Saturday, December 31, 2016

Blow On Her And She Falls Over

"Worst still, those who were openly abusive about Trump now pretend to be his friend," Nigel Farage, the brazenly anti-immigrant leader of the right-wing Independence Party in Great Britain, wrote Tuesday in Steve Bannon's old rag, Breitbart News.

Reflecting Farage's unabashed support of him for President of the USA, Trump on November 21 had tweeted "Many people would like to see @Nigel_Farage represent Great Britain as their Ambassador to the United States. He would do a great job!”

Evidently, Trump knows how to deal with the easily intimidated prime minister Theresa May, who herself had not commented on the composition of a democratically-elected government of an ally. When May's call became the tenth- tenth- taken by the victor following the election, Trump  told her "If you travel to the U.S., you should let me know."

She got the message. Trump's shot across the bow, followed by his show of contempt for what is arguably the United States' closest ally, already has paid dividends.  The Washington Post reports that in an e-mail statement

British Prime Minister Theresa May condemned a blunt speech this week by Secretary of State John F. Kerry on the state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an unusual move that boosted Britain’s relations with the incoming Trump administration at the expense of President Obama.

The rare diplomatic spat between Britain and the United States, which was met with surprise by the State Department, highlighted the fast-collapsing influence of the lame-duck White House. It also pointed to a vast reordering of international affairs expected after Donald Trump takes office in three weeks, as U.S. allies position themselves to curry favor in the new order.

It may not be surprising, given that the incoming President has sharply criticized Kerry's thoughtful, comprehensive speech, that some governments would criticize the position staked out by the lame-duck Obama Administration. However, the Post adds

May’s government acted as a key broker between U.S. and Palestinian interests ahead of a U.N. Security Council vote last week to declare Israeli settlement construction “illegal.” British diplomats worked as go-betweens in shaping the measure to ensure that the language was acceptable to the United States, Britain’s Guardian and Israel’s Haaretz newspapers reported this week.

Great Britain worked on the resolution upon which the United States abstained, thereby enabling its passage, and which Kerry defended in his apparently offending speech. And Great Britain- as a member (permanent, as it were) of the U.N. Security Council- voted for the measure, days before it criticized the American Secretary of State's speech defending it.

In its e-mailed statement, the office of the Prime Minister additionally commented

we are also clear that the settlements are far from the only problem in this conflict. In particular, the people of Israel deserve to live free from the threat of terrorism, with which they have had to cope for too long.

They appear to have missed Kerry stating "We have repeatedly and emphastically stressed to the Palesinians that all incitement to violence must stop We have consistently condemned all violence and terrorism, and we have strongly opposed unilateral efforts to delegitimize Israel in international fora." Even more clearly, he had noted

President Obama and I have made it clear to the Palestinian leadership countless times, publicly and privately, that all incitement to violence must stop. We have consistently condemned violence and terrorism, and even condemned the Palestinian leadership for not condemning it.

But perhaps the best example of chutzpah- as it would be recognized were the Israeli government not on the opposite side- is May's claim "we do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally."  Donald Trump took the extraordinary step of publicly recommending the appointment to an office not vacant, British ambassador to the USA. Now P.M. May has given what the Times' describes as "an olive branch both to Netanyahu and to President-elect Donald Trump," individuals who railed against the Obama Administration's failure to veto a resolution actually supported by Great Britain.

The Secretary of State's office responded to Theresa May's cowardice by explaining

We are surprised by the U.K. Prime Minister's office statement given that Secretary Kerry's remarks- which covered the full range of threats to a stwo-sate solution, including terrorism, violence, incitement and settlemetns- were in line with the U.K.'s own long-standing policy and its vote at the United Nations last week.

They have a right to be surprised; annoyed, even angered. It is a measure of "no drama Obama" that, under the circumstances, his State Department has reacted as calmly as it has. Over the next four years, perspective and serenity will be in short supply in Washington, and Great Britain will find itself among the nations which long for their return.

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Not Often True At All

Responding to President Obama's announcement of sanctions against Russia, Kellyanne Fitzpatrick Conway, counselor to incoming president Donald Trump, stated

“I will tell you that even those who are sympathetic to President Obama on most issues are saying that part of the reason he did this today was to quote ‘box in’ President-elect Trump,That would be very unfortunate if politics were the motivating factor here. We can’t help but think that’s often true.”

