Sunday, June 23, 2019

Threaten And Win

Police procedures vary widely depending on circumstances. Understandably

Seventy people were arrested outside of The New York Times building in Manhattan on Saturday, according to a New York Police Department spokesman, during a protest to call attention to the way news outlets cover the climate crisis.

Charges against the protesters are pending, an NYPD spokesman told CNN.

The protesters were affiliated with a group called Extinction Rebellion, which describes itself on its website as an "international movement" aimed at combating climate change through nonviolent protest and minimizing the "risk of human extinction and ecological collapse."

Those protesters were peaceful, however. The outcome is not as predictable when, as reported by Williamette (Oregon) Week

Oregon Senate Democrats hastily cancelled a planned Saturday floor session late Friday afternoon, citing reports that right-wing militia members were planning to rally at the Capitol.

Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D-Portland) posted on social media a text message from Senate leadership, stating that the Saturday session was cancelled.

 "The State Police Superintendent just informed the Senate President of a credible threat from militia groups coming to the Capitol tomorrow," the message says. "The Superintendent strongly recommends that no one come to the Capitol and President [Peter] Courtney heeded that advice minutes ago."

First: these extremists were not members of a "militia." They want the media and the public to label them "militia" because the Second Amendment grants to "a well-regulated Militia" the right "to keep and bear arms." Nonetheless, as this tweeter notes, "they're not the militia. They're an armed mob. The militia, as legally defined in Oregon State Law, consists of the organized militia (Military Dept) & the unorganized militia, the latter of which can only be mobilized by the governor."

If that sounds to you like the Oregon State Police were intimidated by threats of violence, you're paying attention. Willamette Week continues

"The Oregon State Police have advised us that there might be a militia threat tomorrow, so the Capitol building will be closed," said Carol Alice McCurrie, Courtney's communications director. "We don't have any details beyond that one."

The cancellation comes on the heels of right-wing militia members offering armed protection to Republican Senators who have denied Democrats a quorum by disappearing, probably across the Oregon border into Idaho.

Republicans left the Capitol on Wednesday, trying to block the passage of a cap on carbon emissions. Sen. Brian Boquist (R-Dallas) implied that he would shoot and kill any Oregon State Police officer sent by the governor to retrieve him.

That outburst seemed to embolden right-wing militia groups, which pledged Thursday to protect the Senate Republicans while they fled the Capitol. Those groups included members of the Three Percenters, an anti-government militia.

Boquist had told a local television station "Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I'm not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It's just that simple."  Emboldened right-wing radicals got the State Police to shut down the Capitol and the session to consider the climate bill was cancelled. Mission accomplished.

While in New York City dissidents who posed no immediate threat to the public order were arrested, extremists in Oregon threatening violence were pacified when the Oregon State Police turned tail and ran. The latter might be a harbinger of things to come, with a President who has informed the public of his intention:
So if and when Donald Trump loses in 2020, he'll claim the election was "rigged" or fixed, and his supporters, like the "armed militias" in Oregon, will get the message. Then if federal law enforcement authorities demonstrate the same (lack of) backbone that the administration of the Oregon State Police has, we're in trouble, where "we" is spelled "this republic."

Share |

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Echo Of The Past

In August of 2016 Politifact noted that Donald Trump had "tweeted about dead voters delivering President Barack Obama’s victory in 2012, floated charges about multiple voting in the primaries, and suggested that undocumented immigrants "just walk in and vote" in some polling places." It rated the charge of election rigging as "pants on fire" but Trump kept on lying.

However, if Trump meant that someone, such as, oh, maybe his own party, was trying to rig the election, he was not far off the mark. Ari Berman, who has been following GOP voter suppression efforts for several years, in January 2018 wrote

Across the country, from Arizona to Ohio to North Carolina, people had trouble voting as a result. According to a study by MIT, an estimated 16 million people – 12 percent of all voters – experienced at least one problem voting in 2016. There were more than 1 million lost votes because eligible voters didn’t have the right ID or they encountered long lines at the polls or couldn’t register. Trump won the election by a combined total of 78,000 votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

No one, to my knowledge, ever thought to ask candidate Trump the question of which party was "rigging" the election. Presumably he would have claimed "the Democrats" but, given Trump's habit of psychological projection, he may have been aware that the door was swinging the other way.

