Sunday, August 19, 2018

If Trump And Cuomo Were Wrong, There Is Only One Choice Left

The options do not include (d), "none of the above," or "all of the above."

Chronologically as argued: a) Donald Trump; (b) Hillary Clinton; and (c) Andrew Cuomo.  The correct answer must be a, b, or c.

We can eliminate from consideration candidate Donald Trump's "make America great again" because, notwithstanding the view of  Mr. Trump and of most of his supporters, the USA was not great but became a train wreck once the black guy was elected. Since being elected, Trump has, by fits and spurts, begun transitioning into"keep America great" but only because he is now President.

We come now to Andrew Cuomo, who as suggested by David Sirota (herehere and here) deserves little defense or support and no encouragement to run for President. Nonetheless, it was interesting when he stated

We have not reached greatness. We will reach greatness when every American is fully engaged.  We will reach greatness when discrimination and stereotyping of women, 51% of our population, is gone, and every woman's full potential is realized and unleashed and every woman is making her full contribution.

So Andrew Cuomo, fueled by consideration of the wide scope of American history, contends (until he backtracked) that the USA never has been great. He is attacked by a guy who became President with a slogan, "Make America Great Again," in which "again" shouts "it isn't anymore.". The media, regularly slammed for allegedly being anti-Trump, then turns a blind eye to rank hypocrisy.

Friday evening on Real Time, Bill Maher, Charlie Sykes, and Jennifer Granholm noted that Cuomo had been politically foolish (discussion beginning at 25:42 of the video below). Axios' Jonathan Swan, who undoubtedly would agree, added

I was covering the Democratic convention in 2016. I remember they had all these stands selling merchandise. They had these t-shirts that had Hillary Clinton that said "America is already great." I thought "who the hell is going to vote for that?"

There are only three choices: Donald Trump's notion of 2015 and 2016 that the USA is a hellhole; Andrew Cuomo's perspective that the nation cannot be considered great because of enduring discrimination against minorities; and Hillary Clinton's view that despite these contradictions, the USA has been a great country.

Evidently, not enough people in Pennsylvania, Michigan, or Wisconsin viewed this as a great country to get Mrs. Clinton across the finish line. However, that is what presidential elections are all about (other than voter suppression, Russian subterfuge on behalf of the other candidate, and the FBI throwing its weight behind that same candidate).

Donald Trump increasingly will proclaim that he has made America great again. Andrew Cuomo pointed to our national tradition of bigotry and tradition. The limb he stepped upon was then sawed off behind him. The remaining option is (b), and for that Hillary Clinton should be given at least a little credit.

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Saturday, August 18, 2018


Not a correction but something which was inexplicably omitted from the 8/17/18 post "Theological Predisposition." Two paragraphs read:

That would have a major impact. However, rooting out sexual abuse by priests would require two additional steps, one which probably ultimately will be taken by the Church and the other which will not.

Obviously, allowing women to become priests would reduce the sexual perversion (with no quote marks necessary). At some point, that is likely to occur.

They obviously should have read

... would require three additional steps, two of which probably ultimately will be taken by the Church and the other which will not.

Obviously, allowing women to become priests and all priests to be married....

I regret not including the celibacy portion, one clearly relevant to the topic.

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No Innocent Child

So far, so good.

Those would be the thoughts of President Donald Trump, nowthat

Several high-profile Republican senators told CNN over the past day that they have no issue with President Donald Trump's decision to revoke former CIA Director John Brennan's security clearance...

Of the public statements made by Republican senators, more sounded supportive of the President than against.

GOP Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado called Brennan's comments on the administration "disgraceful" to the country.

"I think what John Brennan has said about this country over the past several months has been disgraceful," Gardner, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told CNN on Thursday.

Asked whether he was troubled by Trump's decision, South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott responded, "why should I find it to be troubling?"

"I don't think it's retribution," Scott told CNN. "However, I think it's clear that Brennan has found a way to monetize a part of his national security clearance and I'm not sure how that served our national security."

And Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, said it was Trump's "prerogative" to pull security clearances.

(People who believe that simply putting more African-Americans into elective positions will bring about a truly just society should mull on Tim Scott's words a bit.)

This was a report from Thursday. Since that time, there has been exactly zero (0) GOP members of Congress (or governors) even questioning Trump's move.

If lack of criticism from Republicans was predictable- as it was- the reason for Trump's decision becomes a little less murky.

On August 12, Steve M wisely attributed one of the President's acts to "Trump's spoiled-brat personality."  Yet, he took a different approach after Brennan's security clearance was pulled, remarking "A true tyrant would conduct a sweeping, massive purge of critics. What Trump is doing is terrible, but he doesn't quite have a real tyrant's broad vision. So he's revoking clearances slowly, and focusing on a list of people Fox has told him shouldn't have those clearances. "  However, a "Gable1111" rebutted this perspective with

I believe Trump does have that broad vision, and at least in his own mind would surely like to be just as tyrannical as some of the worst, i.e. Kim Jong Un, Rodrigo Duterte, and of course his idol, Putin. He's said as much. But more calculating heads of like mind in his counsel who have a better understanding of how "Washington" works know that its better to stick your toe in to see how much you can get away with, rather than dive in head first as Trump would do, and drown.