Evidently, she is referring to the likes of Rudy Giuliani, who when asked if Obama was attempting to “box in” Trump, replied "of course he is.” That would be the Rudy Giuliani who once remarked "I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America." Otherwise, Conway might argue, Giuliani is just fine with Obama.

Or she may be referring to John Bolton, US amabassador to the United Nations under Bush 43. He did maintain on Fox and Friends "what this last burst of activity has to do is hard to say. I do think it's intended to try and box the Trump administration in. I think it will fail." At the same time the Obama-sympathetic Bolton contended "The Russians have walked all over the Obama administration for eight years. It's really been a pathetic performance."

Three days earlier, before the President's announcement but after the U.N. vote,  he had charged "Obama dislikes American exceptionalism; he dislikes Israeli exceptionalism." Seven months earlier, Bolton had written "Obama’s narcissism, his zeal for photo opportunities with him at the center, whether in Havana or Hiroshima, too often overcomes lesser concerns—like the best interests of the country. He puts his vanity before our nation’s pride,”  Big fan.

Giuliani and Bolton, unlike Conway, stressed that Obama's actions have come late and may be insufficient.   There was no such principled (if misguided) argument from Conway, who would  be loathe to admit that the Administration didn't release much information about the Russians in October when it

was probably afraid of looking like it was tipping the scale in Hillary Clinton’s favor, especially in an election that her opponent repeatedly described as rigged. Though Obama stumped for Clinton around the country, the administration didn’t want to open him up to attacks that he unfairly used intelligence to undermine Trump’s campaign, the Post reported.

Instead, top White House officials gathered key lawmakers—leadership from the House and Senate, plus the top Democrats and Republicans from both houses’ intelligence and homeland security committees—to ask for a bipartisan condemnation of Russia’s meddling. The effort was stymied by several Republicans who weren’t willing to cooperate, including, reportedly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

President Obama hesitated in order not to swing the election on the basis of a finding by a consensus of intelligence officials that Putin's allies were trying to move American public opinion toward Trump. Yet, Conway remarks "we can't help think that's often true" that the "motivating factor" is "politics."

As a master propagandist, Kellyanne Conway may currently have no equal.  As a truly loathsome individual, she has a few- and  oops- here she is (was) with one:

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Netanyahu, Not Israel, Is An Obstacle

If he deserves credit for anything- and probably he does- Benjamin Netanyahu deserves credit for evidently having read Albert Camus. In The Myth of Sisyphus, the great French philosopher and author writes

For the rest, he knows himself to be the master of his days. At that subtle moment when man glances backward over his life, Sisyphus returning toward his rock, in that slight pivoting he contemplates that series of unrelated actions which become his fate, created by him, combined under his memory's eye and soon sealed by his death. Thus, convinced of the wholly human origin of all that is human....

In Wednesday's response to John Kerry's brilliant speech on the status of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Israeli Prime Minister maintained

the decisions that are vital to Israel’s interests and the future of its children (will) be made by the government of Israel around the negotiating table, making them on behalf of the one and only Jewish state, a sovereign nation that is the master of its own fate.

Notwithstanding Camus, if Israel were the master of its own fate, it wouldn't be fate, but something else, which illustrates an aspect of the answer to the question of why the American Secretary of State chose to make this speech only on his way out the door.

Obviously, the Secretary is clearly setting the Administration on the side of every Administration since President Carter, in contrast to the obvious perspective of the incoming Trump crew. Additionally, however, circumstances have changed, and not because of the USA or Israel's foes.

Secretary of State Kerry explained that the current policies of the coalition government heading Israel are

leading towards one state. In fact, Israel has increasingly consolidated control over much of the West Bank for its own purposes, effectively reversing the transitions to greater Palestinian civil authority that were called for by the Oslo Accords.

I don’t think most people in Israel, and certainly in the world, have any idea how broad and systematic the process has become. But the facts speak for themselves. The number of settlers in the roughly 130 Israeli settlements east of the 1967 lines has steadily grown. The settler population in the West Bank alone, not including East Jerusalem, has increased by nearly 270,000 since Oslo, including 100,000 just since 2009, when President Obama’s term began.

He later added

Palestinian structures in Area C that do not have a permit from the Israeli military are potentially subject to demolition. And they are currently being demolished at an historically high rate. Over 1,300 Palestinians, including over 600 children, have been displaced by demolitions in 2016 alone – more than any previous year.