Now writer E Jean Carroll has made a very credible claim that Donald Trump raped her in the dressing room of a Bergdorf Goodman department store in 1995 or 1996. Carroll even still has the garment, presumably with Trump's DNA, and never has had it cleaned. However, when asked whether she would bring a charge of rape against Trump

No," Carroll said. "I would find it disrespectful to the women who are down on the [Southern] border who are being raped around the clock down there without any protection. They're young women, they, you know, try to come here - as you know, they are there by the thousands. The women have very little protection there; it would just be disrespectful."

"Mine was three minutes; I'm a mature woman, I can handle it. I can keep going," she added. "You know, my life has gone on, I'm a happy woman. But for the women down there - actually, around the world, you know in every culture this is going on. No matter if you are high in society, low in society, this is disrespectful. It just doesn't make sense to me."

If that makes sense to you, you're a smarter person than I am.  (You probably are anyway, but this would almost prove it.)

Trump has denied the accusation, even claiming that he never knew Carroll, belied by a photograph in which the future businessman, actor, and president and his then-wife are seen together with Carroll and the man she was married to at the time. Now, however,  the President has gone further, issuing a statement which includes

If anyone has information that the Democratic Party is working with Ms. Carroll or New York Magazine, please notify us as soon as possible.  The world should know what’s really going on. It is a disgrace and people should pay dearly for such false accusations.

This past week Iran, we are told by intelligence officials, downed a USA drone with a missile in international waters. We were "cocked and loaded," the President said, with a retaliatory strike planned and aborted at the last minute once he was told people would die. Unsure of himself, Trump looks like a fool.

And then this accusation, likely factual and capable of being substantially proven, emerges but the accuser refuses to proceed for reasons she does not clearly explain.   The President, with overtones of his accusation of election rigging by Democrats (while any rigging was going in reverse), accuses Democrats of working with the alleged victim.

Twenty-four hours later, the accusation has gone nowhere, we hear little of Iran, and Donald Trump's strategy has succeeded again.

Share |

Friday, June 21, 2019

McConnell Speaking For Many

On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell responded at a news conference to a question about reparations by stating

Yea, I don't think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for which none of us is currently living are responsible is a good idea. We've tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. Uh, we've elected an African-American president. I think we're always a work in progress in this country but no one currently alive was responsible for that.

There is a lot, a very lot- as the cliche goes- to unpack here.

But the most intriguing point to me is the suggestion that electing an African-American president was one way in which we've tried to "deal with our original sin of slavery."

(Two notes here: That latter point was made in a separate sentence, separated by an "uh" and thus McConnell did not explicitly attribute that election to the original sin of slavery. Additionally, he did not say that we have "dealt" with the sin, only that we've "tried" to deal with it. However, no one else has noticed this, so we'll assume mine is a distinction without a difference.)

At 1:17 here, The Atlantic staff writer Vann Newkirk remarks

The thing that really gets me is the comment about President Obama, the fact that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems to believe that Obama was reparations. That's a tough one for me. I think it was a big thing for African-Americans, uh, 40 acres and a Barack Obama (last phrase barely distinguishable, perhaps "that's not how it works.")

He's right: McConnell does seem to believe that the election of Obama was reparation; it was a big thing for African-Americans; 40 acres and a Barack Obama is not reparation.

But the statement by the second most powerful Republican in the land reflected what a lot of Republicans (and many Independents) believe. Now that Barack Obama was elected, the thinking goes, African-Americans have been paid back. And as a plus, we have proven that America is not racist.

Oh, you protest, most of those people did not actually vote for Obama, but I am not a social psychologist, though sometimes I play one here. But many individuals unsympathetic to demands of minorities for equality believe- nay, feel- that it is done and accomplished.

Of course, the election of Barack Obama to the presidency did no such thing The "original sin" was not wiped out because white America had allowed (as is the perception) a black President. However, it was nearly inevitable that many whites would believe it was.

It is thoroughly understandable especially given  Newkirk's comment "I think it was a big thing for African-Americans." If blacks believe the election of a black President was of tremendous significance, it should not be surprising that whites- who live in the same country- would labor under the misconception.

The attribution of awesome, historic importance to that election is misplaced.  It's misplaced by blacks, by whites who voted against Obama, even by some whites who voted for Barack Obama.

