Amazon’s Golden Fleecing

We rarely agree with socialist Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but she’s right to call billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for Amazon “extremely concerning.” These handouts to one of the richest companies in the history of the world, with an essentially zero cost of capital, is crony capitalism at its worst.

.. New York is even more generous, with starting subsidies of $1.525 billion. As Amazon put it on its website, this works out to $48,000 per job. Apparently bodega owners in Brooklyn are supposed to be happy about subsidizing a third of the salaries of hipster techies.

.. New York City is kicking in its own subsidies, though its biggest concession was to waive local control over city land—a privilege other businesses don’t get.

.. Congress created opportunity zones to reinvigorate neighborhoods that have a hard time attracting private investment. But the danger is that Uncle Sam might subsidize investments that would have been made anyway. Long Island City is a classic example as it’s already been undergoing an investment boom.

.. The worst actors here are the politicians who pose as job creators but are essentially job buyers. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo once famously said he’d change his name to Amazon Cuomo if the company located in New York, but he didn’t need to pay such a Queens ransom. Google and other companies have created thousands of jobs in New York without similar subsidies, and Amazon might well have done the same given the city’s intellectual capital.

.. The Governor also says he had to offer subsidies to compete against states that don’t have an income tax, though that admission underscores the state’s lack of tax competitiveness. Mr. Cuomo taxes New Yorkers at confiscatory levels, giving himself more money to spend. Then he turns around and takes credit for sparing powerful interests from those taxes.

Divide and Rule

President Trump is operating from an ancient political playbook.

Gail: Perhaps my single favorite revelation was that our self-made billionaire was earning $200,000 a year from the family empire when he was a 3-year-old. Do you think all the nation’s toddlers are now eyeing their parents and wondering, “O.K., where’s my income stream?”

.. The idea that the president is self-made is almost as laughable as the notion that he writes (or, for that matter, reads) his own books.

..  The Democrats need to come up with a compelling, forward-looking agenda for the 2020 elections. Demanding an end to tax loopholes would allow them to talk about real change for the future while eviscerating Donald Trump at the same time.

.. Do Trump fans care about this stuff? Thanks to our colleagues, we know he’s a phony billionaire who represents all the things they in theory hate about the New York economy. But he’s already run a populist anti-immigration campaign that managed to jump right over the undocumented workers he’s hired.

.. Mainly, though, they don’t care because it’s an investigation that dwells on the past, while the presidency is about the present and the future. And while the rest of us were busy tearing our hair out over Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the unemployment rate dipped to its lowest level since Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, the Dow hit another record and trade disaster was averted when a new Nafta agreement was reached by Mexico, Canada and the U.S.

All of which is to say that you’re right. Democrats really do need to come up with a forward-looking agenda for 2020, because if all they have to talk about are the Trump family’s tax dodges from 30 years ago, or if they try to relitigate the 2016 election, they will lose again.

.. Back in days of yore the media was mainly TV networks and big newspapers that wanted to communicate with a large audience. Now the stars are — people who yell. Blogs, Twitter — we’ve been painfully aware since 2016 that power belongs to whoever can get their followers really, really worked up.
.. There’s a lot of talk about divisions between left and center among the Democrats, but it doesn’t compare to what’s happened to the Republicans. It’s really two parties, with the establishment so terrified of the Trump train, they’re afraid to peep.
.. I wish the G.O.P. were more divided: One of the most depressing political facts of our day is the extent to which Trump has captured the party, leaving conservatives like me who oppose him feeling politically homeless.
.. But you’re right. It does feel different this time. And I think the difference is that the fights aren’t really about policy. They’re about our personal experiences and deepest fears.
.. By the end a vote for Kavanaugh was a vote for a guy who went out of his way to rally the troops by turning the nomination into a partisan us-against-the-Democrats battle. I realize the Democrats were not exactly working above the fray themselves. But the Supreme Court is about transcending partisanship. That’s supposed to be the whole point. And if the justices don’t always live up to that goal, that doesn’t mean you pick a new guy who’s given up the fight before he starts... something tells me that if the nominee were Amy Coney Barrett, Democrats would look for a reason to postpone the vote, hope to retake the Senate and then … take revenge for Merrick Garland by refusing to hold a vote.