So the settler agenda is defining the future of Israel. And their stated purpose is clear. They believe in one state: greater Israel. In fact, one prominent minister, who heads a pro-settler party, declared just after the U.S. election – and I quote – “the era of the two-state solution is over,” end quote. And many other coalition ministers publicly reject a Palestinian state. And they are increasingly getting their way, with plans for hundreds of new units in East Jerusalem recently announced and talk of a major new settlement building effort in the West Bank to follow...

Among the most troubling illustrations of this point has been the proliferation of settler outposts that are illegal under Israel’s own laws. They’re often located on private Palestinian land and strategically placed in locations that make two states impossible. There are over 100 of these outposts. And since 2011, nearly one-third of them have been or are being legalized, despite pledges by past Israeli governments to dismantle many of them.

Now leaders of the settler movement have advanced unprecedented new legislation that would legalize most of those outposts...

The Prime Minister of Israel- similarly to the incoming President of the United States, whom he (currently) adores- seems bent on antagonizing as many people and nations as possible. Ask not, therefore, why Secretary of State John Kerry decided to give this comprehensive speech less than four weeks before he, and the President he serves, leave office. Ask why the Prime Minister of Israel has decided to do what he can to upset the delicate balance which could serve as a bridge toward a final status agreement in greater Israel.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016


Touting Israel as the only country in the Middle East congenial to Christians and urging people to visit, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offers his wish for a "Merry Christmas. Happy New Year."

It's a good bet the American President is not on his Christmas card list.

That is still Barack Obama, much to the consternation of Netanyahu and ambassador to the USA Ron Dermer.  The Security Council of the United Nations on Friday unanimously (14-0) passed Resolution 234 (2016) blasting "continuing Israeli settlement activities (which) are dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-State solution based on the 1967 lines."

Exorcised by the USA's decision to abstain rather than veto the measure, Netanyahu summoned the ambassadors of  the 10 of the 14 countries (and later, US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro) with diplomatic relations with Israel... on Christmas Day.

Nice touch that. or as a senior diplomat in Jerusalem and a Western diplomat noted "What would they have said in Jerusalem if we summoned the Israeli ambassador on Yom Kippur."  Even Terry Pegula waited until two days after Christmas to fire Rex Ryan in Buffalo.

Dermer told CNN's Don Lemon "It’s an old story that the United Nations gangs up on Israel. What is new is that the United States did not stand up and oppose that gang up. And what is outrageous is that the United States was actually behind that gang up.”

While the White House's deputy national security adviser maintained "we did not draft this resolution; we did not introduce this resolution," Dermer claimed he had evidence to the contrary, which he would present to the next Administration.

Haranguing ambassadors (some of them Christian) on Christmas, charging your most steadfast ally with conspiring against you, and treating an incumbent American President as if an ex-President seem like someone intent on working out resentment at the expense of his own nation.  No one can know for sure why Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to give, Trump-like, a middle finger to the United Nations and the United States for passing a non-binding resolution which is likely to backfire on Israel. However, Yousef Munayyer, executive director of US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, suggests an interesting, albeit completely unproven, motivation when he contends

And, you know, when you consider the fact that Ronald Reagan allowed 21 different United Nations Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, including criticizing the bombings of Beirut and the siege of Beirut throughout the 1980s, and Barack Obama had various opportunities during the sieges of Gaza and the bombardments of Gaza that took place under his watch to do so and didn’t, you know, these accusations against President Obama somehow being uniquely anti-Israel really raise questions about whether or not those accusations are not about something else that is unique about President Obama.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Not In A Landslide, He Wouldn't Have

Writing for historians of the future, Matthew Yglesias in Vox explains

Historians looking through the archives of stories published in November and December of 2016 will find billions of words published on the nature of Trump’s appeal to voters who liked him. These takes, whether accurate or not, are important pieces of sociological exegesis that shed light on the nature of our political debates.

But in terms of what actually drove the election result, people who liked Trump were not the key decisions-makers. Not only did he lose the national popular vote, but even in crucial swing states he was mostly viewed negatively.

Yglesias persuasively argues, "research from Gallup indicates that emails dominated what voters heard about Clinton all throughout the campaign" (word cloud, below). He concludes

Even at the time, some of us found it hardly credible that a decision as weighty as who should be president was being decided on the basis of something as trivial as which email address the secretary of state used. Future generations must find it even harder to believe. But the facts are what they are — email server management, rather than any deeper or more profound root cause, was the dominant issue in Donald Trump’s successful rise to power.

