Saturday, July 28, 2018

Last Call For Housing Of Pain

Glenn Thrush at the New York Times notes that the affordable housing crisis in America has only gotten worse under the Trump regime, and that millions of Americans will receive no help from the federal government.  After all, HUD Secretary Ben Carson doesn't even think HUD should exist.

The country is in the grips of an escalating housing affordability crisis. Millions of low-income Americans are paying 70 percent or more of their incomes for shelter, while rents continue to rise and construction of affordable rental apartments lags far behind the need.

The Trump administration’s main policy response, unveiled this spring by Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development: a plan to triple rents for about 712,000 of the poorest tenants receiving federal housing aid and to loosen the cap on rents on 4.5 million households enrolled in federal voucher and public housing programs nationwide, with the goal of moving longtime tenants out of the system to make way for new ones.

As city and state officials and members of both parties clamor for the federal government to help, Mr. Carson has privately told aides that he views the shortage of affordable housing as regrettable, but as essentially a local problem.

A former presidential candidate who said last year that he did not want to give recipients of federal aid “a comfortable setting that would make somebody want to say, ‘I’ll just stay here; they will take care of me,’” he has made it a priority to reduce, rather than expand, assistance to the poor, to break what he sees as a cycle of dependency.

And when congressional Democrats and Republicans scrambled to save his department’s budget and rescue an endangered tax credit that accounts for nine out of 10 affordable housing developments built in the country, Mr. Carson sat on the sidelines, according to legislators and congressional staff members.

Local officials seem resigned to the fact that they will receive little or no help from the Trump administration.

“To be brutally honest, I think that we aren’t really getting any help right now out of Washington, and the situation has gotten really bad over the last two years,” said Chad Williams, executive director of the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority, which oversees public housing developments and voucher programs that serve 16,000 people in the Las Vegas area.

Nevada, ground zero in the housing crisis a decade ago, is now the epicenter of the affordability crunch, with low-income residents squeezed out of once-affordable apartments by working-class refugees fleeing from California’s own rental crisis.

“I think Carson’s ideas, that public housing shouldn’t be multigenerational, are noble,” Mr. Williams said. “But right now these programs are a stable, Band-Aid fix, and we really need them.”

Local governments do have a lot of blame to take for housing issues.  Local politicians are elected by homeowners, and homeowners want property values as high as possible after the housing collapse ten years ago. Increasing property values to create a better tax base was the only priority for cities and counties over the last decade, because without that, everything else falls apart.

So zoning laws became worse, and voters elected people who would raise property values back to where they were ten years past, and that meant being as hostile as possible to the concept of affordable housing.

Of course the Trump Regime then basically got out of the affordable housing business altogether, so for millions of us, it's not going to get any better anytime soon.

Why the Trump regime is trying to bring on another housing collapse, well, if you're as obviously turned on by autocracy as Trump is, the chaos of another 2008 housing collapse sure would be useful, right?

Bad Moonves Rising

Long-time CBS head Les Moonves is the latest subject in another of Ronan Farrow's shocking sexual abuse exposes, and making it all that much worse, Moonves has been a strong supporter of the #MeToo movement, only of course to be one of the most prominent Hollywood sexual predators in the business.

For more than twenty years, Leslie Moonves has been one of the most powerful media executives in America. As the chairman and C.E.O. of CBS Corporation, he oversees shows ranging from “60 Minutes” to “The Big Bang Theory.” His portfolio includes the premium cable channel Showtime, the publishing house Simon & Schuster, and a streaming service, CBS All Access. Moonves, who is sixty-eight, has a reputation for canny hiring and project selection. The Wall Street Journalrecently called him a “TV programming wizard”; the Hollywood Reporterdubbed him a “Wall Street Hero.” In the tumultuous field of network television, he has enjoyed rare longevity as a leader. Last year, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, he earned nearly seventy million dollars, making him one of the highest-paid corporate executives in the world.

In recent months, Moonves has become a prominent voice in Hollywood’s #MeToo movement. In December, he helped found the Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, which is chaired by Anita Hill. “It’s a watershed moment,” Moonves said at a conference in November. “I think it’s important that a company’s culture will not allow for this. And that’s the thing that’s far-reaching. There’s a lot we’re learning. There’s a lot we didn’t know.”