.. Gail: Not necessarily agreeing, but Merrick Garland is an open sore. Particularly since Mitch McConnell keeps gloating about it.

.. One thing we can probably agree on is that the process managed to degrade and demean just about everyone who participated in it. Blasey never intended to go public, but Washington can’t keep a secret so her name got leaked. I doubt Kavanaugh intended to go on the attack quite the way he did, but, yet he was advised by White House counsel Don McGahn to “channel his outrage and indignation.”

.. The news media reported stories that otherwise violated normal journalistic standards. And most senators made fools of themselves one way or another: The low point for me was Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal, who famously lied about his military service, lecturing Kavanaugh on the legal concept of “false in one thing, false in everything,” as I noted in my column.

.. my constant preoccupations: the way this country is organized to disenfranchise urban voters and empower people from rural areas.

.. The 59 million people in California and New York are going to elect Democratic senators. But they’ll be completely canceled out if the less than two million people in Wyoming and Montana decide to go Republican.

“You Can’t Make This S— Up”: My Year Inside Trump’s Insane White House

The nature of the comedy, it was soon clear, was that here was a group of ambitious men and women who had reached the pinnacle of power, a high-ranking White House appointment — with the punchline that Donald Trump was president. Their estimable accomplishment of getting to the West Wing risked at any moment becoming farce.

A new president typically surrounds himself with a small group of committed insiders and loyalists. But few on the Trump team knew him very well — most of his advisors had been with him only since the fall. Even his family, now closely gathered around him, seemed nonplussed. “You know, we never saw that much of him until he got the nomination,” Eric Trump’s wife, Lara, told one senior staffer. If much of the country was incredulous, his staff, trying to cement their poker faces, were at least as confused.

.. Reince Priebus, the new chief of staff, had, shortly after the announcement of his appointment in November, started to think he would not last until the inauguration.

Then, making it to the White House, he hoped he could last a respectable year, but he quickly scaled back his goal to six months.

.. Kellyanne Conway, who would put a finger-gun to her head in private about Trump’s public comments, continued to mount an implacable defense on cable television, until she was pulled off the air by others in the White House who, however much the president enjoyed her, found her militancy idiotic. (Even Ivanka and Jared regarded Conway’s fulsome defenses as cringeworthy.)

.. Leaking became the political manifestation of the don’t-blame-me eye roll.

.. Bannon tried to explain him as having a particular kind of Jungian brilliance. Trump, obviously without having read Jung, somehow had access to the collective unconscious of the other half of the country, and, too, a gift for inventing archetypes: Little Marco … Low-Energy Jeb … the Failing New York Times. Everybody in the West Wing tried, with some panic, to explain him, and, sheepishly, their own reason for being here. He’s intuitive, he gets it, he has a mind-meld with his base. But there was palpable relief, of an Emperor’s New Clothes sort, when longtime Trump staffer Sam Nunberg — fired by Trump during the campaign but credited with knowing him better than anyone else — came back into the fold and said, widely, “He’s just a fucking fool.”

.. Part of that foolishness was his inability to deal with his own family.

.. Even Donald Trump couldn’t say no to his kids. “It’s a littleee, littleee complicated …” he explained to Priebus about why he needed to give his daughter and son-in-law official jobs.

.. To lose your deputy chief of staff at the get-go would be a sign of crisis in any other administration, but inside an obviously exploding one it was hardly noticed.

.. To say that no one was in charge, that there were no guiding principles, not even a working org chart, would again be an understatement.

.. The competition to take charge, which, because each side represented an inimical position to the other, became not so much a struggle for leadership, but a near-violent factional war.

.. By July, Jared and Ivanka, who had, in less than six months, traversed from socialite couple to royal family to the most powerful people in the world, were now engaged in a desperate dance to save themselves, which mostly involved blaming Trump himself. It was all his idea to fire Comey! “The daughter,” Bannon declared, “will bring down the father.”