Notwithstanding Jim Comey's effect upon the ultimate outcome of the election, the exact impact of the email scandal (largely a contrived scandal, but still a scandal) is virtually impossible to determine, but probably was the dominant issue in the demagogue's successful rise to power,

Every argument has its flaw, however, and Yglesias' is a relatively trivial one, and at most, tertiary to his point.

Sargent acknowledges "more successful economic policymaking from the Obama administration" might have helped Clinton in the election,  He argues, however, that in the "most significant" state of Pennsylvania "Obama had a 51 percent job approval rating in the state. A majority of voters were okay with the incumbent administration...."

We know this from polls.  However, evaluating the accuracy of pre-presidential election surveys, Huffington Post Senior Polling Editor Natalie Jackson analyzed polling aggregates from all 50 states. She included a graph which

clearly shows there were far more Trump underestimates. But it also shows that the president-elect was underestimated by more than Clinton. HuffPost Pollster underestimated Clinton most in California by about 6 points; FiveThirtyEight and Daily Kos underestimated her most in Hawaii by 8-9 points. Contrast that with the other end of the chart: HuffPost Pollster and Daily Kos underestimated Trump by more than 10 points in seven states, and FiveThirtyEight did the same in nine states.... 

The polls proved unreliable. with significant numbers of voters reluctant to admit they would vote for Donald Trump. They did so even though (publicly or privately) they could- more politically correctly- couch their support for him as opposition to Hillary Clinton, as many did, sincerely or otherwise.

Compare that to pollsters asking people whether they approve of Barack Obama, whom everyone knows is the first black President, and for many is, above all, the first black President. He polls as 51% favorable. Remarkably, the assumption is that the respondents are telling the truth and, in Yglesias' case, that "a majority of voters" are "okay with the incumbent administration."

Okay, yes; pleased, no.  Gallup asked registered voters during the periods of 10/5-10/9, 11/1-11/6, and 11/9-11/13 whether they were"satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time" and found 28%, 37%, and 27% satisfied, respectively.   Extrapolating, we can reasonably estimate that on Election Day 2016, approximately 35% of registered voters were "satisfied" with the course of the country.

If not constitutionally barred from a third term, Barack Obama, if nothing else a better campaigner than Hillary Clinton, probably would have defeated Donald Trump in what already was a very close election won by an unpopular candidate.  However, Trump, one of the original and most dogged of birthers, ran and won with a campaign based on "draining the swamp."  Consequently, pundits, analysts, journalists, and others who tell us that President Obama is a popular guy should answer the question: whose swamp is it Americans wanted to drain?

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Monday, December 26, 2016

The Evil University

Quoting The Philadelphia Inquirer's Will Bunch, Steve M. notes Anthea Butler is

A religious studies professor at the University of Pennsylvania, a black woman who teaches a class about the religious right in America and has a fiery liberal persona on social media, Butler’s been ridiculed in recent years on primetime TV by the right’s Sean Hannity and called out on AM radio by Rush Limbaugh....

But when a fellow professor contacted her a few weeks ago and told her she’d been placed on a brand new nationwide “professor watch list” intended to help conservatives identify faculty liberals, Butler felt like rising McCarthyism on America’s campuses just surged to a new high water mark.

The watch list [was] created and promulgated by a nationwide youth-oriented conservative group called Turning Point USA....

Steve perceptively recognizes that with the Democrats controlling neither the White House, the House of Representatives, nor the Senate, conservatives will have to look outside government to play the blame game. And

The right never wants the public to believe that Republicans are responsible for what's going on in government, even when they are responsible. So conservatives look for scapegoats in and out of politics, and they talk about them as if they have tremendous power. Recall the amount of effort the right invested in denouncing Ward Churchill, a professor who wrote an inflammatory essay in the wake of 9/11. If you paid attention to the right back then, you might have thought Churchill was the most important academic in America. 

But what was the right supposed to do? There was no Democratic president. Democrats didn't run the House or Senate. So Churchill had to be portrayed as a national menace. The same with liberal-leaning celebrities such as Barbra Streisand and the Dixie Chicks.

But there are at least two other reasons the organization has targeted institutions of higher learning.

After the 2002 election, Bill Clinton famously commented "When people are insecure, they'd rather have somebody who is strong and wrong than someone who's weak and right." The nation now has elected a big guy who admires  Sadaam Hussein, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, Bashar al Assad, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has said "I alone can fix it," and is wrong constantly and consistently.