But Moonves’s private actions belie his public statements. Six women who had professional dealings with him told me that, between the nineteen-eighties and the late aughts, Moonves sexually harassed them. Four described forcible touching or kissing during business meetings, in what they said appeared to be a practiced routine. Two told me that Moonves physically intimidated them or threatened to derail their careers. All said that he became cold or hostile after they rejected his advances, and that they believed their careers suffered as a result. “What happened to me was a sexual assault, and then I was fired for not participating,” the actress and writer Illeana Douglas told me. All the women said they still feared that speaking out would lead to retaliation from Moonves, who is known in the industry for his ability to make or break careers. “He has gotten away with it for decades,” the writer Janet Jones, who alleges that she had to shove Moonves off her after he forcibly kissed her at a work meeting, told me. “And it’s just not O.K.”

Thirty current and former employees of CBS told me that such behavior extended from Moonves to important parts of the corporation, including CBS News and “60 Minutes,” one of the network’s most esteemed programs.
During Moonves’s tenure, men at CBS News who were accused of sexual misconduct were promoted, even as the company paid settlements to women with complaints. It isn’t clear whether Moonves himself knew of the allegations, but he has a reputation for being closely involved in management decisions across the network. Some of the allegations, such as those against the former anchor Charlie Rose, as reported by the Washington Post, have already become public. Other claims are being reported here for the first time. Nineteen current and former employees told me that Jeff Fager, the former chairman of CBS News and the current executive producer of “60 Minutes,” allowed harassment in the division. “It’s top down, this culture of older men who have all this power and you are nothing,” one veteran producer told me. “The company is shielding lots of bad behavior.”

In a statement, Moonves said, “Throughout my time at CBS, we have promoted a culture of respect and opportunity for all employees, and have consistently found success elevating women to top executive positions across our company. I recognize that there were times decades ago when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances. Those were mistakes, and I regret them immensely. But I always understood and respected—and abided by the principle—that ‘no’ means ‘no,’ and I have never misused my position to harm or hinder anyone’s career. This is a time when we all are appropriately focused on how we help improve our society, and we at CBS are committed to being part of the solution.” According to CBS, there have been no misconduct claims and no settlements against Moonves during his twenty-four years at the network. A statement from the company said, “CBS is very mindful of all workplace issues and takes each report of misconduct very seriously. We do not believe, however, that the picture of our company created in The New Yorker represents a larger organization that does its best to treat its tens of thousands of employees with dignity and respect. We are seeing vigorous discourse in our country about equality, inclusion, and safety in the workplace, and CBS is committed to being part of the solution to those important issues.”

The allegations are surfacing at a time when CBS is engaged in an increasingly acrimonious fight with its former parent company, Viacom, which acquired CBS in 1999 and spun it off as a separate entity seven years later. A holding company founded by the mogul Sumner Redstone still owns a majority stake in both Viacom and CBS, and Redstone’s daughter and heir, Shari Redstone, has sought to reunite the businesses. Moonves has resisted the move, and in May Redstone’s holding company and CBS filed lawsuits against each other. All of the women making allegations against Moonves began speaking to me before the current lawsuits, in independent interviews carried out during the past eight months. All said that they were not motivated by any allegiance in the corporate battle. But several felt that this was an opportunity to examine a workplace culture that many of the women in this story described as toxic.

The article continues with multiple examples of Moonves's horrible and toxic power grabs, and there's little doubt to the veracity of the claims made against him.  I would expect the clock is already ticking this weekend on his ouster, if not demanded by shareholders, then the resulting boycotts of the network and its properties certainly will trigger enough of a financial reason to show him the door.

Good riddance, I say.

Putin Perhaps Pulling The Plug

Since precisely nobody in the Trump regime seems even remotely concerned about defending the country from Russian cyberwarfare, tech companies and intelligence agencies are freely leaking to the press that the Russians look very eager to shut off the lights in America at their leisure.

State-sponsored Russian hackers appear far more interested this year in demonstrating that they can disrupt the American electric utility grid than the midterm elections, according to United States intelligence officials and technology company executives.

Despite attempts to infiltrate the online accounts of two Senate Democrats up for re-election, intelligence officials said they have seen little activity by Russian military hackers aimed at either major American political figures or state voter registration systems.

By comparison, according to intelligence officials and executives of the companies that oversee the world’s computer networks, there is surprisingly far more effort directed at implanting malware in the electrical grid.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence findings, but their conclusions were confirmed by several executives of technology and technology security firms.

This week, the Department of Homeland Security reported that over the last year, Russia’s military intelligence agency had infiltrated the control rooms of power plants across the United States. In theory, that could enable it to take control of parts of the grid by remote control.

