Is the Trump Administration Prepared for Hurricane Florence?

Hurricane Florence is due to hit the eastern Carolinas on Friday as a Category 3 or 4 storm. 1.5 million coastal residents have been ordered to evacuate as part of the government’s ongoing preparations. After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico last year, the Trump administration’s response was criticized as a failure. While the president now maintains that his administration is “totally prepared” for Florence, many are concerned that he hasn’t yet learned the lessons of Hurricane Maria.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday claimed that his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria, last year’s devastating storm that killed nearly 3,000 people in Puerto Rico, was an “incredible unsung success.” [.] The Trump administration’s relief efforts were visibly slower in Puerto Rico compared with those in Texas after Hurricane Harvey that season, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency taking twice as much time to deliver some supplies to the territory. Trump himself created several controversial moments, such as hurling paper towels at storm survivors in Puerto Rico and saying the island didn’t endure a “real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina. The official death toll from that storm hit nearly 3,000 last month — a dramatic increase from the earlier official count of 64.

Racism, statehood, incompetence—Hurricane Maria offered up a buffet of options for failure, all leading to a tepid, disgraceful response and nearly three thousand dead Americans. A 9/11’s worth of death, but no Hurricane Patriot Act or Forever War on Climate Change even remotely under discussion. Instead, only the feeble breath of a government apparently comfortable abdicating any responsibility to govern.

Already this year, the Trump EPA has rolled back limits on emissions on vehicles and coal-fired power plants, two major sources of greenhouse gases. This completes the administration’s trifecta of climate ignorance. And doing so as the Southeast faces such an ominous threat rises above chutzpah into something Nero-like in its lack of caring for the possible suffering of Americans. Perhaps if the Outer Banks had a Trump resort like his Aberdeenshire golf course in Scotland, where climate-related flooding has already become a problem, the White House might be taking the East Coast threat more seriously — or, more importantly, taking the causes of this threat more seriously.

Is Bernie Sanders’ “Stop Bezos Act” Unworkable?

Bernie Sanders’ latest bill, the Stop Bezos Act, would see large employers like Amazon and Walmart paying to cover the cost of government social services used by their employees. Attacked by both left and right, the bill is being taken to task for being “unworkable.” Defenders think that Sanders’ critics have completely missed the point of the legislation. More at Vox.

Sanders and his allies either haven’t thought through the economics of their bill, or — more likely — don’t really care. It seems like more of a marketing stunt — an attempt to erode the social status of big businesses and their rich owners, by accusing them of taking corporate welfare. But if people realize that Sanders’ measure would harm and potentially stigmatize working poor people who receive government benefits, the move could backfire.

This is the sort of bill only someone with virtually no understanding of economics would concoct. Sanders claims that thousands of Amazon workers rely on welfare to survive. Amazon counters that Sanders exaggerates by including part-time and temporary workers in his calculations. This dickering obscures what Sanders’ bill will actually do. It will make workers on welfare more expensive to employers, and it will make them more expensive in direct proportion to how much welfare they receive. What Sanders and all lawmakers should know is that as something becomes more expensive, people buy less of it.

The critics aren’t wrong about the proposal, exactly. They’re just allowing themselves to be distracted by the details of a legislative proposal that on the gonna-happen scale is a “not.” [.] The truth is that proposals like Sanders and Khanna’s serve a very clear purpose in our political system. They’re not designed to end up as the law of the land, but as prompts for debate. “These sorts of efforts serve a role in bringing these issues to the fore,” Jacobs says. Now, if only their critics would stop focusing on the trees, and pay attention to the forest.

Have Dems Already Lost on Kavanaugh’s Confirmation?

Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing has done much to raise the level of political ire in Congress, but have the Democrats made any tangible progress towards blocking Kavanaugh’s appointment? It’s all going to come down to the votes of two Republicans. More at New York Magazine.

When it comes to Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, all eyes are watching how Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine will vote on his nomination. Neither has announced their decision, and pressure from their home states is mounting… Collins, who last month voted to preserve federal funding for Planned Parenthood, has said that she would not support a candidate who would overturn Roe v. Wade… For Murkowski, who also supports abortion rights, her constituents are even more worried about what Kavanaugh’s appointment would mean for Native Alaskans — a demographic that was critical to her 2010 re-election campaign.

For both senators, John McCain’s death changed the calculus significantly. McCain, who had been reliably absent throughout most of 2018 as he battled brain cancer, was recently replaced by the solidly Republican Jon Kyl, all but guaranteeing at least 50 votes in Kavanaugh’s favor. Prior to Kyl’s appointment, a “no” vote from either Collins or Murkowski would have been enough to stonewall Kavanaugh. Now, Democrats must sway both senators, and there is no guarantee that they will choose to act in tandem. Of course, Kyl’s appointment also significantly reduces the burden on vulnerable red-state Democrats, who are under intense pressure from their constituents to confirm Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick…

No Democrats or Republican swing votes have given an exact timeline on their decisions, but they will have to make them soon. Kavanaugh is on track to make it to the Senate floor in about two weeks, with a committee vote on track for the week of Sept. 20. That vote is likely to fall along partisan lines. However, the Yom Kippur holiday could create a scheduling crunch and delay the committee vote, which typically occurs on Thursdays. If the vote is delayed until the last week of September, it could also affect the ability of the Senate to deal with government funding, which expires on Sept. 30.