Events of recent years make that clear. Moreover, Joe Biden, currently way out ahead of his rivals in South Carolina (in which approximately half of Democratic primary voters are African-American), says "thank you very much." Although a little harsh about Biden's record and rhetoric about race, Emma Vigeland nevertheless beginning at 1:33 of the video below recognizes the danger posed by the Biden-Obama connection as she remarks

The Democratic front-runner now, someone who's polling well with black Americans, especially older black Americans, is someone who was supportive of segregation at the outset of his career as a legislator. And so we have to have a reckoning, we have to have a conversation about why that is and why maybe name recognition and association with Barack Obama is winning out over his very disastrous rhetoric at the current moment.

If Biden had not been Vice-President to Barack Obama (for whom he professes undying love and loyalty), he would have been rudely escorted from the race by now. That would have occurred even before he bragged about having palled around with white segregationists in the good 'ol days. And his relationship with those rascals was not as congenial as that he has had with the creditcard industry and other powerful financial interests.

The election of Barack Obama did not significantly alter the power structure in government or even in society. But it has had a powerful impact on the attitude of both black and white Americans, a dirty little secret which few very few in the political set are willing to acknowledge. 

Share |

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Real Problem With Joe Biden

One almost has to feel sorry for Joe Biden. Almost.

The former Delaware senator (sorry, Joe, you're not in any meaningful way from Pennsylvania) recently reminisced about the cordial working relationship he had as legislator with two segregationist colleagues when

“I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” said Biden, reportedly imitating Eastland's southern drawl. “He never called me 'boy,' he always called me 'son.'” Talmadge, he said, was "one of the meanest guys I ever knew."

But according to Biden, despite these differences, "At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don't talk to each other anymore.”

Pulitzer Prize- winning journalist Connie Schultz, wife of Democratic senator Sherrod Brown, denounced Biden's remark, commenting in part "That segregationist never called you “boy” because you are white."  "Joe Biden speaking nostalgically about working with segregationists is halfway to Trent Lott behavior," maintained the New York Times' Jamelle Bouie.

New Jersey senator Cory Booker, like his target a candidate for President, commented "You don't joke about calling black men 'boys.'"  Candidate Bill de Blasio charged "Eastland thought my multiracial family should be illegal &  that whites were entitled to 'the pursuit of dead n*ggers.'"  

Yet another presidential hopeful, Kamala Harris, charged "to coddle the reputations of segregationists, of people who if they had their way I would literally not be standing here as a member of the United States Senate, is, I think, it's just misinformed and it's wrong." (He did coddle their reputation and Harris is a member of the US Senate, but never mind.)

Defiantly, Biden responded "I don't have a racist bone in my body," which probably is true but- notwithstanding what he, Schultz, Booker, de Blasio, and Harris seem to believe- is not the problem with the initial statement, anyway.

Consider Booker's criticism, aside from that of Biden's comedic stylings, that "I have to tell Vice President Biden, as someone I respect, that he is wrong for using his relationships with Eastland and Talmadge as examples of how to bring our country together."

The campaign slogan of Richard Nixon, master of the Southern Strategy, was "bring us together."  Another President promised the night before his inauguration "we're going to unify our country" and in his inauguration speech declared

The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly , but always pursue solidarity.When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.

That man was (and is) Donald J. Trump.

When a politician promises to unify people or the country, hold on to your wallet. He (or she) is coming to fleece you.  The danger posed by the election of Joseph R. Biden is not that he does not want to unify the nation, nor that he doesn't want to do so. It is that it his primary goal.

In early June, the ex-vice president argued "With Trump gone, you're going to begin to see things change. Because these folks know better. They know this isn't what they're supposed to be doing."  This was no slip of the tongue, for a month earlier he had boasted  "I just think there is a way, and the thing that will fundamentally change things is with Donald Trump out of the White House — not a joke — you will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends."

Now this week, evidently (to some; see above) hidden in the midst of an arguably insensitive racial remark, the candidate suggests that not only was Senator Biden able to work cordially with political opponents but that President Biden would, also.

Bipartisanship is such a charming concept, one beckoned by the allure of "shame."  Segregationist senators and Senator Biden may have enjoyed, even prospered in, the collegiality of a bygone era. However, it is decades later, and Charlie Pierce recognizes

Here with a rebuttal is an actual concept: President Donald J. Trump. Here with another rebuttal is a sadly imaginary concept: Supreme Court Justice Merrick Garland. Damn, Joe. You were there, my dude. You were doing more than just putting on the Ray-Bans in viral videos.

