Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Possibly, Almost Somewhat True

A partner in the hyper-partisan, extremely ill-intentioned quasi-law firm of Giuliani, Powell & Ellis:


But file this under "I made the quote up."  Ellis figured she was safe to invent a quote because followers of Donald Trump had long ago decided that the truth, at best, is optional.  A few hours later:

Nonetheless, tweets even by the left should not be taken at face value. However, Snopes has found

The passage is, in fact, from an editorial written by the former president in May 1918, when the U.S. was embroiled in World War I. Make no mistake, Roosevelt wasn’t against the war — quite to the contrary, he believed the U.S. had entered it too reluctantly — but he was outspokenly critical of President Woodrow Wilson’s conduct of the war, writing no fewer than two syndicated editorials a week over a two-year period advocating for a stronger U.S. presence on the European war front.

You must be shocked to learn that a protege of Rudy Giuliani is flagrantly dishonest. She has a bright future in the Republican Party.


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Man With The Receipts

Question: What do the following have in common: Kevin Hart, James Gaffigan, Amy Schumer, Rudy Giuliani?

Answer: They all are stand-up comedians.

That's one explanation for the Trump-Giuliani relationship. We read that President

Trump is worried that his campaign’s legal team, which is being led by his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, is composed of “fools that are making him look bad,” NBC News reported Monday....

But when asked why Trump doesn’t fire Giuliani and other attorneys who remain on the team, a person familiar with the president’s thinking gave a profane shoulder shrug of an answer.

“Who the f--- knows?” that person said to NBC News.

The Associated Press' Jonathan Lemire believes it's "the sense from the president that Giuliani did some some good in the Russia probe, with his fog machine to confuse the issues and deliver attacks on Mueller that seemed to undermine the special council’s credibility. " The usually insightful Steve M. thinks "Trump gets tremendous emotional satisfaction from watching people fight on his behalf, even if they're fighting ineptly. It's primitive and it's male..."

Others may believe that it's the President's deep appreciation for a good stand-up comedian. In November of 2019 The Guardian reported

Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, has said he is confident the president will remain loyal to him as an impeachment inquiry unfolds in which the former New York mayor has become a central figure.

But Giuliani joked that he had good “insurance” in case Trump did turn on him, amid speculation Republicans will seek to frame him as a rogue actor.

In a telephone interview with the Guardian, in response to a question about whether he was nervous that Trump might “throw him under a bus” in the impeachment crisis, Giuliani said, with a slight laugh: “I’m not, but I do have very, very good insurance, so if he does, all my hospital bills will be paid.”

Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello, who was also on the call, then interjected: “He’s joking.”

Ha! We all laughed. Some folks were rolling in the aisles. Betting here, though, is that the La Cosa Nostra did not mistake it for a joke. It's what organized crime figures know to do- casually drop a veiled threat, then pull back from it: mission accomplished.

Rudolph Giuliani was the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York in the 1980s, when Donald J. Trump was bugging hotel rooms and making deals with the mob in New York real estate. He not only knows where the bodies are buried. He probably has a road map.

Nor is Mr. Giuliani's bargaining position hurt by his relationship with the New York office of the FBI. Recall that on Fox & Friends in late October 2016

“Does Donald Trump plan anything except a series of inspiring rallies?” Mr. Kilmeade asked.

“Yes,” Mr. Giuliani replied.

Another host, Ainsley Earhardt, jumped in.

“What?” she asked.

“Ha-ha-ha,” Mr. Giuliani laughed. “You’ll see.”

Appearing to enjoy his own coy reply, Mr. Giuliani resumed chuckling: “Ha-ha-ha.”

“When will this happen?” Ms. Earhardt asked.

“We got a couple of surprises left,” Mr. Giuliani said, smiling.

This enigmatic reply roused the show’s third host, Steve Doocy.

“October surprises?” he asked.

Mr. Giuliani expanded a bit.

“Well,” he said, “I call them early surprises in the way we’re going to campaign to get our message out, maybe in a little bit of a different way. You’ll see. And I think it’ll be enormously effective. And I do think that all of these revelations about Hillary Clinton finally are beginning to have an impact.”

Three days later, James B. Comey, the director of the F.B.I., said agents were reviewing emails “that appear to be pertinent” to a closed investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s use of a personal email server while secretary of state.

Stand-up comedian Noel Casler, a tireless Trump critic who worked on the set of Celebrity Apprentice, maintains the President "is very unintelligent, but he is also a master conman. He knows what he’s doing, in the sense of advancing his own interests." 