The metaphor of the cautious bather is apt. Probably slightly more so is that of the child and his parents, as described by former federal prosecutor Kim Wehle on Friday's All In (beginning at 12:10 of the video below):

And I think what's happening here is it's almost like an adolescent smashing all the crystal in the house because he or she is not getting what they want and the parents are standing by doing nothing or giving more of what this child wants. That is, the parents are Congress. Congress is not doing its job to make sure that the President stays within the boundaries of the Constitution- not just due process but also the First Amendment.

A member of the Senate minority, Virginia's Mark Warner, wants to make Congress less impotent, especially critical because President Trump otherwise could move to strip Special Counsel Mueller of his security clearance. It's unlikely to succeed in the face of unified opposition from Republicans, but may at least make more stark the contrast between Team Russia and Team America. 

The adolescent is testing his limits, and must not be pampered.

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Friday, August 17, 2018

Theological Predisposition

Amanda Marcotte explains

The Catholic Church sex abuse scandals are often talked about as if they are in the past, but this summer has been a reminder that this horror show continues to unspool, 16 years after the Boston Globe's famous "Spotlight" series exposing the cover-up first ran. This week, a grand jury in Pennsylvania released a report accusing more than 300 priests of abusing more than 1,000 children over seven decades. The details are almost incomprehensibly awful, including accusations of repeated rape, child pornography and priests who marked their victims with jewelry to alert other predators that these children had been "groomed" to accept abuse....

The church in Pennsylvania was working simultaneously to shield child abusers while pushing for laws to punish women for consensual sex, so the easy charge to reach for is "hypocrisy." But that's an accusation that barely skims the surface. The far more troubling reality is that the willingness to cover for sexual predators is entirely consistent with advocating for restrictions on women's reproductive rights. Both attitudes are rooted in the same poisonous commitment to putting men in positions of permanent social dominance as well as rejecting the idea that women and children have bodily autonomy and sexual safety rights.

Agreed. Marcotte argues, persuasively I think

Trump and the Christian right are aligned in their true belief, which is that women must be kept in their place.

So there's no real conflict in the Catholic Church covering up sexual abuse while trying to prevent women from accessing legal and safe abortion services. In both situations, it's about using sexuality as a tool to enforce patriarchal hierarchies. In both cases, it's about a group of conservative men conspiring to organize the world so they hold power and everyone else is subject to their whims.

Shame is a major factor here too. The same sexual shame that religious conservatives try to instill with restrictions on reproductive rights is also used to silence victims of sexual abuse. It's difficult for victims to speak up, precisely because so much shame is built up around sexuality. Victims, male and female, are often subject to people digging through their sexual pasts, using their consensual activities as "evidence" that they're dirty and therefore undeserving of protection against abuse.

It's possible that one reason more survivors of abuse are willing to speak out these days is that the pro-choice movement has done so much work in destigmatizing consensual sex. The fear that victims used to experience -- of being outed as someone who has consensual sex and quite likely enjoys it -- no longer has the power it used to have, creating more space to speak out.

Observing "the lesson here is there is no way for religious groups to preserve their traditions of male dominance and sexual shaming while also eradicating sexual abuse," Marcotte logically concludes "the only way to root out the abuse is to root out those patriarchal values."

That would have a major impact. However, rooting out sexual abuse by priests would require two additional steps, one which probably ultimately will be taken by the Church and the other which will not.

Obviously, allowing women to become priests would reduce the sexual perversion (with no quote marks necessary). At some point, that is likely to occur.

Nevertheless, the other step which would be helpful is one the Roman Catholic Church never will take because it would undermine the indispensable, all-encompassing role of the priest. 

Although origin of the concept is shrouded in mystery, the "priesthood of all believers" is a fundamental precept of Protestantism which emerged from the Reformation. The rationale may be described as

Old Testament priests were chosen by God, not self-appointed; and they were chosen for a purpose: to serve God with their lives by offering up sacrifices. The priesthood served as a picture or "type" of the coming ministry of Jesus Christ--a picture that was then no longer needed once His sacrifice on the cross was completed. When the thick temple veil that covered the doorway to the Holy of Holies was torn in two by God at the time of Christ's death (Matthew 27:51), God was indicating that the Old Testament priesthood was no longer necessary. Now people could come directly to God through the great High Priest, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16). There are now no earthly mediators between God and man as existed in the Old Testament priesthood (1 Timothy 2:5).