"Hate crimes" appear to have increased dramatically since the election, and it's no surprise that supporters have been emboldened by the election of Donald Trump. He has not been gracious in victory, and neither will they.

This tendency to pile on is refected in an irony Bunch recognizes when he notes

Yet one other troubling aspect of the list is that the majority of the supposed heresies didn’t even take place in a classroom, where critics on the right have long insisted that students are indoctrinated with liberal ideas.  Many happened on Twitter, during televised appearances, in published op-eds or at political rallies.

Twitter is responsible for most  (choose one) a) extremist, b) obnoxious, c) offensive, or) all the above remarks. Yet, the list promulgated by Turning Point USA includes, Bunch explains, "several well-known professors with ties to Penn, Temple, and other local schools among its roster of roughly 200 faculty."

Twitter is not directly attacked.  Colleges (especially of the elite), though, are easy targets because the right perceives them as a hotbed of liberalism. One anti-abortion rights Catholic ethicist, Charles Camosy, argues

campus cultures have strictly (if not formally) enforced dogmatic views aboutt he nature of gender, sexual orientation, a woman's right to choose abortion, guns and the role of the state as primary agent of social change.

Further, he contends, they encourage "the reduction of all disagreement to racism, bigotry and ignorance- in addition to being wrong about its primary source."

Traveling in the world of academe, Camosy is much too polite (or naive) to sugest conservatives are more prone than liberals toward racism, sexism, or class bias.  It is out of necessity that the right sends its children off to university, generally the key to professional success. But to most conservatives, it represents much of what is wrong with society, helps explain Anthea Butler's unwanted attention, and why someone must "make America great again."

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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Mission Accomplished

Ariel Dorfman and his wife, we learn in Mr. Dorfman's December 16 piece in The New York Times, were living in Chile in October,1970 when President Salvador Allende was overthrown with an assist from the Central Intelligence Agency and the govenment of Richard M. Nixon it represented.  He "can savor the irony" but "feel no glee" now that a foreign power has successfully intervened in an American presidential election.

He recommends "an independent, transparent and thorough public investigation so that any collusion between American citizens and foreigners bent on mischief can be exposed and punished, no matter how powerful these operatives may be." as well as "an incessant and unforgiving meditation on our shared country, its values, its beliefs, its history."

More critical, less forgiving, and less objectively, Bob Hennelly goes through a litany of sins of the US government over well more than a century of evil-doing.  He quotes late historian Howard Zinn, who maintained after having "seized Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, and fought a brutal war to subjugate the Filipinos," from "1900 and 1933 the United States intervened in Cuba four times, in Nicaragua twice, Panama six times, in Guatemala once, in Honduras seven times."

Zinn also, Hennelly mentions, describes the "covert domestic network of several hundred professors, administrators and graduate students on over 100 college campuses who acted as eyes and ears" for the Central Intelligence Agency in the post-World War II period. At approximately the same time there was, Hennelly chronicled, Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, Fidel Castro in Cuba in the 1960s, "duplicity in the Vietnam War revealed in the Pentagon Papers," and all manner of domestic spying on leftist groups.

The history is daunting and Dorfman (to whose op-ed Hennelly links) believes now is the "time for America to look at itself in the mirror, and if ever there was a time of reckoning and accountability, it is now."

Still, as Dorfman understands and Hennelly seems not to, this has jack squat to do with the current controversy of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential  (and congressional) election.  Putin probably is not fixated on American acquisition of the sandy beaches of the Hawaiian Islands. Although in late July less was known and naivete about the Russian President's intent greater, Politico's Michael Crowley and Julia Ioffe noted

While Donald Trump’s budding bromance with Vladimir Putin is well known — the two men have exchanged admiring words about each other and called for improved relations between Washington and Moscow — Putin’s hostility towards Clinton draws less attention.

Former U.S. officials who worked on Russia policy with Clinton say that Putin was personally stung by Clinton’s December 2011 condemnation of Russia’s parliamentary elections, and had his anger communicated directly to President Barack Obama. They say Putin and his advisers are also keenly aware that, even as she executed Obama’s “reset” policy with Russia, Clinton took a harder line toward Moscow than others in the administration. And they say Putin sees Clinton as a forceful proponent of “regime change” policies that the Russian leader considers a grave threat to his own survival.