This isn't the first time the parlor game of "will Trump fire the unhinged Giuliani" has been played. If Giuliani still hasn't been fired by the President, it's not primarily because of a personality quirk or character flaw. Rather, it's primarily because Rudolph Giuliani doesn't merely know where the bodies are buried. He probably has a road map- and if he doesn't, Donald Trump can't be sure of it.


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Monday, November 23, 2020

BDS Under Scrutiny

God is in the details, it is said. It is said also that the devil is in the details, which sets up a very interesting dynamic.

And so we have Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemning the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement and declaring, according to CBS News, "We will immediately take steps to identify organizations that engage in hateful BDS conduct and withdraw U.S. government support for such groups."

It is unclear, nonetheless, what groups Pompeo is referring to. However, in response to the Secretary of State, the Palestinian BDS National Movement issued a statement claiming it "has consistently and categorically rejected all forms of racism, including anti-Jewish racism, as a matter of principle."

There are at least two problems with this statement. It's one thing to object to "racism" as a "matter of principle." Every person or group can easily say he/she/they do so, but without specifying instances, "a matter of principle" is indistinguishable from "in concept." Additionally, the evidence that Jews constitute a race is weak, though it has had many notable supporters, including a world-renown German of the mid-twentieth century.

Even aside from the anthropological fallacy, it's nearly impossible to conclude that the BDS movement is not anti-Semitic. Its website argues "The fanatic Trump-Netanyahu alliance is intentionally conflating opposition to Israel’s regime of occupation, colonization and apartheid against Palestinians and calls for nonviolent pressure to end this regime."

As the video below explains, the characterization of Israel as an apartheid state cannot be sustained. Moreover, it's obvious that (despite protestations to the contrary) an organization which believes- accurately or inaccurately- that a nation's existence is based on apartheid would not tolerate the continued existence of that state other than as a parcel of land. When interviewed in July of 2019 by The New York Times

Omar Barghouti, a top B.D.S. spokesman, called the Israeli laws racist and exclusionary. A democratic state could still provide asylum for Jewish refugees, showing “some sensitivity to the Jewish experience,” he said, “but it cannot be a racist law that says only Jews benefit.” Asked if that means Jews cannot have their own state, he said, “Not in Palestine.”

Barghouti, of course, did not specify where in the world Jews, who shaped, formed, and built a democratic land in a region where so few ever have existed, and had lived there continuously for millennia, would have their own state.

That does not necessarily mean that the federal government should withdraw its support for organizations that "engage in hateful BDS conduct," whatever that means.  Pompeo needs to put some meat on the bones of the imprecise "engage in BDS conduct."

This may be an instance of bad policy or good policy. unfortunately, whatever it is, it would inevitably be opposed by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, whose hostility toward the existence of a Jewish state is starkly obvious.


Saturday, November 21, 2020

Bad Ideas

Kyle Rittenhouse is charged with first degree intentional homicide and first degree reckless homicide in the shooting deaths of two persons, and with attempted first degree homicide in a third shooting, at protests in late August following the killing of an unarmed black man. Accused of the shooting death of two persons and wounding of another at a racial justice/anti-police protest, he now has been bailed out of Kenosha County Detention Center in Kenosha, Wisconsin

Rittenhouse was released after a conservative organization named Fight Back put up $2 million cash bail, some of it by MyPillow founder Mike Lindell and actor Ricky Schroder, and left Twitter is up in arms (pun intended) by Schroder's contribution.  So, too, is The Young Turks' Aida Rodriguez, who claims

If he would have been black, he would have been under the jail. There would be no two-million dollar bond and I'm just tired of them trying to normalize the other side's opinion when the other side is just evil and wrong.

Would there have been no two million dollar bond, with the alleged perpetrator still in jail, had the accused been black? There is no way to be sure but a few weeks before the murderous incident in Kenosha we learned

A Minnesota nonprofit has bailed out defendants from Twin Cities jails charged with murder, violent felonies, and sex crimes, as it seeks to address a system that disproportionately incarcerates Black people and people of color.

The Minnesota Freedom Fund (MFF) received $35 million in donations in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, with many of those donations intended to help protesters who were jailed during the demonstrations and riots in May.

The group’s mission was celebrated on social media with praise from Hollywood celebrities, like Steve Carell, Cynthia Nixon, and Seth Rogen. 

There was another particularly famous individual who celebrated the group's mission. (Read on to the end to find out whom.)  Perhaps not surprisingly, given focus on police shooting of unarmed blacks, the spate of donations

was an unexpected windfall.  Prior tax returns in 2017 and 2018 show MFF would pull in about $100,000 in donations.  

