What We’re About To Tell You About The 2018 Midterms Will Either Bum You Out, Or Inspire You To Fight Even Harder

We Suggest The Latter…


The Brennan Center for Social Justice just released a very comprehensive report on Republican gerrymandering and how effective it’s been: “Extreme Gerrymandering & the 2018 Midterm.” So effective, in fact, that according to the report, in order for Democrats to retake the House this year, they’ll have win the popular vote nationwide by 11 points. And they warn: “What looks to be one of the most important recent midterm elections may turn out, in fact, to show how effectively extreme gerrymandering distorts American democracy and blunts the public’s voice.”

To which we say: it’s still doable. We just saw it in the unlikeliest of places: Western Pennsylvania, where Democrat Conor Lamb carried the day in a district that had gone whole hog for Trump. The swing there? 20+ points.



Meanwhile, the Supreme Court tomorrow hears arguments in a landmark political gerrymandering case involving Maryland, one of two on the agenda for this year. And that’s unusual. The Court has not typically taken up cases related to political gerrymandering: designed to keep incumbents in office and expand their influence. (Although it has consistently ruled against gerrymandering based on race). The late Justice Antonin Scalia had a lot to do with that, according to this article in Politico Magazine. Even in tremendously egregious instances like North Carolina, where voter registration is pretty evenly divided between Republican and Democrat, yet Republicans control 10 out of 13 seats in the House of Representatives. According the the same article, when asked what explains the 10-3 imbalance, one state legislator replied: “Because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.”.


While the Supreme Court’s refusal to intervene in a re-drawing of election districts in Pennsylvania recently should mean a lot in the midterms, it means very little in terms of signaling how the Court might rule on the subject in the future. In fact, one might argue if anything, the Court’s decision to leave Pennsylvania alone indicates it’s still not inclined to intervene. In this case, on the grounds that it was a state matter, and therefore the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had the ultimate authority,

(Pennsylvania’s another one of those states where even though Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 800,000, through gerrymandering, Republicans have been able to capture 13 of 18 House seats)

And the Statesman reports one of the Justice Department’s top lawyers will play an active role in trying to keep Texas gerrymandered. U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco has asked lawyers representing the State of Texas to share their time with him when the case is argued before the Supreme Court in mid-April. Which they almost surely will. President Obama had challenged the Texas maps as discriminatory; now Trump’s putting his full force behind supporting them as valid.



The Stock Market Seems To Really Want To Go Up


There’s an old saying on Wall Street: “The trend is your friend”. So even if we’re in a bubble, that bubble keeps getting bigger and bigger and doesn’t stop being a bubble until it’s popped. So the sell-off we saw at the end of last week, quickly reversed, and the Dow finished with it’s biggest single day point gain of the Trump Presidency, up 669.

People looking for a reason pointed to “progress” in talks between the U.S. and China to head off $60-billion in tariffs Trump proposed last week (but has not yet enumerated). But what’s really changed since then? Trump promising “all will be happy” in a Tweet? Beyond that, not much. Everything that’s being described as the “new stuff on the table” people are suddenly getting excited about: Financial services, semiconductors, had already been proposed by China last week. When the stock market chose to ignore it.

We think the $1.3-trillion omnibus spending bill that was rushed through Congress late last week (you know, the one Trump wasn’t going to sign but then he did…echoing Ronald Reagan in 1988–also in calling for a line item veto) might have a little something to do with the market rally. When traders had a chance to reflect over the weekend, they realized it was a pretty conventional bill, reflecting very little of the President or anyone else’s extreme policies. If there’s one thing Wall Street hates it’s extremes of any kind. (Although we’ll not longer say it hates surprises, since it responded so positively to Trump’s surprise win, and continues to do so).

Meanwhile, Facebook was battered after the Federal Trade Commission confirmed reports that it’s investigating if the social media giant is in violation of an earlier agreement with the government about privacy. At one point during the day, Facebook had lost $24-billion in market value. Just in one day. (Although it ended up closing up for the day). Now that’s a big deal. Keeping those numbers in mind, what the FTC is likely to characterize as a “huge fine” if it finds Facebook misbehaved, is probably just a drop in the bucket for the company. The only thing that’ll really change things is if people start using it less.



Kim Jong-un Just Might Be In China Right Now

Or it might be his sister… This story was originally reported this morning in Japanese media, when what appeared to be a North Korean train approached Beijing, shortly after which security in the city tightened up, and residents caught glimpses of a motorcade.

If Kim is in Beijing for what’s being characterized as a “secret meeting” it’ll be the first time he’s left North Korea since gaining power there. For one simple reason: trips abroad are huge risks.

We’ve linked to an English-language report from Japanese broadcaster NHK.


Here’s a better photo from South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper:


It was first reported in the U.S. by Bloomberg.

As you can tell, the whole thing’s becoming quite OJ-esque. And of course, nobody official is revealing anything: not China, not North Korea, not Japan, not South Korea: a government official there telling South Korea’s Yonhap News in effect, we can’t confirm anything, and even if we could we wouldn’t tell you.



Next Census Will Ask People If They’re Citizens Or Not


Which will almost certainly mean urban populations will be under-counted, because it’s not likely someone who is here illegally would check the “no” box on that, when they could just not answer at all. (I mean, would you?) That decision which will apply to the 2020 census was formalized by the Commerce Department, which issued a statement saying: “Between 1820 and 1950, almost every decennial census asked a question on citizenship in some form.” Make America Great Again.

Interestingly, even though non-citizen residents do not have the right to vote, they are counted in population numbers that determine representation in Congress.



Remember When, Um, Just A Day Or Two Ago, Trump Said “Fame & Fortune Will NEVER Be Turned Down By A Lawyer”?


Well, the President’s damning words might’ve elicited an unusually public though measured rebuke from a Chicago law firm which said, in effect “thanks, but no thanks”. According to the Washington Post, Dan Webb, a Republican and former Federal Prosecutor in Illinois, and his D.C.-based partner, issued a statement saying “They were unable to take on the representation due to business conflicts. However they consider the opportunity to represent the President to be the highest honor.”



As If Behind Trump’s Back, Trump Administration Takes A Harder Line On Russia


The latest move: expelling 60 Russian diplomats from the U.S., and forcing the complete shutdown of Russia’s Consulate in Seattle, as part of a coordinated move by the U.S., 16 European countries, and Canada, to protest the Russian-sourced attack on a former spy in Britain.

As Reuters points out, the Trump Administration has also fairly quietly supplied anti-tank missiles to  Ukraine, something even the Obama administration did not do.