He is not a racist, but those Ray-Bans appear to have transformed into rose-colored glasses.

Share |

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Immigration Issues For The Debate

Roque Planas reports in Huffington Post that California senator Kamala Harris "is now a leading foe of President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown." However, when she was state Attorney General

From 2011 to 2013, as pro-immigrant California activists and legislators struggled to pass a trailblazing, statewide sanctuary law called the Trust Act over the objections of then-Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and the Obama administration, Harris remained largely silent.

Harris, however, is currently only one of 23 candidates, albeit one of the five leading Democratic contenders for the presidency. Her ambiguous record toward immigration policy, though, raises a larger issue about immigration (and beyond), one which should be raised by the hosts of the upcoming debates. Planas explains

Under President Barack Obama, deportations from the interior of the country had climbed to the highest levels recorded since the mass expulsion of the 1950s. That increase was driven by Secure Communities, a program that requires local police to share the fingerprints of arrested migrants with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE, in turn, slaps local arrestees with a request to hold them in jail on the feds’ behalf, even if their charges are dropped or they are eligible to bond out.

At the upcoming debates, the NBC/MSNBC moderators can ask general questions, thus soliciting general answers which mean little. Fortunately, on immigration at least, they can ask specific questions. 

One of these would be whether the candidates believe that local authorities should be required to offer to ICE the fingerprints of any individuals who are arrested and/or whether they believe that accused misdemeanants or felons should be held for any length of time for the agency.

But an even more important question, because it suggests a much larger issue, would be the use of private prisons.  The private prison industry has grown substantially in the past two decades, and Mother Jones' Madison Pauly notes that nearly three-quarters of individuals detained for immigration violations now are held in private prisons. Further

Between 2002, when the Department of Homeland Security was created, and 2017, the total number of immigrants arrested by ICE and apprehended by the Border Patrol fell by more than half, correlating with lower levels of illegal immigration. Yet the average daily population of US detention centers nearly doubled.

While profits in the private prison industry have grown because immigrant detainees, it is likely also that the detention of immigrants has grown because of the prominence of private prisons. If Democrats are sincere in wanting to curb the lock-'em-up policy toward immigrants, they need to come out decisively in opposition to private detention.

The issue of private prisons extends beyond immigrants, however. Although employed primarily for (presumably) illegal entrants, for-profit centers are utilized also to house inmates in the general population, thus encouraging Judges to incarcerate defendants. If Democrats are intent on reforming the criminal justice system, they need to advocate the elimination of private prisons, for immigrants and for the native-born population. A debate is a good place to start.

Share |

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Open Book

It has become famous now, the video in which

Trump, during an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that aired Sunday, was in the middle of telling the journalist about releasing a financial statement when Mulvaney sounded off a cough that can be heard during the President's remark.

"Let's do that over. He's coughing in the middle of my answer," Trump said, pointing toward Mulvaney.

"Yeah. OK," Stephanopoulos said.

"I don't like that, you know, I don't like that," Trump said, as Stephanopoulos notes that the cough is from "your chief of staff."

"If you're going to cough, please leave the room. You just can't, you just can't cough," Trump said, shaking his head. "Boy, oh boy."

The camera then swings around as the crew works to rearrange and restart the shot. A crew member tells the President that "we just changed the angle."

Trump then briefly looks directly into the camera before finishing his answer....

CNN legal analyst Gloria Borger had an interesting take, remarking

this is a reality TV star who became president of the United States....he's used to taping hours and hours of interviews. He did 30 with George Stephanopoulos and having it cut down. So he said, stop. What he didn't expect was for ABC to use that....

Suppose, however, that Borger inadvertently flipped the script (pun intended). Consider the possibility that, as a former (Un)Reality TV star Donald Trump knew exactly what he was doing and how it would be perceived. If so, he would be showing a bad side of himself- a rude, intolerant germaphobe who enjoys humiliating subordinates- and was only too happy to do so.

He might then let it all hang out, be transparently reprehensible, on a different topic. He might even come up with is that at the end of 6 years, after America has been made GREAT again and I leave the beautiful White House (do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? KEEP AMERICA GREAT), both of these horrible papers will quickly go out of business & be forever gone!

Do not avert your eyes or be distracted by the question "do you think the people would demand that I stay longer?" It's entirely rhetorical. Many supporters of his would demand, unprompted, that he stay longer. And strengthened by eight years in the White House- and the disappearance of America's two greatest newspapers- President Trump's bullhorn would be the loudest and strongest in the nation.