We initially got some raised eyebrows especially when we ramped up our activity from $1000 a day to now $100,000 a day, raised eyebrows from our bankers,” said Greg Lewin, the interim executive director of the fund.

Among those bailed out by the Minnesota Freedom Fund (MFF) is a suspect who shot at police, a woman accused of killing a friend, and a twice convicted sex offender, according to court records reviewed by the FOX 9 Investigators.  

According to attempted murder charges, Jaleel Stallings shot at members of a SWAT Team during the riots in May.  Police recovered a modified pistol that looks like an AK-47.  MFF paid $75,000 in cash to get Stallings out of jail.  

Darnika Floyd is charged with second degree murder, for stabbing a friend to death.  MFF paid $100,000 cash for her release. 

Christopher Boswell, a twice convicted rapist, is currently charged with kidnapping, assault, and sexual assault in two separate cases.  MFF paid $350,00 in cash for his release. 

“The last time we were down there, the clerk said, ‘we hate it when you bail out these sex offenders, that is what they said',” Lewin said. 

Personally, I'm not crazy about it, either, especially if it is a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree sexual assault.  Nor is attempted murder, alleged to have involved a weapon nearly identical to Rittenhouse's weapon of choice, a minor charge.

So we learn that blacks, too, are allowed to be released on bail in our criminal justice system.  I can think of better uses of my money than setting (temporarily) free blacks, whites, or any other individuals accused of violent crime, but people are free to spend their money on whatever (within the law) they wish.

Rodriguez stated also

The Washington Post is having a sit-down with Kyle because we want to know what a murderer is thinking and then we wonder why the world and our country is in disarray- because the media, the mainstream media is constantly adding fuel to the fire.

There are many reasons the world and the country are in disarray, but its habit of "shedding light"- as Rodriguez disparagingly puts it- on major events is not one of them.. The media fails in its mission when it avoids shedding light on such matters as the role of the financial and housing industries in prompting the Great Recession or the periodic support given to eugenics by Donald Trump.

She continues, unfortunately "I don't want to hear what he has to say, right- I don't want to hear what he has to say, he's a criminal, a cold-blooded murderer." Well, yes, probably he is, which is no reason he should be ignored. And because the murder he committed was partially motivated by political ideology, there is even more reason to interview him.

There are countries in which the media doesn't dare "shed light" on political affairs or affairs of the state. They would include most notably mainland China, Syria, Eritrea, Turkmenistan, and North Korea, nations in which journalists who report the news objectively sometimes are never heard from again. 

If Rodriguez believes that it's foolhardy or dangerous to bail out people who are accused of serious, violent crimes, her criticism would apply to contributors to the inaptly-named Minnesota Freedom Fund. Those so generous do demonstrate that the USA is, as Rodriguez terms it, "in disarray."

Alas, they would regrettably include the junior Senator from California, who is now the Vice President-elect. It's a nation and world in disarray, or perhaps extreme danger. Donald Trump and Mike Pence thankfully are being dispossessed of power, in favor of 78-year-old Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, the latter believing individuals accused of a violent felony deserves swift release from detention pending trial. At least she has no such sympathy- presumably- for Kyle Rittenhouse, a state of affairs most fortunate.


Thursday, November 19, 2020

Rolling On With Unity

Afghanistan. China. Iran. Gulf arm sales. Israeli settlements. Yemen.

In what appears to be "a strategy that radically breaks with past practice, could raise national security risks and will surely compound challenges for the Biden team"

The Trump team has prepared legally required transition memos describing policy challenges, but there are no discussions about actions they could take or pause. Instead, the White House is barreling ahead. A second official tells CNN their goal is to set so many fires that it will be hard for the Biden administration to put them all out.

And yet

President-elect Joe Biden has privately told advisers that he doesn't want his presidency to be consumed by investigations of his predecessor, according to five people familiar with the discussions, despite pressure from some Democrats who want inquiries into President Donald Trump, his policies and members of his administration.

Biden has raised concerns that investigations would further divide a country he is trying to unite and risk making every day of his presidency about Trump, said the sources, who spoke on background to offer details of private conversations.

They said he has specifically told advisers that he is wary of federal tax investigations of Trump or of challenging any orders Trump may issue granting immunity to members of his staff before he leaves office. One adviser said Biden has made it clear that he "just wants to move on."

Donald Trump has no intention of allowing President Biden to "move on." Mitch McConnell, who in all likelihood will return as Senate Majority Leader, has no intention of allowing President Biden to "move on." The Republican base has no intention of allowing President Biden to "move on."

