The Phantom Crosswalk
I think this should catch us up here, at least for the time being until the next one -- but here is another of the "Crosswalk the Musicals" from James Corden. This time, they take on The Phantom of the Opera, and offer up a tender, flamboyant production...
All polls differ. And for all I know, the ABC/Washington Post Poll is on the outer edges compared to others. Or not. There are definitely other polls I've seen that have better numbers for Trump (though "better" is relative, since the Gallup Poll numbers are "better" but at 41% approval their lowest for a long time.) However the new ABC/WaPo poll shows Trump with a 36% approval and 60% disapproval, his all-time disapproval high in their poll. And the 36% equals their poll's low for him.
By the way, this includes 53% who "strongly" disapprove -- and that's perhaps most critical going into a mid-term election when turnout is low, and voter enthusiasm is critical.
More important when looking at poll results is their OWN trend, and this has Trump down four points since their last poll.
Also, support for the Mueller investigation is...up. It's at 63% approval, and only 29% disapproval. (And 52% pack it "strongly.) Which suggests that the storyline that Trump team efforts to undermine public support is waning.
Especially troubling for Trump is the poll's look at one particular group. It says that the biggest change in any group is that of college-educated white women. Only 23% approve of Trump, which is down 17 points from its high a year ago last April. Similarly, disapproval with this group is up 20 points since April, 2017. Disapproval by college-educated white women now stands at 75%.
There is one area that Trump has been especially promoting his claimed-successes heavily, and that's the economy, which he has called the best in American history. Clearly, the economy is no longer in the recession that existed under George W. Bush -- in part due to the work of the Obama Administration. But the public turns out to be less sanguine about things under Trump than Trump, on his "best" issue. There is a 45% approval of his handling of the economy, with 47% disapproval.
Again, to be clear, this is just a single poll, and while respectable, it is not one of the "most respected" polls. It's important to look at what all the top polls say, and how (as I mentioned) a poll's own trends are going. But even in that context, this here fits in solidly. It's numbers may be worse for Trump than other polls, but a) they're in reasonable like with them, and b) it's the most recent, so arguably it's more accurate.
You can see the full story here.
Comedy Against Trumpism
I realized it's been far, far too long since I've posted a "Comedy Against Trumpism" video. For those of you who are new around these parts, those are the videos from the Liberty TV consortium that began with The Netherlands, making the case why if it should be "America First," their country should at least be second, and other countries just glommed onto it.
This time, we found out if Austria should be second. Which I suppose only makes sense, because if any country would have a close affinity to Trump it would be Austria...
More What's My Line?
This was unexpected -- and most-especially appropriate. The Mystery Guest on this episode of What's My Line? is Aretha Franklin, almost 44 years ago to the day. It comes from a later incarnation of the show, done in 1974 in color with Larry Blyden as the host, and the panelists aren't remotely as good as those on the original show. Still, it's fun to see one of the original panelists, Arlene Francis, there, and another is Jerry Orbach. Another is Soupy Sales, though I can tell who the fourth is. The questioning is pretty lame -- but fun is that afterwards they have a much longer interview with Aretha Franklin than would usually happen on the original version of the show.
Her segment starts around the 12:20 mark, in case you want to jump to it.
The Veep President
If you haven't seen this yet, the little video comes from documentary filmmaker Arlen Parsa. He originally posted it on Twitter with the comment -- "Veep HBO closing credits theme song just now. uhh it works v well," his homage about the show where things don't run especially well at the high end of politics.
It got enough attention that the video reached Veep star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who retweeted it with the comment, "This experiment is a success."
A Pension for Trouble
I'm not exactly sure what to make of this article. It all may be completely above board -- or at least dicey, if legal. But if the expression, "Where there's smoke there's fire," holds, then former Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) and Governor John Kasich (R-OH) are in a lot of trouble, because there appears to be smoke billowing out of every crevice of the house.
The article is from investigative journalists David Sirota and Andrew Perez for Capitol & Main in conjunction with MapLight. The headline and sub-head give a good indication of the substance of the tale --
"Ohio, New Jersey Pension Funds Invested $625 Million in Hedge Fund That Controls National Enquirer Parent. Under Republican governors, two states pumped hundreds of millions of dollars of pension cash into a high-risk hedge fund that took control of the National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc."
The story centers on the over-half a billion dollars of state pension money for retirees invested in a high-risk hedge fund, Chatham Asset Management, which controls American Media Inc, the parent company of the National Enquirer. You will no doubt recall that it was recently revealed how AMI's CEO David Pecker -- one of Trump's oldest friends and associates -- was granted immunity by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The Chatham hedge fund is run by Anthony Melchiorre, a large GOP donor who the article says "reportedly met with the president and AMI CEO David Pecker at the White House soon after Trump took office."
According to SEC records, then-Gov. Christie's administration initially invested $300 million into the high-risk hedge fund in 2013. Then, last year, a few months before Christie's term in office expired, New Jersey sent an additional $200 million to another Chatham fund.
As the article notes, "In 2013 and 2014, an Ohio pension system partially controlled by Gov. John Kasich’s appointees committed $125 million to Chatham."
The connections between Trump, Republican officials, the National Enquirer and hush money payments aside -- which is a great deal to put aside -- what's most troubling for the pension funds is how incredibly risky the investments were. AMI has had major financial difficulties in recent years and been in desperate need of cash. (In fact, there have been suggestions that that could be a major reason David Pecker agreed to flip, knowing that his company couldn't withstand a government lawsuit and could collapse.) Indeed, the hedge fund is so profoundly high risk, that Chatham investment material warns entities thinking of getting involved that they “may lose its entire investment in a troubled company.” Earlier this year, one of the country's biggest equity investors, Blackstone, dropped Chatham from one of its investment funds.
This is not the sort of venture that retiree pensions tend to invest in... Which raises questions about why in the world the massive investments were made.
“If asked to vote, I can assure you I will be voting for us to divest,” said said Tom Bruno, a state union representative who is the chairman of the New Jersey pension board of trustees and who serves on New Jersey’s State Investment Council, which oversees the pension system’s investments. “I cannot talk on behalf of the entire SIC, but I will be doing everything in my power to convince a majority to vote the same way.”
As I said, for all I know these investments were perfectly legal and financially sound. Or if not, perhaps Chris Christie and John Kasich were completely isolated from all decisions to put so much pension money in such incredibly high-risk ventures. I have no idea. But it seems from the story that this is only the beginning of the tale. You can read the whole article here.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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