the other day in her living room. “I don’t have anything good to say about anything in this area. It’s sad.” Even so, her backing for Trump is utterly undiminished: “I’m a supporter of him, 100 percent.” 
What I heard from Schilling is overwhelmingly what I heard in my follow-up conversations with people here that I talked to last year as well. Over the course of three rainy, dreary days last week, I revisited and shook hands with the president’s base—that thirtysomething percent of the electorate who resolutely approve of the job he is doing, the segment of voters who share his view that the Russia investigation is a “witch hunt” that “has nothing to do with him,” and who applaud his judicial nominees and his determination to gut the federal regulatory apparatus. But what I wasn’t prepared for was how readily these same people had abandoned the contract he had made with them. Their satisfaction with Trump now seems untethered to the things they once said mattered to them the most. 
“I don’t know that he has done a lot to help,” Frear told me. Last year, she said she wouldn’t vote for him again if he didn’t do what he said he was going to do. Last week, she matter-of-factly stated that she would. “Support Trump? Sure,” she said. “I like him.”

It never mattered what Trump actually did otherwise, as long as he followed through on his promise to make those people miserable again after 2008.

When I asked Del Signore about the past year here, he said he “didn’t see any change because we got a new president.” He nonetheless remains an ardent proponent. “He’s our answer.” 
I asked Schilling what would happen if the next three years go the way the last one has.
“I’m not going to blame him,” Schilling said. “Absolutely not.” 
Is there anything that could change her mind about Trump? 
“Nope,” she said.

White Trump voters are proudly and unrepentantly racist, until the end.  Trump made that acceptable, and they will love him forever for it.


Stop chasing them, Dems.  They are lost to you.  The rest of us will have to carry on in spite of them.

They will turn out to re-elect Trump in 2020.  Better make sure there's a lot more of us than them, especially in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Here endeth the lesson.
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