The bully pulpit would be maximized and utilized as never before.  And why not? He will have earned it, after eighteen months of (initial) campaigning and eight years of ruling in which he will have made it clear who- no, what- he is.

Share |

Monday, June 17, 2019

Carrying Out Trump's Agenda

Six days before the last presidential election, Mick Mulvaney admitted "yes, I'm supporting Donald Trump. I'm doing so as enthusiastically as I can given the fact that I think he's a terrible human being."

In Mulvaney's defense, he said two accurate and honest things: 1) Donald Trump is a terrible human being; and 2) he was, very likely, supporting Trump as enthusiastically as possible.  That's a reasonable conclusion given that, Mulvaney, head of the Office of Management and Budget, acting White House chief of staff, and director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has

fired the agency’s 25-member advisory board Wednesday, days after some of its members criticized his leadership of the watchdog agency.

The CFPB said it will revamp the Consumer Advisory Board, known as the CAB, in the fall with all new members.

The panel has traditionally played an influential role in advising the CFPB’s leadership on new regulations and policies. But some members, who include prominent consumer advocates, academics and industry executives, began to complain that Mulvaney was ignoring them and making unwise decisions about the agency’s future.

You will be shocked! shocked! to learn that one of Donald Trump's appointees has apparently been playing footsie with the law:

On Monday, 11 CAB members held a news conference and criticized Mulvaney for, among other things, canceling legally required meetings with the group.

On Wednesday, group members were notified that they were being replaced — and that they could not reapply for spots on the new board.

And where "stakeholders" is spelled "banks, mortgage institutions, real estate companies," etc.

In a statement, the agency’s spokesman, John Czwartacki, took a final swipe at the group. “The outspoken members of the Consumer Advisory Board seem more concerned about protecting their taxpayer funded junkets to Washington, D.C., and being wined and dined by the Bureau than protecting consumers,” he said.

Revamping the board is part of the CFPB’s new approach to reaching out to stakeholders to “increase high quality feedback,” the bureau said in an email to the group. The CFPB will hold more town halls and roundtable discussions, the letter said, and the new CAB will have fewer members.

When Mulvaney was Representative Mulvaney, he labeled the CFBB a joke and wanted its activism on behalf of American consumers restricted. And so

“Mick Mulvaney has no intention of putting consumers above financial firms that cheat them. This is what happens when you put someone in charge of an agency they think shouldn’t exist,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who helped conceive of the bureau, said in a statement.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said: “Mulvaney has proven once again he would rather cozy up with payday lenders and industry insiders than listen to consumer advocates who want to make sure hard-working Americans are not cheated by financial scams.”

Mulvaney already had

stripped enforcement powers from a CFPB unit responsible for pursuing discrimination cases and proposed that lawmakers curb the agency’s powers.

Last week, Mulvaney sided with payday lenders who sued the CFPB to block implementation of new industry regulations. The CFPB filed a joint motion with the payday lenders asking the judge to delay the case until the bureau completes a review of the rules, which could take years.

Firing current members of the advisory board is a huge red flag in this administration’s ongoing erosion of critical consumer financial protections that help average families,” said Chi Chi Wu, an attorney for the National Consumer Law Center who has been a board member since 2016.

 The Consumer Advisory Board is required under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial law. Members also included the head of retail banking at Citi, the founder of NerdWallet and a director at Texas Appleseed, a public interest law center. Members of two other boards — the Community Bank Advisory Council and the Credit Union Advisory Council — were also dismissed.

A year ago, Mulvaney declared "we are still Elizabeth Warren's baby. Until we break that we will never be considered a gold standard institution." We have a better idea now what Mulvaney- and Trump- would consider "gold standard." "After Trump's election," Emily Bazelon writes in The New York Times magazine

(Elizabeth) Warren and (Bernie) Sanders said that if Trump followed through on his promise to rebuild the economy for workers and their families, they would help. If Trump had championed labor over corporations, he could have scrambled American politics by creating new alliances. But that version of his presidency didn’t come to pass.

It didn't come to pass with President Reagan nor the presidents Bush and, with Mick Mulvaney's assistance, it's full steam ahead for corporate America with consumers getting run over in the process.

Share |

Threaten And Win

Police procedures vary widely depending on circumstances. Understandably Seventy people were arrested outside of The New York Ti...