Joe Biden wants to move on because he has no stomach to allow whomever becomes Attorney General to confront private citizen Donald Trump and hold him to account for crimes he committed against the American people.  In the Young Turks video below, Ana Kasparian understands that "if you care about the rule of law, if you care about protecting the democratic process," the past cannot be disappeared.

But maybe this decision will be unrelated to any concern Biden may or may not have about the rule of law or the democratic process.  Following Kasparian, Cenk Uygur notes

Fifty percent of Republicans believe the Democratic Party is led by child molesters. Fifty percent. And who leads the Democratic Party now? Joe Biden does. So he's like "i want to united with the people who are calling me child molester." Why would you want to do that? That makes no sense at all."

Oh, but it does, if you're Joseph Robinette Biden.  In July of 2019, Dr. Jill Biden said

California Sen. Kamala Harris implied her husband Joe Biden is racist with her attack on the former vice president during the first Democratic presidential debate.

In an exclusive interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo airing on Monday, Jill Biden called Harris' criticism of Biden over race and segregation "the biggest surprise" to her in the party's 2020 race so far -- but said voters "didn't buy it."

Her comments come as Biden and Harris battle to win over black voters, a crucial constituency in the Democratic nominating contest. Biden has pointed to his time as former President Barack Obama's vice president as well as his own legacy on civil rights to defend himself, while Harris has taken aim at elements of Biden's earlier career in the Senate.

In the late-June debate, Harris criticized Biden's comments at a private fundraiser earlier in the month about the "civility" of the Senate during an era in which he worked with segregationists in the chamber. She also lambasted his early-career opposition to federally mandated busing.

"I think that they were looking at the past. I mean, the one thing you cannot say about Joe is that he's a racist. I mean, he got into politics because of his commitment to civil rights. And then to be elected with Barack Obama, and then someone is saying, you know, you're a racist?" she said.

The candidate whom Joe Biden's wife Jill maintained had accused her husband of being a racist was Kamala Harris, United States Senator, State of California.

That same Kamala Harris, a little less than a year later, was offered by his target a position on his ticket, the chance to be vice-president, and a heartbeat from being the first female President of the United States of America.

Mull that over. You're called a racist- according to the person whom you most love and possibly respect- by an individual you then honor with the most important, most desired and desirable, appointment you will ever make.

As Uygur implies, Biden doesn't give a whit that the GOP has promoted the idea that the Democratic Party is led by child molesters.  But if Donald Trump accuses Joe Biden personally of being a child molester, it still wouldn't persuade President Biden's administration to consider holding Trump responsible.

Senator Biden was rolled by Judiciary Committee Republicans on the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination' rolled as Vice-President, because that's practically in the job description; and rolled by Kamala Harris, who humiliated him publicly and later was rewarded by a position seen by many as President-in-Waiting.

So if the Trump Administration is laying foreign policy traps for President Biden or setting fires which must be put out, there is no downside for the 45th President or his party.  If Republicans want to demonize the Democratic Party as pedophiles, socialists, or anti-Christmas, they will. They know this is Joe Biden and there will be no penalty to be paid.


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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Proxy Vote

In a recent interview with Axios, an angry Majority Whip Jim Clyburn was asked why Democrats lost House seats in this month's election and remarked

Well, it happened simply because we were not able to discipline ourselves according to voter sentiment. We kept making that mistake- this foolishness- about you got to be this progressive or that progressive.

That phrase- "defund the police"- caused Jaime Harrison tremendously. I'm not saying it was the only problem.

Although he claimed "I don't blame progressive members," he maintained

When you ask somebody "why would you want to defund the police? They'll tell you "That's not what we mean. This is what we mean." My position is, in politics, the moment you start explaining what you mean, you are losing the argument.

Between those two remarks, Clyburn emphasized  "Stop sloganeering. Sloganeering kills people. Sloganeering destroys movements. Stop sloganeering."

On NBC, Clyburn said much the same, arguing

And I also can tell you about the Senate here in South Carolina. Jaime Harrison started to plateau when defund the police showed up with a caption on TV. That stuff hurt Jimmy and that's why I spoke out against it a long time ago. I've always said that these headlines can kill a political effort.

Funny thing about that, though. In mid-October, Harrison Senate candidate Harrison had told an interviewer "There needs to be some reform to our criminal justice system," a position approximately 93 people in the country, maybe 3 or 4 in South Carolina, would disagree with. Far more significantly, he added "I oppose all of these efforts to defund the police."

Nonetheless, the unpopular slogan may have critically injured the Democratic nominee, as Clyburn contends. But it would not have had nearly the impact unless it were credible, and Harrison made it clear he stood behind law enforcement. Instead, the slogan may have have been a proxy for a movement no Democrat (and few Republicans, actually) dare question.

