Thursday, September 13, 2018

Last Call For Supreme Misgivings, Con't

Things just took a wild turn in Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation process for the Supreme Court.  Republicans are rushing to get a full Senate vote before the court begins its term on October 1 and until today it looked like all Democrats could do is just stall for a while as Mitch McConnell and the GOP have the 51 votes no matter what the Democrats do, but now things just got a whole lot more iffy as the FBI just got involved.

The senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee referred information involving Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, to federal investigators on Thursday, but the senator declined to make public what the matter involved.

Two officials familiar with the matter say the incident involved possible sexual misconduct between Judge Kavanaugh and a woman when they were both in high school. They spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to discuss the matter

The statement by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California came a week before the Judiciary Committee is to vote on his nomination. “I have received information from an individual concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court,” Ms. Feinstein said in a statement. “That individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision. I have, however, referred the matter to federal investigative authorities.”

The information came in July in a letter, which was first sent to the office of Representative Anna Eshoo, Democrat of California, and accuses the judge of sexual misconduct toward the letter’s author, a person familiar with the letter confirmed.

Ms. Feinstein, who received the letter from Ms. Eshoo’s office, informed fellow Democrats on the Judiciary Committee about its existence and its contents on Wednesday evening but did not share the letter itself. Several Democrats advised her to take its claims to the F.B.I., and others pressed for it to become public.

In addition to criminal investigations, the F.B.I. conducts background checks on all major government appointees, including Supreme Court nominees. The F.B.I. said in a statement on Thursday that it had received Ms. Feinstein’s referral and included it in Judge Kavanaugh’s background file. A bureau official also said that no criminal investigation had been opened related to the matter.

Needless to say, this is pretty big.  The reason is that during the background check process, the FBI runs a no-holds-barred, nothing-off-limits scouring of a nominee's history.  If the FBI asked Kavanaugh about the sexual misconduct incident and he denied it, and the information Sen. Feinstein got from Rep. Eshoo's office that says otherwise, Kavanaugh could get rung up on providing false information (that "lying to the FBI" charge that seems to be so common these days among Republicans).

We'll see what comes from it.

That Economic Anxiety In Elkhart Again, Con't

Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly is trying to hold on in Indiana, and his chances of keeping his Senate seat may very well hinge on how Trump's trade war with China (and the devastating hundreds of billions of dollars in tariffs it brings) plays out with voters in the RV capital of the world, Elkhart.

The impact of the president’s tariffs on everything from steel to soybeans is playing out against the backdrop of the midterm elections, with some Republicans trying to make a robust economy central to their case for maintaining control of Congress. In Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota and other states, the president’s policies are starting to be felt, especially in industries that have large trading relationships with China.

“I think there’s serious concern about the effects of tariffs on the R.V. industry,” said Senator Joe Donnelly, Democrat of Indiana and one of the Senate’s most vulnerable incumbents this year. His home is nearby. “So many of the components that go into R.V.s are directly affected by these tariffs.”

“It is something that we watch very, very closely having gone through the other side of this when unemployment was 22 percent,” Mr. Donnelly said, referring to the unemployment rate in Elkhart at the peak of the Great Recession.

In Elkhart, a field of R.V.s is as common as corn. An RV Hall of Fame lionizes the industry and its progress from small aluminum trailers to luxury vehicles with the amenities of expensive condominiums. “We like to say we build fun in Elkhart County,” said Mike Yoder, a Republican and an Elkhart County commissioner.

But Mr. Yoder is among those who think the fun could be ebbing. “Everybody in the industry is aware of the negative significance of that,” he said of the tariffs. “We are experiencing a bit of a slowdown in R.V. production, and a number of companies are working four days instead of five to clean up inventory.”

“My personal opinion is this is horrific for the community,” he continued. “This is a really big deal for us. We export a lot of product and import a lot of product. If this whole trade dispute expands much more, it has serious implications, and we will once again lead the country into a recession, without a doubt.

It's getting bad in Elkhart again.  Really bad.

The R.V. industry is forecasting sales of about 500,000 vehicles this year, about the same as in 2017 after several years of strong, sometimes double-digit, growth. The tariffs are adding as much as 50 percent to the price of some materials, and the companies in turn are raising prices.

If the name sounds familiar, it should be.  I've been talking about Elkhart since President Obama visited it in 2009 to kick off his stimulus program push. Unemployment skyrocketed here, and then President Obama's policies pushed that unemployment down to 4%.

Elkhart County decided Barack Obama took credit for something he had nothing to do with, and promptly voted for Trump.  Now of course, they have second thoughts.  They have actual economic anxiety, not just the grudging anger of having to give the nation's first black president credit.

But let's remember what they said in December 2016 here in Elkhart.

He didn’t help us here, but he took credit for what happened,” Chris Corbin, 47, who works for a dispatch company in Elkhart, told me. Corbin thinks it will be Trump who improves the economy. “It’s going to take two terms, but he’ll fix things,” he said.

