Saturday, September 21, 2019

Denial, Deflection, Diversion, Alliteration

Is this deflection effective or ineffective?

In an exclusive interview with NPR, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she has not changed her mind on pursuing impeachment but is ready to change the law to restrain presidential power and make it clear that a sitting president can, in fact, be indicted.

"I do think that we will have to pass some laws that will have clarity for future presidents. [A] president should be indicted, if he's committed a wrongdoing — any president. There is nothing anyplace that says the president should not be indicted," Pelosi told All Things Considered host Ari Shapiro and NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis on Friday. "That's something cooked up by the president's lawyers. That's what that is. But so that people will feel 'OK, well, if he — if he does something wrong, [he] should be able to be indicted.' "

It is simply too obvious to be effective.  There is merely one remedy the Constitution lays out to punish a lawless president, set out in  Article II, Section 4, which provides that he (as was assumed) "shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."

As Pelosi notes, there is no constitutional provision or statute which prohibits charging, or even indicting, a sitting President for a criminal offense. 

The Speaker recommends allowing indictment of a future president, thereby giving this president a pass.  As she would happily admit, there is no chance that this United States Senate, controlled by the GOP (and by a Majority Leader whose wife serves in Trump's cabinet), would approve legislation which would include the incumbent. Further, Pelosi's reference to "wrongdoing" minimizes the actions of the current President, which go far beyond mere "wrongdoing."

Pelosi was understandably vague, though she notes there is no constitutional provision or statute which prohibits charging, or even indicting, a sitting President for a criminal offense. Rather, the troika of Attorney General Barr, then-Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, and Special Counsel Mueller decided law would not apply to this President. Indictment of a sitting President should not imply that it is overturning existing law or in any way plowing new ground. Instead, it should reflect the reasoning laid out in late May by Senator Warren, who argued

Congress should make it clear that it wants the President to be held accountable for violating the law, just like everyone else.

Title 18 of the United States Code, which contains most provisions of federal criminal law, applies to “[w]hoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission[.]” Congress should clarify that it intends for this provision to apply to all persons — including the President of the United States.

If Congress does so, one of the strongest arguments against indictment disappears: that the Constitution gives Congress the sole authority to decide when to interfere with the President’s duties, and that a criminal indictment would forcibly take that power away from Congress. It’ll also remove any statutory ambiguity that remains.

That recommendation is self-serving in reverse; it was made by someone hoping to become the next president, who thus would be bound by its provisions.  By contrast, Speaker Pelosi's suggestion was a transparent effort to deflect attention from the new, additional support for impeachment proceedings in the wake of the revelation of the President's effort to convince the government of Ukraine to investigate a major rival.

Impeachment of President Trump is a moral, and perhaps strategic, necessity. However, Speaker Pelosi obviously believes that proceedings would jeopardize re-election of House Democrats in swing districts and, thus, the Democratic majority in the chamber. She's making a big bet that in the absence of impeachment, in November 2020 she retains the majority and Donald Russia is defeated.  This is a gamble neither she, the country, nor the world can afford to lose.

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Friday, September 20, 2019

Premature Assumption

The reviews of Rudy Giuliani's interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo are in. They were not kind, and included

To paraphrase and adapt liberally a trite cliché:  Gura has forgotten more about broadcast journalism, Nichols about foreign policy, and Bitecofer about polling than you or I ever will ever know.

However, we should recall the time when the question was "will he or won't he?" Trump, it was explained, had too much of an ego to refrain from going up against the Special Counsel and coming out on top. He craved the spotlight and wouldn't pass up an opportunity to sit for an interview with Robert Mueller.

But President Trump, inaccurately derided as stupid (though he is ignorant) and crazy (though he's obviously not a healthy man), made the rational decision. Though the President had been asked to answer questions from the Office of the Special Counsel about obstruction of justice

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said questions about obstruction of justice were a "no-go."