“He was very upset [with Clinton] and continued to be for the rest of the time that I was in government,” said Michael McFaul, who served as the top Russia official in Obama’s national security council from 2009 to December 2011 and then was U.S. ambassador to Moscow until early 2014. “One could speculate that this is his moment for payback.”

And one could sarcastically remark "you think?"  However, that was in more innocent times, and McFaul was speculating- accurately- at a time when others were unnecessarily cautious.

Now, however, it's clear. The ball is in our court, Congress has it, and the implications are dire.

MERRY CHRISTMAS                                                              HAPPY CHANUKAH

(But in honor of Donald Trump's war against political correctness:  Happy Holidays!)

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Friday, December 23, 2016

Like Leader, Like Followers

Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald recently wrote

Given the extraordinary power Donald Trump now wields, it’s obvious that foreign governments and corporations can easily curry favor, bribe or even blackmail him, which is why the Founding Fathers so feared outside influences on the Executive Branch. Once he’s president, Trump does not need to ask for cash to be delivered to his pockets or to those of his children to cross the line into illicit activities—and possibly impeachable offenses. Macri of Argentina cannot know if his country will be punished by the Trump White House if the remaining permits for that Buenos Aires project are denied. Abe of Japan does not know if a government holdup of Ivanka Trump’s deal with Sanei International will lead her impulsive father to call for an American military withdrawal from his country. Erdogan of Turkey has told associates he believes he must keep pressure on Trump’s business partner there to essentially blackmail the president into extraditing a political enemy. Duterte of the Philippines believes he has received approval from the president-elect to, at best, abide by or, at worst, continue to authorize the frenzied slaughter of drug users and dealers, and knows he can harm the Trump family if the president ever angers him.

America is on the precipice of an unprecedented threat, as allies and enemies alike calculate whether they are dealing with a president they can please merely by enriching his children. President-elect Trump has a monumental choice before him: He can, as he promised during the campaign, protect the sanctity of the presidency—which he can do only by selling his company. Or he can remain corrupted by the conflicts between his country’s future and his family’s fortune.

It is, as Charlie Pierce has suggested, remarkable the various forms "economic anxiety" takes. On Thursday, the Associated Press reported

A Newsweek reporter who has epilepsy said he had a seizure after being sent a message on Twitter intended to trigger such an episode and is seeking information from the social media company to identify the person responsible for the tweet.

The image in question — which included a strobe effect and the words, "You deserve a seizure for your posts" — was apparently sent in response to Eichenwald's outspoken criticism of President-elect Donald Trump. Eichenwald, who has a home in Texas, said in court documents that the image triggered a seizure.

Eichenwald posted a signed copy of a Dallas County District Court order to Twitter on Tuesday that allows him to depose Twitter executives and orders the company to preserve any information or documents regarding the person who sent the image. Eichenwald wrote that "Twitter agreed to an expedited order," meaning the company won't challenge the request for information......

Eichenwald told ABC's "Good Morning America" that he has received numerous copycat strobe messages from "people who identify themselves as Trump supporters" and that he is reporting each of them to Twitter to ask that their accounts be suspended. 

"It is amazing to me that simply because I am a political reporter, simply because I write about Donald Trump that we have become so sick and twisted in this country that people think they have the right and obligation to inflict potentially very serious injury," he said.

In the interests of being fair and balanced: tweeters may not be responding only to Eichenwald's latest article. He has been on the Trump corruption beat since well before the election.

So Eichenwald probably shouldn't have been amazed. Neither is the reaction unbelievable from individuals who we're assured voted for Donald Trump because they were eager for the "change" which "crooked Hillary" couldn't bring. We shouldn't even be surprised:

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Must Play Fair!

In the end, the article from Politico's Kyle Cheney about the attempt to convince Electoral College folks to buck Donald Trump (photo below from Matt Rourke/AP) may have come down to

Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard University  constitutional law professor deeply involved in recruiting Republicans to rebel against Trump, said he sensed a Clinton team that was undecided about “to what extent they should be encouraging this.”

“I imagine that in the end, nobody was sure they could survive the political blowback if you became president because you flipped the college,” he said.

It certainly sounds like 2000, when the Democratic presidential nominee received a plurality of the popular vote nationally and by most standards a majority of the Florida vote, which would have given him 291 electoral votes. After a legal fight accompanied by a public  relations surrender, Al Gore conceded. Sixteen years later

“They were too concerned about the appearance of ever being perceived as sore losers,” said one Democratic elector and Clinton ally. “All 230 of us [Democratic electors] had no idea what was going on — what do they want from us, what are they thinking, what’s possible, what’s not possible?”