While the department cited “hundreds of victims” of the attacks, far more than they had previously acknowledged, there is no evidence that the hackers tried to take over the plants, as Russian actors did in Ukraine in 2015 and 2016.

In interviews, American intelligence officials said that the department had understated the scope of the threat. So far the White House has said little about the intrusions other than raise the fear of such breaches to maintain old coal plants in case they are needed to recover from a major attack.

On Friday, President Trump was briefed on government efforts to protect the coming midterm elections from what a White House statement described as “malign foreign actors.” It said it was giving cybersecurity support to state and local governments to protect their election systems.

“The president has made it clear that his administration will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections from any nation state to other malicious actors,” the statement said.

It is possible that Russian hackers are holding their fire until closer to Election Day in November. Given the indictments this month of 12 Russian military officers who are accused of American election interference, the agency once known as the G.R.U. may be all too aware it is being closely watched by the National Security Agency and other American intelligence services. 
But that has not completely deterred Russia’s intelligence agencies from targeting politicians. 

Why not attack both?

Surely knocking out power to urban centers on Election Day or during early voting periods would cause massive damage to Democratic voter turnout, not to mention hurting millions and costing billions of dollars, even if they chose not to cause power outage chaos when people are voting.

We'd potentially be crippled, maybe for weeks or months.  Who knows?

All I know is that Donald Trump sure doesn't act very concerned about this in anything outside White House statements, and Putin is still our "friend".

After nearly two years of calling Russian election interference a hoax and its investigation a witch hunt, President Donald Trump on Friday presided over the first National Security Council meeting devoted to defending American democracy from foreign manipulation.

"The President has made it clear that his administration will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections from any nation state or other malicious actors," the White House said in a statement afterward.

But current and former officials tell NBC News that 19 months into his presidency, there is no coherent Trump administration strategy to combat foreign election interference — and no single person or agency in charge.

In the statement, the White House took issue with that, saying a strategy was put in motion when Trump took office. No such strategy has been made public — or even mentioned before.

After terrorists struck on 9/11, the U.S. government passed laws, boosted funding, and reorganized itself with the goal of making sure such an attack could never happen again. But no wholesale changes have taken place in the nearly two years since Russia sought to manipulate the 2016 election, cyber aggression that some lawmakers have called an act of war.

I will say that the government reaction to 9/11 was massively overwrought and we're still suffering as a result.  But there is such a thing as going too far in the other direction, and that's where we are now with Trump.

There's a lot going on behind the scenes here, and when we learn the truth, it'll be shocking.

That Whole Saturday Night Massacre Thing, Con't

GOP Rep. Mark Meadows has folded his cards on impeaching Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein almost as quickly as he introduced his motion earlier this week.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) says he is tabling his efforts to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein after having several meetings with Republican leadership, stating that he would instead pursue contempt if the Justice Department (DOJ) does not turn over documents Congress is seeking.

While the impeachment option remains on the table, Meadows told reporters Thursday he now hopes it will be a contempt process rather than impeachment.

When asked what will happen if he does not receive the documents two House committees are seeking by the time the House returns from August recess, Meadows said, "I think the very first order of business would be moving the House to a contempt vote." 
"I think it is our desire to have more of a contempt process, which obviously has to have a partner with the Speaker, and I think hopefully they will at least acknowledge we've made some reasonable concessions to give DOJ and FBI," Meadows told a scrum of reporters. 
Meadows, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus and fierce DOJ critic, said his decision to table impeachment comes after he had "very good, good conversations with the leadership team [and] with Chairman [of the Judiciary Committee Rep. Bob] Goodlatte [R-Va.] on a path forward." 
This, he added, would be the DOJ's and FBI's "one last chance to comply."

And of course back home in NC, Meadows will still tell voters that impeachment is "still on the table" but mean 'ol Paul Ryan is stopping him, and that won't be the case when fellow Freedom Caucus member (and sexual abuse enabler) Jim Jordan magically becomes Speaker of the House in January, in whatever fantasy world Meadows is living in.

Smart readers will note the Meadows contempt threat remains the exact status quo ante that existed before the impeachment push, which means that both Meadows and Jordan have something "shiny and new" to bring home now from DC during campaign season, while not actually doing anything.  All voters will know is "Jordan's gonna impeach Rosenstein and stick it to those damn libs" and that's all that matters.

So it wasn't even cover for Trump firing Rosenstein, at least not yet, but more symbolic fundraising nonsense from the House Freedom (Free Dumb?) Caucus.

Nobody's GOP campaign ever went broke underestimating the stupidity of Republican voters, I guess.
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