Giuliani's statement was the most definitive rejection yet of special counsel Robert Mueller's efforts to interview the president about any efforts to obstruct the investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and Russians. It signals the Trump's lawyers are committed to protecting the president from answering questions about actions the president took in office.

It's unclear if Giuliani's public position has been endorsed by Trump, who has said he wants to answer questions under oath. Negotiations about the scope and format of an interview are still ongoing. If the legal team holds its stance, it could force Mueller to try to subpoena the president, likely triggering a standoff that would lead to the Supreme Court.

Giuliani may have known, or at least suspected, what most of us didn't, and what still was an abdication of responsibility by Robert Mueller. The Special Counsel would not only avoid subpoenaing, but wouldn't even ask, Trump to be interviewed in person, rejection of which would have revealed that the President had something to hide. 

Trump agreed to answer questions in writing, presumably because any responses could be vetted by both his legal and political teams. He would answer in writing- without follow-up, as demanded by Giuliani- inquiries only about whether the Trump campaign had conspired with Russia. That inured politically to the President's advantage. The former New York mayor had his way on the matters of a) in what format the questions would be answered; b) whether there would be follow-up; and c) the subject area. And so we learned

Trump's legal team has argued that the president has the power to hire and fire appointees and the special counsel does not have the authority to ask him to explain those decisions. Giuliani said Thursday the team was steadfast in that position.

"That's a no-go. That is not going happen," Giuliani said. "There will be no questions at all on obstruction."

In a letter last week, Mueller's team said it would accept written responses from Trump on questions related to Russian election interference. Giuliani suggested Thursday that Trump's lawyers had agreed to those terms but wanted to prohibit investigators from asking follow-up questions.

The former New York City mayor is belligerent, emotional, and dishonest. But as of now, he also has been an extraordinary legal adviser to President Donald Trump. So don't count him out.  While no one can predict what an impulsive and corrupt President will do with, or to, his staff,  we cannot assume that Rudy Giuliani's remarks to Chris Cuomo were stupid, detrimental to the President, or reflected the ramblings of a lawyer over the hill. We made that mistake once about the guy.

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Thursday, September 19, 2019

Not Biden, At Least Not In This Answer

It was a response infamous for the invocation of the "record player."  However, a trio of Young Turks blasted for another reason Joe Biden's response at the last Democratic debate to the question "as you stand here tonight, what responsibility do you think that Americans need to take to repair the legacy of slavery in our country?" The former senator and former vice-president responded

Well, they have to deal with the — look, there's institutional segregation in this country. And from the time I got involved, I started dealing with that. Red-lining banks, making sure that we are in a position where — look, you talk about education. I propose that what we take is those very poor schools, the Title I schools, triple the amount of money we spend from 15 to $45 billion a year. Give every single teacher a raise, the equal raise to getting out — the $60,000 level.

Number two, make sure that we bring in to help the teachers deal with the problems that come from home. The problems that come from home, we need — we have one school psychologist for every 1,500 kids in America today. It’s crazy.

The teachers are — I'm married to a teacher. My deceased wife is a teacher. They have every problem coming to them. We have — make sure that every single child does, in fact, have 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds go to school. School. Not daycare. School. We bring social workers in to homes and parents to help them deal with how to raise their children.

It's not want they don't want to help. They don't — they don't know quite what to do. Play the radio, make sure the television — excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the — the — make sure that kids hear words. A kid coming from a very poor school — a very poor background will hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time they get there

Ideally, Biden should have fashioned his response around the critical point that students have "problems that come from home" highlighted by the (not vetted) remarkable statistic that there is "one school psychologist for every 1,500 kids in America today."

There also are far fewer school nurses than needed, a problem even greater than the paucity of school psychologists.  This, however, was not the issue for the TYT ladies, including for Brooke Thomas, who contended

But I think what was missing in a lot of discussion about this, at least right after the debate, was (excuse me) was, like, the racism, the coded racism in that comment and the far too widespread-held belief that black people can't be good parents-aren't good mothers, aren't good fathers, don't know how to take care of their children.