The half-hearted effort was not intended to gain election of Hillary Clinton, presumably the goal of this year-and-a-half saga.  Instead

The ambivalence resulted, however, in weeks of agonizing among anti-Trump activists working to flip the Electoral College against Trump.

The first conversation appears to have occurred on Nov. 29, when Sullivan and other aides joined a conference call that included Colorado elector Micheal Baca, a member of a group working to persuade Republicans in the Electoral College to abandon Trump. Baca relayed the group’s long-shot strategy: to persuade Democratic and Republican electors to unite behind an alternative candidate to Trump.

And that

strategy was simple, if virtually impossible to execute: persuade Democratic and Republican electors wary of Trump to unite behind a mainstream Republican alternative such as Ohio Gov. John Kasich or 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney. If they could persuade 37 of the 306 Republicans on the Electoral College to ditch Trump, the election would have been thrown to the GOP-controlled House of Representatives in January.

She won the popular vote; won it by approximately 2.8 million votes- two percent! Yet, "ambivalence." "The absence of any high-profile support left the ragtag group," Cheney writes, "with little horsepower to counter a well-oiled Republican whip effort, led by Trump campaign operative and the Republican National Committee."

While the Democratic operatives were concerned about being seen as "sore losers," the Republican Party is not beset by such doubts. If the roles were reversed, with the GOP nominee winning the popular vote while the Democratic nominee capturing the Electoral College.  we would have had a good idea what would have transpired because of this case study:

On the day before the election, Bush's chief political strategist, Karl Rove, told the press that he believed Bush would  win the popular vote by six points and a landslide of 350 votes in the Electoral College. Rove's ovious motive in making this bold prediction was to foster the notion of Bush's inevitable victory. This bravado nothwithstanding, the Bush campaign was anxious that their candidate would find himself in the awkward position of winnig the popular vote but losing the Electoral College and therefore the presidency. Contingency plans were being drawn up for just this event. "The one thing we don't  do is  roll over. We fight," a Bush aide told the New York Daily News a week before the  election. The newspaper reported: 

The core of the emerging Bush strategy assumes a popular uprising, stoked by the Bushies themselves, of course. Inleague with the campaign- which is preparing talking points about the Electoral College's essential unfairness- a massive talk-radio operation would be encouraged. "We'd have ads, too," says a Bush aide, "and I think you can count on the media to fuel the thing big-time. Even papers that supported Gore might turn against him because the will of the people will have been thwarted."

The above was written by Clinton confidante Sidney Blumenthal, which makes it even more remarkable that the campaign appeared to be unaware of this history- and that there might be a split decision in the Electoral College/popular vote in 2016.

The failure of the campaign to consider that outcome is less concerning than its possible implication for the possibility of mounting a strong resistance to Trump Administration policies.Call a knife fight, Republicans will bring a machete; Democrats, a kitchen knife.  We wouldn't want to be seen as sore losers!

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Free Speech, Maybe

Signs are everywhere.

Politico'a Rachel Blade has found "that Capitol Hill Republicans have papered over their not-insignificant policy differences with Trump, shying away from any statement about the president-elect that might possibly be construed as critical." One example she cites is how

In early December, Rep. Bill Flores made what seemed like an obvious observation to a roomful of conservatives at a conference in Washington. Some of Donald Trump’s proposals, the Texas Republican cautioned, “are not going to line up very well with our conservative policies," though he quickly added that there was plenty the incoming president and GOP Congress could accomplish together.

Little did Flores realize the hell that would soon rain down from Trump's throng of enforcers.

Breitbart seized on Flores' remarks a few days later, calling them proof that House Republicans planned to “isolate and block President Donald Trump’s populist campaign promises.” A conservative populist blogger for the site TruthFeed then warned Flores on Twitter to "get ready for a shit storm," and posted a headline that read: “BREAKING: Rep. Bill Flores Has CRAFTED a PLAN to BLOCK Trump’s Immigration Reform.”

Sean Hannity jumped in, too, featuring the Breitbart post on his syndicated radio show. That only further riled the impromptu anti-Flores mob.