.. Scaramucci, a minor figure in the New York financial world, and quite a ridiculous one, had overnight become Jared and Ivanka’s solution to all of the White House’s management and messaging problems. After all, explained the couple, he was good on television and he was from New York — he knew their world. In effect, the couple had hired Scaramucci — as preposterous a hire in West Wing annals as any — to replace Priebus and Bannon and take over running the White House.

.. There was, after the abrupt Scaramucci meltdown, hardly any effort inside the West Wing to disguise the sense of ludicrousness and anger felt by every member of the senior staff toward Trump’s family and Trump himself. It became almost a kind of competition to demystify Trump. For Rex Tillerson, he was a moron. For Gary Cohn, he was dumb as shit. For H.R. McMaster, he was a hopeless idiot. For Steve Bannon, he had lost his mind.

.. Trump, in the estimation of his senior staff, did not have the discipline to navigate a tough investigation, nor the credibility to attract the caliber of lawyers he would need to help him. (At least nine major law firms had turned down an invitation to represent the president.)

.. Everybody was painfully aware of the increasing pace of his repetitions. It used to be inside of 30 minutes he’d repeat, word-for-word and expression-for-expression, the same three stories — now it was within 10 minutes. Indeed, many of his tweets were the product of his repetitions — he just couldn’t stop saying something.

.. By summer’s end, in something of a historic sweep — more usual for the end of a president’s first term than the end of his first six months — almost the entire senior staff, save Trump’s family, had been washed out: Michael Flynn, Katie Walsh, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon. Even Trump’s loyal, longtime body guard Keith Schiller — for reasons darkly whispered about in the West Wing — was out.

Gary Cohn, Dina Powell, Rick Dearborn, all on their way out.

.. The president, on the spur of the moment, appointed John Kelly, a former Marine Corps general and head of homeland security, chief of staff — without Kelly having been informed of his own appointment beforehand.

.. Kelly seemed compelled by a sense of duty to be, in case of disaster, the adult in the room who might, if needed, stand up to the president … if that is comfort.

.. Hope Hicks, Trump’s 29-year-old personal aide and confidant, became, practically speaking, his most powerful White House advisor.

.. the staff referred to Ivanka as the “real wife” and Hicks as the “real daughter.”

.. Hicks’ primary function was to tend to the Trump ego, to reassure him, to protect him, to buffer him, to soothe him. It was Hicks who, attentive to his lapses and repetitions, urged him to forgo an interview that was set to open the 60 Minutes fall season.

.. Instead, the interview went to Fox News’ Sean Hannity who, White House insiders happily explained, was willing to supply the questions beforehand. Indeed, the plan was to have all interviewers going forward provide the questions.

.. The tax bill, his singular accomplishment, was, arguably, quite a reversal of his populist promises, and confirmation of what Mitch McConnell had seen early on as the silver Trump lining: “He’ll sign anything we put in front of him.”

.. 100 percent — came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job.

At Mar-a-Lago, just before the new year, a heavily made-up Trump failed to recognize a succession of old friends.

Six Women Jointly Sue Harvey Weinstein Over Alleged Assaults

Lawsuit seeks class-action status, claims widespread coverup amounted to civil racketeering

Six women filed a lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein on Wednesday, claiming the movie producer’s actions to cover up sexual assaults amounted to civil racketeering.

The lawsuit was filed in a federal court in New York, seeking to represent what it describes as “dozens, if not hundreds,” of women who say they were assaulted by Mr. Weinstein.

The lawsuit claims that a coalition of companies and people became part of the growing “Weinstein sexual enterprise” and that they worked with him to conceal his widespread sexual harassment and assaults.

Shalane Flanagan Makes a Winning Run in New York

The 36-year-old is the first American woman in 40 years to win the New York City Marathon

Until Flanagan methodically dismantled the overwhelming favorite, three-time defending champion Mary Keitany of Kenya over the final Manhattan miles, breaking into a grin and then tears as she crossed the finish-line tape in 2 hours, 26 minutes and 53 seconds—no broken leg required.