The reason the racism was "coded" is that it was not racism.  Biden himself did not raise the issue of the "legacy of slavery;" it was asked of him. His reply pertained to poor people, as in "a kid coming from a very poor school — a very poor background..."

The stereotype often held by whites is that black children are raised exclusively by mothers or grandmothers. Not so with Biden, at least not as reflected in his answer. He not only did not say "black people can't be good parents"-  the thrust of his argument was that mothers and fathers can be good parents- play the radio, the record player, and "make sure that kids hear words." 

If Thomas were to sit around with a group of black women and ask about problems in the black-majority community they live in, she'd likely hear complaints about parents raising their children. If she asked a group of white women about problems in their majority-white community, she probably would hear the same. It's what many people do when they talk about problems neighbors encounter from youth; they blame the parents.

That doesn't mean that Biden's remarks about parents were wise.  Perhaps he should have clarified that he was speaking of both black parents and white parents, given that much of the left is sensitive of anything that implies there may be issues more prevalent in the black community than in the white community, which is true as is the reverse.

When Quinnipiac in July asked voters if they believe Donald Trump is "racist," slightly over half admitted they do. Those respondents were not asked whether they nevertheless would vote for him, but it's a fair bet that some would.  They may have concluded that in a nation of "racists," being a racist might not be disqualifying. When we attribute such motives to people like Joe Biden, we shouldn't be surprised that serious bigots among us are tolerated.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019


Co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee:
I can think of a few, perhaps beginning with campaign finance reform and re-regulation of the financial services industry, two of the things Green's organization advocates when its co-founder isn't falling in love with the idea of a congresswoman dancing.   I'd figuratively kill to be a salesman selling this guy a beautiful new car, at double the invoice price.

This gave comedian and conservative commentator Terrence K.Williams the opportunity to tweet out a video- showing footage of Omar dancing- with the comment "Girl, what in the world were you celebrating on the anniversary on 9/11?"

As vigilantfact-checker Daniel Dale pointed out, Omar and colleague Ayanna Presley (D-Ma) were enjoying themselves at an event, connected with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Legislative Conference, which actually occurred on September 13.

Williams took down the tweet but not before the nation's Liar-in-Chief re-tweeted him with the comment "IIhan Omar, a member of AOC Plus 3, will win us the Great State of Minnesota. The new face of the Democrat Party!" As of 3:20 p.m. eastern on Wednesday, Trump's tweet remained on his feed.

Defending Omar, even when she is gracelessly smeared, is not a road congenial to Democrats. However, there is no reason this incident can't be legitimately and justifiably turned back on Donald Trump, whose 9/11 career is vulnerable.

Campaigning in Alabama in November of 2015, candidate Trump boasted "I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering." Politifact rated that claim "pants on fire."

On the morning of September 11, 2001 itself, Trump bragged “40 Wall Street actually was the second-tallest building in downtown Manhattan. Before the World Trade Center it was the tallest. Then when the built the World Trade Center it become known as the second-tallest, and now it’s the tallest.” The building did not sustain any damage in the attack but Trump still applied for, and received, federalrecovery money intended for small businesses.

It is not a joke, and not mere hyperbole or dishonesty. It takes someone thoroughly hostile not only to American Muslims, but to Americans of all backgrounds, and a kind of evil only Donald Trump and that giant in Dante's Inferno is capable of. This is an issue just begging for a campaign. When President Trump gives Democrats an opportunity, they should take advantage by turning lemons into lemonade, garbage into gold, and exposing him for what he is.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

In Fits And Spurts, At Most

It has become conventional wisdom that the two major political parties in the USA have become increasingly polarized, with the Republican Party becoming more conservative and the Democratic Party more liberal.

That politically correct view, sometimes accompanied by a wistfulness for bipartisanship, is 50% accurate.  Because of their fondness for comity in politics, centrists like the notion that the Democratic Party is fleeing the ideological center. Conservative politicians adore it because they can accuse liberals and Democrats of being "socialist" while most of their base doesn't even know what the word means. Centrist Democrats are partial to the notion because it allows them to claim party progressives are out of the mainstream of American thought and life, while the left is proud that it has (allegedly) persuaded tens of millions of voters to support progressive ideas.