Trump'll fix things.  Right into another recession.

Brandon Stanley owns a bar in Elkhart. He says he’s optimistic that the economy is improving now that Republicans have regained power, but emphasizes that there are still a host of economic problems that haven’t been solved in Elkhart. As for the shrinking unemployment rate in Elkhart, “they changed how they report unemployment numbers,” he told me, so they’re not believable.

But the coming recession sure is believable.  I bet they'll blame the tariffs on Obama too.

Andi Ermes, 39, offered a number of reasons for disliking Obama. She said Obama didn’t attend the Army-Navy football game, even though other presidents had. Obama has actually attended more Army-Navy games than George H.W. Bush. She said that he had taken too many vacations. He has taken fewer vacation days that George W. Bush. She also said that he refused to wear a flag pin on his lapel. While it is true that Obama did not wear a flag on his lapel at points during the 2007 campaign, it was back on his suit by 2008. Ermes told me the news sources she consumes most are Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and a local conservative radio show hosted by Casey Hendrickson.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ermes sees the biggest signs for hope in the economy in Carrier deal struck by Donald Trump, which will keep 1,000 jobs in the U.S. “He’s not even president yet and already he’s helping the economy,” she said. 

Yeah, about that Carrier plant over in Indy, as Nelson Schwartz of the NY Times took a look just last month at it...

Twenty months ago, a freshly elected Donald J. Trump came to Carrier to claim credit for disrupting management’s plans to shut the factory and shift its jobs to Mexico. The plant stayed open, and more than 700 workers kept their positions. The deal dominated the news and became a political Rorschach test: Mr. Trump’s critics saw a minuscule victory, bought with tax credits, but for many of his supporters, the episode was proof that the incoming president would revive Rust Belt fortunes by sheer force of personality.

After three earlier visits, I wanted to know what Carrier workers themselves thought of the outcome, long after Mr. Trump and his media hurricane had moved on. From afar, one might assume the picture is rosy: Indiana has an unemployment rate of just 3.3 percent, and for people without a college degree, few employers offer the kind of salary and benefits that Carrier does. But when I got to Indianapolis in July, I found that the factory Mr. Trump is often credited with saving is plagued by rising absenteeism and low morale.

“People aren’t coming to work, which is sad because we really need these jobs,” said Ms. Hargrove, who has worked at Carrier for 15 years. “They had a chance to prove that staying was good, but this is ruining it for everybody. It’s killing us. It’s pushing us out the door that much sooner.”

What’s ailing Carrier isn’t weak demand. Furnace sales are strong, and managers have increased overtime and even recalled 150 previously laid-off workers. Instead, employees share a looming sense that a factory shutdown is inevitable — that Carrier has merely postponed the closing until a more politically opportune moment.

In some ways, the situation is a metaphor for blue-collar work and life in the United States today. Paychecks are a tad fatter and the economic picture has brightened slightly, but no one feels particularly secure or hopeful.

You know, economic anxiety.

Heck Of A Job, Trumpie

Dear Carolinas:

Having grown up in Western NC and having went through Hurricane Hugo in '89 (real surprise to find a tropical storm 350 miles inland, lemme tell ya) I know what's about to happen to you this weekend.  It's not going to be pretty, and if you're in the path of the storm, get out.

Having said that, I never had any doubt that federal disaster relief was going to be there when my family needed it.  Thirty years later, my family is being threatened again by a massive storm, and the jackasses in charge aren't exactly filling me with confidence.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said this week that millions of water bottles meant for victims of Hurricane Maria have been left undistributed at an airport in Puerto Rico for more than a year.

CBS News journalist David Begnaud reported on Wednesday that FEMA acknowledged that loads of water bottles were brought to the island in 2017 in the wake of the hurricane and that it turned them over to the "central government."

However, a photographer working for a Puerto Rican police agency, Abdiel Santana, noticed that the water was still sitting at the airport runway one year later, according to Begnaud.

"FEMA says the water, and we’re talking what could be millions of bottles of water, were brought to the island by FEMA last year. FEMA tells me the water was turned over to the central government," Begnaud said in a video posted on Twitter Wednesday night.

"The question is what happened after that. Where was the breakdown?" Begnaud asked.

He added that “the water was kept in an area that was pretty hard-hit during the storm and could have used all the water they could have gotten."

The finding comes as the Trump administration continues to face scrutiny over its response to the hurricane, which ravaged Puerto Rico.

According to an independent study conducted by George Washington University, nearly 3,000 people died as a result of the hurricane — a number that represents a sharp increase from the initial estimate of 64.

To recap, a runway tarmac's worth of pallets of bottled water rotted for a year and nobody admitted they knew about it until CBS spotted it from the sky.

Almost 3,000 people in Puerto Rico died because the Trump regime dropped the ball, and there's more than a little evidence they did so out of political spite by a truly evil orange man.  So when they say the Carolinas and Virginia and Maryland are going to be OK, and that my family is going to be OK, well you'll excuse me if I don't take that at face value.


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