Flanagan was raised by two former elite runners in Marblehead, Mass., where trips to watch the Boston Marathon were a regular childhood ritual. Her own elite career has spanned more than a decade, since winning back to back NCAA cross country titles for UNC Chapel Hill in 2002 and 2003, the silver medal in the 10,000 meters at the 2008 Olympics, and a seven-year marathoning career with a personal best of 2:21:14 in 2014 in Berlin.

.. her 6th place finish at the Rio Olympics

Opinions Trump is something the nation did not know it needed

There will be 42 more months of this president’s increasingly hilarious-beyond-satire apotheosis of himself, leavened by his incessant whining about his tribulations (“What dunce saddled me with this silly attorney general who takes my policy expostulations seriously?”).

This protracted learning experience, which the public chose to have and which should not be truncated, might whet the public’s appetite for an adult president confident enough to wince at, and disdain, the adoration of his most comically groveling hirelings.

.. Scaramucci grew up in Port Washington, the Long Island community that is East Egg in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” Gatsby lived in West Egg, yearning to live across the water, where shone the beckoning green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. Scaramucci’s ascent to a glory surpassing even that available in East Egg shows that the light on the lectern in the White House press room is, at last, something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

What Cain and Abel Tell Us About the War Between Priebus and Scaramucci

Scaramucci’s off-the-cuff biblical reference is full of interpretive possibilities.

Given the widely reported tensions between the two emerging West Wing rivals, most commentators quickly pointed out that Scaramucci’s Old Testament reference looks like a pretty direct threat to his “brother”: After all, in Genesis, Cain kills Abel.

.. But it’s not really a great analogy for him, either. This isn’t a story about crime and punishment, where Abel gets what’s coming to him. It’s a story about entirely unjustified premeditated murder.

.. It’s hard to imagine that Scaramucci wouldn’t similarly be viewed by some in the White House and the Republican Party as a hatchetman if Priebus gets the ax. In getting rid of one enemy, you often make many others.

.. One place where the parallel with the biblical story is pretty apt, though, is in the rationale for Cain’s murder of Abel: jealousy.

.. Scaramucci’s original grievance with Priebus, even before the leaks, was reportedly that Priebus had contrived to keep Scaramucci out of the White House. The root cause of both the biblical story and the drama in the administration is basically the same: Favoritism is fickle.

.. “I’m more of a front-stabbing person.” When Cain kills Abel, he never verbalizes his anger, which is why Abel never sees it coming. Priebus has gotten more warning than Abel ever did—so he might be smart enough not to go out into the field with his brother, and find himself on the wrong end of the knife.

.. Abel, by contrast, is virtually a ghost. His name in Hebrew even means “nothingness.” He never speaks, he never communicates with God, he never makes a choice. He’s there only to die, which he dutifully does. In this media-driven society, lots of people have made the basic reckoning that fame, even if it’s infamy, beats being ignored. Scaramucci is, if nothing else, savvy about the power of the media.

.. If Scaramucci sees himself as Abel, then he could have in mind that Priebus had tried to kill his earlier attempts to join the administration. Even better is the punishment that Cain has to endure: He is not sentenced to death for killing Abel, but is doomed to wander the earth, friendless. That sounds a lot like what Scaramucci might want for Priebus: banished from the Oval Office, stripped of his influence and forced to roam the sets of whatever cable news shows will take him in.

.. The Cain and Abel story is almost always read, with justification, as a statement about the corrupting influence of jealousy on the human heart, and on the power of sin to overtake our intentions.

.. Biblical scholars have also often pointed to this story as a depiction of an early conflict between pastoralists like Abel—that is, shepherds—and agriculturalists like Cain, which is to say, farmers. So too the Scaramucci/Priebus drama is really about something bigger: The conflict between traditional Republican politics and the new Trumpian attitude. It could also represent the clash of styles between Priebus’ aw-shucks Midwesternism and Scaramucci’s New York brashness