In an article published a few days before last November's election, the Atlantic's David Graham maintained that survey data demonstrate that Democrats "are moving leftward on certain issues, especially immigration, economics, and race."

Many Democrats have grown uncomfortable with the policy adopted by the Obama Administration to deport illegal immigrants who have committed felonies, and the Party, thankfully, has maintained its opposition to Trump's wall between the USA and Mexico.  The openness of Democratic politicians to studying reparations for slavery, and especially the unwillingness of any to criticize the scheme, attest to its evolving position on race.

But if Democrats who hold office have been moving leftward on either education or health care- which are not trivial matters- they have been doing so at at a snail's pace.

In last week's presidential debate, one of the co-hosts identified Andrew Yang as "the most vocal proponent on this stage for charter schools" and asked "why isn't taxpayer money better spent on fixing traditional public schools?"

Yang didn't say, probably because he doesn't want money spent primarily on helping traditional public schools, though he did state "we need to pay teachers more," thereby boldly jeopardizing support with the Pay Teachers Less lobby.

However, it was not only Yang who refused to defend the traditional public school.  Pete Buttigieg boldly proclaimed "I believe in public education," likely because he realizes that charter schools, subsidized by tax revenues, also are considered "public schools." He, too, grasped the low-hanging fruit, noting "we have to support and compensate the teaching profession" and also "pay them more like the way we do doctors."   He did not explain how service-for-fee would work in education, nor whether he would cap teachers' salaries at the upper six-figure level.

Massachusetts senator Warren promised she would nominate a "public school" teacher as Secretary of Education and declared "money for public schools should stay in public schools, not go anywhere else." Given that it was Elizabeth Warren, the candidate probably was referring to the traditional public school, but it was telling that she did not find it advantageous to be specific.

Senator Harris recommended "investing in our public school education system" while giving no clue as to whether that includes charter schools.  She did, however, endorse the idea of black children being taught by black teachers, though she did not indicate whether white children would benefit from being taught by exclusively white teachers. Segregation dies hard (not so the quaint idea that teachers should be assigned by such factors as experience or seniority.)

After that, the worst response to the question about traditional schools, there was one last chance because only five individuals were asked to address the issue. Bernie Sanders' primary recommendation was to pay teachers at least $60,000 per year, an idea, not uncommon in Democratic circles, echoed by Joe Biden in response to a different question. Sanders (as had Warren) advocated canceling college debt, as both he and the Massachusetts senator have done many times before.

The liberal or progressive party, the one allegedly hurtling left at breakneck speed, currently has ten major candidates for president, if defined as those able to meet the threshold for the third round of debates. Asked about K-12 education, the number of candidates willing to state that non-profit making schools should be the exclusive recipient of school aid from taxpayers dollars is.... zero (0).

There are other issues, ones outside of immigration and race, on which the the Democratic Party's leftward swing has been virtually imperceptible. Of the more than two dozen persons who are or have been candidates for the Democratic nomination, there are three (3)- Warren, Sanders, and Bill deBlasio- who realize that effective and affordable health care is incompatible with the continued existence of private insurance companies.

On various cultural issues, including race, immigration, gun safety, and gender and reproductive rights (the latter somewhat economic in nature), Democratic office seekers are moving left. (Still, none is willing to say that he/she has any doubts about the sanctity of the Second Amendment or to offer support for the right to bear muskets, as the Founders intended.)

Nonetheless, on most economic issues, the vast majority of politicians in the nation's not right-wing party are failing to challenge concentrated economic power. While Warren and Sanders are willing to assert that health care should be freely available for all and not subject to private profit, even they will not apply that same understanding to K-12 education.