Confession- a less formal ritual in Protestantism than in Catholicism- and prayer are undertaken directly to God, rather than mediated through a priest or any other mortal individual. "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the mana Christ Jesus," wrote Paul.

The Reformers' perspective was not superior, some will argue, and your mileage will vary. Additionally, belief in the priesthood of all believers does not guarantee that there will be fewer acts of sexual abuse committed upon children by Roman Catholic clergy than by Protestant clergy.

There are other factors, and not only the ones pointed out by Marcotte. Members of the clergy in many independent congregations are subjected to a process less scholarly and formal than have clergy in either mainline Protestant denominations (e.g., Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, United Church of Christ, Reformed Church in America, some Baptist) or in Catholicism. Further, there typically will be less vetting of the ministerial candidate.

Nonetheless, the role of the Catholic priest is one which exalts him to a remarkable level, in which he plays a part in the transmission of confession and prayer to the Almighty. It will affect the perception of the clergyman in the eyes of many young people, even in the West and in our most sophisticated of times.

There may be powerful biblical or otherwise theological rationale for eschewing the notion of the priesthood of believers. However, its role in sexual abuse of children should not be completely ignored.

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An Issue Reformers Will Ignore

This is bad. The editorial board of the Philadelphia Inquirer has found

According to reporting by Philadelphia-based journalist Maura Ewing — published in the Appeal, a blog of the Harvard Law School and Philadelphia Weekly as a part of the "Broke in Philly" series — the city routinely keeps 30 percent of bail deposits as "processing fees"even if the initial charges are dropped.

When people are charged with a crime, judges can impose cash bail. The accused is required to pay 10 percent of the bail amount. No matter what the outcome of a person's case, the city gets a 30 percent cut.  That means that people who were wrongfully arrested and charged are literally paying for the mistake of officials. It's also putting burdens on people who can least afford it.

The bail fee is one of many fines and fees that the court imposes on defendants. Unlike most fees, which are dictated by state law, the bail fee is in the city's control and goes to the city itself. In fiscal year 2018, the bail fee added $2.9 million to the city's general fund.

Both the city's mayor and its district attorney are addressing the situation, presumably because they no longer can ignore it (also because the mayor and the DA are Democrats, the latter official occupying an ideological space somewhere to the left of Bernie Sanders).

However, this practice, reported by the New Orleans Advocate, is worse:

On Friday, (US District Judge Sarah) Vance declared that "undisputed evidence" shows the 13 judges of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court have "a policy or practice of not inquiring into criminal defendants' ability to pay before those individuals are imprisoned for nonpayment of court debts."

She also declared that the judges have an "institutional conflict of interest" in making such poverty determinations themselves.

That's because the proceeds from fines and fees go directly to the court's Judicial Expense Fund, a kitty controlled by the judges that can be used for a broad range of judicial expenses. Fines and fees have contributed about $1 million a year to the court's coffers.

Vance ruled that the court's failure to "provide a neutral forum for determination of such persons' ability to pay is unconstitutional."

The decision appears to leave it up to the court to decide how to set up a mechanism for such decisions.

Seafood gumbo and crawfish boil can get pretty expensive for judges except, of course, when poor defendants are paying the freight. It  might not be where the fines and fees have been going- but the temptation is undeniable, even if the burdensome assessments are imposed to enhance the court system. The court's fund and especially the general fund are legitimate destinations for bail money or fines/assessments, but not (as in Orleans Parish) when judges are disinterested in a defendant's ability to pay.

Prior to a finding of guilt, no money innocuously termed "processing fees" or otherwise should go to the public kitty. Nor should judges be permitted to impose costs upon a defendant, pre- or post- conviction, without determining his financial means.  (Video below, from The Young Turks, is worthwhile, notwithstanding Uygur implying the criminal justice system is a bowl of cherries for middle-class individuals. The biggest problem is for the working poor.)

Remember this especially when politicians allegedly intent on criminal justice "reform" ignore these practices in favor of decrying the imprecise and nebulous, bestial "mass incarceration."

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Through The Russian Mob To The KGB

You've heard it for a year or so from the Republican National Committe, surrogates for Donald Trump, and even from the man himself when he tweeted

Objective fact-checkers, in these cases CNN, The Washington Post, and Politifact, have found this claim to be (on balance) inaccurate. Admittedly, the fact checks took place shortly after Trump's claim in mid-winter.

Several things have changed since then, one only the other day.  Continuing to inch his way, inresponse to a defense bill named after Senator John S. McCain, toward unquestioned authority

When President Trump signed a $716 billion military spending bill on Monday, he claimed the authority to override dozens of provisions that he deemed improper constraints on his executive powers.

In a signing statement that the White House quietly issued after 9 p.m. on Monday — about six hours after Mr. Trump signed the bill in a televised ceremony at Fort Drum in New York — Mr. Trump deemed about 50 of its statutes to be unconstitutional intrusions on his presidential powers, meaning that the executive branch need not enforce or obey them as written.