Among House Democrats who lost their seat on November 3, few if any supported defunding the police. Overall, few Democrats specifically endorsed the concept, let alone the slogan, of defunding the police. There was very little of "defunding the police means giving greater support to housing, health, and education." The idea was opposed or ignored.

Yet, somehow Clyburn, Elissa Slotkin, and other House moderates appear convinced that the notion of defunding the police was electoral suicide.

But maybe Democrats were perceived by many voters as supporting police defunding because it of their overwhelming support of another social justice movement- black lives matter or, as it appears in writing, Black Lives Matter.

CNN exit polling found 57% of respondents have a "favorable view" of Black Lives Matter and 37% an "unfavorable view."  However, that same poll found that 49% believe the "economy" is "excellent/good" ("not good/poor," 50%).

That's no typographical error. With an economy worse than at any time since the Great Depression, roughly half of Americans allegedly believe it is in good or excellent shape. Opinions as to why, or whether President Trump is wholly, partially, or not at all responsible can differ. However, the notion that the economy is buzzing along smoothly is bizarre.

Thus, it is unlikely there is an actual +17 for Black Lives Matter (if at the polls) or black lives matter (if by phone). Probably, a large portion of whites heard or read "black lives matter" and were determined not to cast a vote for the notion that black lives don't matter because the vast majority of whites do believe the lives of blacks matter- or at least that they mustn't admit otherwise.

For many voters, an attitude toward defunding the police may be a proxy for an attitude toward the summertime protests of racial inequity.  The raison d'etre of Black Lives Matter is a national defunding of police- yet, voters claim they approve of it. Something, as they say, is not kosher.

It is likely that Clyburn et al. are on to something, and that prevalence of the "defund the police" slogan hurt Democrats who stayed a mile away from both the slogan and the concept. Asked a question about "black lives matter," voters nod yes; remind them of urban violence and their attitude changes- and it affects their vote.

Not all slogans are strategically damaging, of course. Nonetheless, Democrats have practiced inept messaging in recent years, and, however counter-intuitive, Black Lives Matter probably is no exception.


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Anything Goes

"Woman who killed husband's lover with 13 blows of a pickax says she regrets the last blow."

 If that sounds silly, a former president evidently begs to differ. On 60 Minutes

 “A president is a public servant. They are temporary occupants of the office, by design,” Obama told correspondent Scott Pelley. “And when your time is up, then it is your job to put the country first and think beyond your own ego, and your own interests, and your own disappointments.”

“My advice to President Trump is, if you want at this late stage in the game to be remembered as somebody who put country first, it’s time for you to do the same thing,” Obama said.

O.K., O.K.; Barack Obama is entitled to believe that if President Trump were to utter the words "Congratulations to Joe Biden," Trump should be remembered as somebody who put country first.

That would make Mr. Trump a true patriot, according to his predecessor, pretending the last four years were only a dream. Maybe Obama hasn't heard

More than 130 Secret Service officers who help protect the White House and the president when he travels have recently been ordered to isolate or quarantine because they tested positive for the coronavirus or had close contact with infected co-workers, according to three people familiar with agency staffing.

The spread of the coronavirus — which has sidelined roughly 10 percent of the agency’s core security team — is believed to be partly linked to campaign rallies that President Trump held in the weeks before the Nov. 3 election, according to the people who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the situation.

In all, roughly 300 Secret Service officers and agents have had to isolate or quarantine since March because they were infected or exposed to infected colleagues, according to two people with knowledge of the figures.

Of course, this was no accident on the part of the incumbent, but has been part of his covid-friendly strategy,  given he told Bob Woodward it is "passed through the air" and "more deadly" than "strenuous flu" and 19 days later assured Americans "this is like the flu."Nearly a quarter of a million deceased Americans later and a former President maintains that if Trump were only to acknowledge what almost every American understands- that Joe Biden will be President- he "would be remembered as someone who put country first."

Everything can be forgotten, Barack Obama believes, and has since he was elected President.  His "look forward, not backward" was a handy excuse for condoning Bush-era torture and illegal domestic surveillance and the Justice Department handing to corrupt financial executives a "don't even worry about jail" card.

So it shouldn't be surprising that Barack Obama believes all can be forgotten and forgiven if only the current incumbent bows to the inevitability of a Biden presidency.  Not surprising, but reprehensible.

Possibly, Almost Somewhat True

A partner in the hyper-partisan, extremely ill-intentioned quasi-law firm of Giuliani, Powell & Ellis :