This country was built in large part on the traditional public school, available to all in regardless of status, a focal part of the community which brought together children of all backgrounds for a significant part of the day and sometimes beyond. When most of the Democratic candidates are willing to promise that as President only these schools will be funded by taxpayers, I'll buy the theory that this is a Party barreling left.

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Monday, September 16, 2019

Terrible Idea

It has been over fifteen years since initial publication of Thomas Frank's near-classic, What's The Matter With Kansas, and it may be time to ask "what's the matter with Delaware?"

Of course, it's the center of the credit card industry, which convinced Delaware senator "Middle Class Joe" to assume the role of a major defender of the entire financial services industry. But now it has given us Senator Chris Coons. May God help us.

I understand, I understand; President Trump was annoyed about the growing realization that Judge Brett Kavanaugh arrogantly, enthusiastically, and repeatedly lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee when he tweeted
But dear Lord, Senator Coons, are you daft, man? On "Fox and Friends" on Monday, Senator Coons stated "This may well be the thing that calls for military action against Iran, if that's what the intelligence supports."

Riyadh also has been carrying out against Houthi rebels in Yemen airstrikes which, The New York Times notes, have "devastated the impoverished country and exacerbated the world's worst humanitarian crisis." Yet "we," the President explained, "are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to... under what terms we would proceed." 

In his recurring effort trying to make Americans understand just who he is, the President has told us that it's not the USA, but Saudi Arabia, on whose behalf he'd be acting. Undermining America's sovereignty is terrible; doing so behalf of the nation that sliced and diced an American citizen, probably on orders of the Saudi Crown Prince, and is a monarchy based on Sharia law, is terrible, immoral, and dangerous.

That is the Kingdom which President Trump has thrown America's lot in with.  It is no defense for the Senator from Delaware that Trump is being Trump, possibly only blowing off steam or diverting voters' attention from Brett Kavanaugh. That is not a President worthy of supporting, nor a President whose presentation, and interpretation, of intelligence can be trusted.  The Gulf of Tonkin beckons.

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Sunday, September 15, 2019

Look At The Transcript, Folks

You may have heard it from Chris Cuomo on CNN during the Democratic debate, and from Anderson Cooper (at approximately 5:00  You may have read it from Jeff Greenfield, who claimed he "took a body shot from Julián Castro, who (inaccurately) accused him of forgetting what he’d said a moment earlier, but didn’t crumple." You can read it from supposedly straight news reporter Rebecca Morin of USA Today, who quoted the leading candidate stating "Anyone who can't afford it gets automatically enrolled in the Medicare-type option we have" and (Morin added) "Several minutes later, if Americans lose their insurance, 'you automatically can buy into this.'"

Neither Morin, who is paid to be objective, nor Cuomo or Greenfield, who are not, noted that former Vice-President Joe Biden had stated also

If you want Medicare, if you lose the job from your insurance — from your employer, you automatically can buy into this. You don't have — no pre-existing condition can stop you from buying in. You get covered, period.

You automatically can buy into this (and) no pre-existing condition can stop you from buying in.  That means two things: 1) Julian Castro was accurate when he charged Biden with having said "just two minutes ago that they would have to buy in;"  and 2) Cuomo, Greenfield, and Morin did not follow what Biden said or did not read the transcript.

Rebecca Morin of Axios, by contrast, is merely confused. She points out "Biden did reference his plan earlier in the night saying that anyone who can't afford gets automatically enrolled in the medicare type option." However, he had not stated "Medicare" but "Medicare-type option," which may be anything given reference to Medicare-type and option, the latter a funny way of describing something which is automatic.

Later, in the exchange featuring Castro's charge, Biden indicated that it would not be automatic. ("Nothing can stop you from buying in.")

It is possible, of course, that if elected, Joe Biden will undergo a progressive transformation and- under pressure from Republicans not to permit any option- will demand that the GOP accept automatic enrollment. And I am the King of England.

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Denial, Deflection, Diversion, Alliteration

Is this deflection effective or ineffective? In an exclusive interview with NPR, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she has not cha...