Among them was a ban on spending military funds on “any activity that recognizes the sovereignty of the Russian Federation over Crimea,” the Ukrainian region annexed by Moscow in 2014 in an incursion considered illegal by the United States. He said he would treat the provision and similar ones as “consistent with the president’s exclusive constitutional authorities as commander in chief and as the sole representative of the nation in foreign affairs.”

Charlie Pierce translates:

In other words, the president* doesn't have to enforce the provision in the JSMNDAA of 2019 that denies the legitimacy of Vladimir Putin's land grab in the Ukraine. It also leaves open the option to spend United States military funds to help Putin maintain control in Crimea if the president* so desires to do so.

The depth and breadth of Donald Trump's relationship with Moscow are shrouded in mystery. However, one clue comes from reporter Craig Unger, who discussed Wednesday on CNN the findings in his new book, "House of Trump, House of Putin." As described in Raw Story (video below from thirteen months ago), in 1984

It started off as a money-laundering operation where a man in the Russian mafia met with Donald Trump in Trump Tower — this new, glitzy building then — and he just came in with $10 million and he said, ‘I’ll buy five condos,'” Unger explained. “That event was typical of at least 1,300 such purchases of Trump properties.”

Unger went on to discuss the next major contact between Trump and Russians, which came in 1987 when he made his first trip to the then-Soviet Union.

In particular, Unger said one of his sources told him that Trump “had lots of fun with women” during his 1987 trip to Russia and that “the Soviets had kompromat” — i.e., compromising information — on him dating back to that trip.

Additionally, Unger said that any contacts with Russia mobsters by Trump should be seen as the same as talking with Russian intelligence officials.

“I interviewed a counter-intelligence officer for the KGB, i asked him about the Russian mafia, and he said it is another part of KGB,” he said. “They are another part of the intelligence.”

"Lots of fun with women" sounds a lot like like Donald Trump. It also sounds a great deal like raw (uncorroborated)intelligence that Christopher Steele was given about Mr. Trump.  Except to the mathematically illiterate, it all adds up to something very serious.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018


Being a day later and more than a dollar short, I take note now that, as Christina Cauterucci points out

On Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump praised his chief of staff John Kelly for letting go of Omarosa Manigault Newman—or, in Trump’s words, “for quickly firing that dog!”...

Dog marks a new low in this war of words. Some people are calling it sexist. Some are saying it’s racist. Some people think it’s neither, and it could always be both! So, what is it?

Cauterucci argues

With evidence to support both racism and sexism in the use of the word dog, and taking into account Trump’s historical contempt for women and black people, it’s safe to say that the answer to the “sexist or racist?” quandary is “both.” The theory of intersectional oppression holds that both racism and sexism are multidimensional.

No definition of intersectionality was offered for those of us not on the cutting edge, still unaccustomed to ripping apart the English language for ideological benefit.  It does, however, allow writers or pundits to manipulate concepts like "racism" and "sexism" for purposes.

As if multidemensional intersectional oppression weren't sufficiently speculative, Cauterrucci concludes

Trump called upon a very specific kind of anti-black sexism that comprises both the American history of enslaved black women being treated as livestock-like “breeders” and contemporary pop culture depictions of black women as angry, emasculating “bitches.”

Trump's press secretary claims that he is an "equal-opportunity offender," a thug unafraid to ridicule or condemn anyone regardless of race or gender. Whether her characterization is overly generous, insufficiently generous, or accurate, the combination of black and woman does not appear to be particularly noxious to him.

Unlike Cauterrucci, I don't know much about black women being treated as livestock-like breeders. It's unlikely that a fan cheering on today's good works of one Frederic Douglass does, either.

No one ever knows for sure what is in Donald Trump's mind. However, his racism and sexism are often understandably attributed, by inference or directly, partly to age and gender.  So, too, should his phrase "for quickly firing that dog" be seen in the context of his age and gender.

In the greater New York City region in which Trump grew up, among white males the term "dog" generally was a synonym for "ugly woman." That would not be an apt description of Omarosa Manigault Newman. However, accuracy was not a high priority of boys coming of age in the late '50s and '60s in the NYC metropolitan area who wanted to insult a woman.

Alternatively, having referred to "firing that dog," Trump might have been using "dog" as synonym for "worthless employee," a synonym for "dog" in a certain context. That would imply, however, that Donald Trump is more concerned with a female employee's work product than her appearance.

We know that is unlikely because Donald Trump has a track record, and we don't have to understand the intricacies of socio-cultural jargon to recognize that.

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If Trump And Cuomo Were Wrong, There Is Only One Choice Left

The options do not include (d), "none of the above," or "all of the above." Chronologically as argued: a) Don...