Will Closing the PLO Offices in DC Further Trump’s Peace Efforts?

President Trump has ordered the closure of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s offices in Washington D.C. The move is part of Trump’s continued strategy for Israel-Palestine, a mix of measures meant to pressure Palestinians into returning to the negotiating table while shaping the outcome of Israel-Palestine negotiations by “removing” issues from the table. But is there any evidence that the heightened pressure is working?

The point of all this isn’t to be vindictive but to show Mr. Abbas and the PLO that they can’t continue to underwrite anti-Semitic textbooks and anti-Israel terrorism without consequences. If the Palestinians want to be treated with the respect of a peace partner, they have to first show a desire for peace.

…this office closure does nothing to advance peace. As I noted following the short term PLO office closure enforced last November, these actions only empower fanatics such as Hamas. In fact, the symbolic weight of so blatantly ending Palestinian representation in America – aside from at the United Nations – makes it far harder for rising Fatah leaders (Fatah is the foundational political party inside the PLO) to compromise with the U.S. in the future. Doing so in face of this perceived rebuke to Palestinian nationalism would open Fatah leaders to criticisms of being sellouts.

According to his public statements, the president is applying pressure in order to renew negotiations. According to his actions, he is taking measures that will only make the likelihood of negotiations more distant, and raise the conflict on a new path of consciousness. Of course, there is also a possibility that the president does not care. Either way, he’s doing something, and it’s the reverse of what was done by the previous president, which irritates those he likes to upset.

How Will CBS Fare without Les Moonves?

The departure of Les Moonves, CEO of CBS, reveals the difficult situation corporations can be thrown into by a #MeToo scandal in the upper ranks. Shareholders have seen CBS stock plunge 7% since Ronan Farrow first broke the story of the allegations against Moonves. Will the company be able to recover?

…the bigger lesson here is that these men weren’t actually holding the world up on their shoulders. In fact, the institutions over which they presided seem to have mostly survived. Movies are still doing just fine without Harvey Weinstein or his company. Amazon Studios is muddling along without Roy Price. We’ll see how CBS does after Moonves. These guys spent a long time convincing us they were too important to face consequences. They’re not

Even though Moonves is now out, and CBS says he may not get a rich payout after all, incredible damage has been done to the company’s reputation… It isn’t as if CBS didn’t know that it had a problem with women. According to Farrow’s reporting, men who were accused of sexual misconduct were promoted during Moonves’s tenure, and when Fager was chairman of CBS News. This was happening even as the company paid settlements to women with complaints.

The downfall of disgraced CBS titan Les Moonves — the latest media mogul taken down in the #MeToo movement — marks a seismic shake-up for the entertainment conglomerate that could possibly even impact local TV stations… The scandal has spawned a massive reorganization of the CBS board of directors as the company announced the addition of six new members, including three high-profile women. Six other members have departed… Despite the scandal and ensuing corporate shake-up, CBS plans to keep him on board as an unpaid adviser. Why CBS wouldn’t sever its ties with the alleged serial predator at this point is beyond me.

Are Identity Politics Warping Both Identity and Politics?

According to Identity Politics, the political positions you profess are dependent on your identity – be it your race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. “Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment,” a new book by Dr. Francis Fukuyama, argues against Americans basing their politics on their identity. But new research reveals that some people are changing their identities to fit their politics.

The phrase “identity politics” has come to be used as a political insult. It’s now shorthand for pandering to voters according to demographics. But political scientist Francis Fukuyama says that everyone is playing at identity politics now — that nationalism, radical Islam and other movements are fueled by people wrestling with identity in an economic world order that’s letting them down. The election of Donald Trump has ridden on the back of such identity issues, he says.

… people shift the non-political parts of their identity, including ethnicity and religion, to align better with being a Democrat or a Republican… Liberal Democrats were much more likely than conservative Republicans to start identifying as Latino or saying that their ancestry was African, Asian or Hispanic. Conservative Republicans were much more likely than liberal Democrats to become born-again Christians and to stop identifying as non-religious; liberal Democrats were much more likely than conservative Republicans to leave religion and stop describing themselves as born-again. Conservative Republicans were more likely than liberal Democrats to stop describing themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual; liberal-leaning Democrats were more likely to start identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual.

If identity politics is polarising democratic society to the point of no return, what is the way out? Fukuyama’s remedies include a universal requirement for national service, either military or civilian, so that young people learn to work with people from different origins and build their society together. “National service would be a contemporary form of classical republicanism, a form of democracy that encouraged virtue and public spiritedness rather than simply leaving citizens alone to pursue their lives,” he writes.

Today’s Hot Issues

Is the Trump Administration Prepared for Hurricane Florence? Is Bernie Sanders’ “Stop Bezos Act” Unworkable? Have Dems Already Lost on Kavanaugh’s Confirmation? Will Closing the PLO Offices in DC Further Trump’s Peace Efforts? How Will CBS Fare without Les Moonves? Are Identity Politics Warping Both Identity and Politics?