"@RepBillFlores get in @realDonaldTrump way & we will burn your career down until you are reduced to selling life insurance,” tweeted one person. "@RepBillFlores you can go hang yourself!!" another wrote.

Most Republicans understand what they're dealing with in Trump and his supporters:

It's a novel form of party message discipline that stems from Trump but doesn't necessarily require the president-elect to speak or tweet himself. Plenty of others are willing to do it for him.

Evidently, many cautious Republicans have taken out a kind of inexpensive life insurance policy in which

Since the election, numerous congressional Republicans have refused to publicly weigh in on any Trump proposal at odds with Republican orthodoxy, from his border wall to his massive infrastructure package. The most common reason, stated repeatedly but always privately: They're afraid of being attacked by Breitbart or other big-name Trump supporters.

Little seems to have changed from early in the campaign, when at a rally in Texas the future President stated

I have respect for Jeff Bezos, but he uses the Washington Post to have political influence and I got to tell you, we have a different country than we used to have. He owns Amazon, he wants political influence so that Amazon will benefit from it. That’s not right. And believe me, if I become president, oh do they have problems, they are going to have such problems.

Trump probably can take little anti-trust action against Amazon, and most likely has little interest in doing so. But he already has signaled that he's going after the press. Robert Reich on Democracy Now! recently explained

There is no reason to believe that the Post's reporting turns upon Jeff Bezos's concern about Amazon and any antitrust issues. But, you see, by creating this kind of conspiracy theory or this kind of paranoid notion about the press and planting it in the public’s mind, the public, or at least a portion of the public, is led to think that anything that The Washington Post, or another paper whose credibility the president-elect tries to undermine, says is [not] justified or is [not] true. And again, that is terribly dangerous in a democracy....

He’s signaling to the press that he also has the power, whether it’s antitrust or it is the IRS or the FBI or whatever, whatever he is going to be directly or indirectly in command of, he is also signaling to the press that he has that kind of power.

President Trump will have the armies to do it. What the Secret Service is unable, unwilling, and legally barred from doing, the President may be able  to accomplish with his

private security and intelligence team at his victory rallies, and he is expected to keep at least some members of the team after he becomes president, according to people familiar with the plans.

The arrangement represents a major break from tradition. All modern presidents and presidents-elect have entrusted their personal security entirely to the Secret Service, and their event security mostly to local law enforcement, according to presidential security experts and Secret Service sources.

But Trump — who puts a premium on loyalty and has demonstrated great interest in having forceful security at his events — has opted to maintain an aggressive and unprecedented private security force, led by Keith Schiller, a retired New York City cop and Navy veteran who started working for Trump in 1999 as a part-time bodyguard, eventually rising to become his head of security.

A President with his own private security force? That can be especially effective when you've claimed the media "poisons the mind of the American voter" and your rallies have been characterized by supporters who have "flipped middle fingers and lashed out in tirades often laced with profanity" at journalists who are present.  Not yet in power, he has merely asked for "equal time" because he was ridiculed in a comedy skit; significantly, not for himself but "for us," as if all his supporters had been maligned.

As a candidate, he developed a blacklist of news outlets and accused The New York Times and The Washington Post of being "dishonest." "They're going to have a lot of problems," he promised, and stated he would "open up our libel laws" so "we can sue them and win lots of money."

Fortunately, Trump's series of Nuremberg rallies- uh, er, "Thank You Tour"- has ended. However, as U.S. Representative Mark Sanford, wary of the President-elect's propensity to demand unquestioning fealty, has said, "Free speech is one of the hallmarks of our republic. If people are afraid to say what they think based on fear of reprisal.... that's not free speech."

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

GOP Idiom

In an interview with NPR, President Obama recognizes, among the reasons Democrats have so much trouble winning the the votes of rural residents

Some of it is the prism through which they're seeing the political debate take place. They may know less about the work that my administration did on trying to promote collective bargaining or overtime rules. But they know a lot about the controversy around transgender bathrooms because it's more controversial, it attracts more attention.

But then the President went completely astray, commenting

I think that on something like the Affordable Care Act, you have people who are benefiting right now from Obamacare who either don't know it's Obamacare or consider that as a given and then end up voting on Second Amendment rights. 

"Second Amendment rights?"  After noon on January 20, Barack Obama can be immediately hired by Frank Luntz, for he has adopted the jargon of the anti-gun control crowd.    One conservative columnist argues "Support for the Second Amendment is one of the few issues where Republicans on Capitol Hill consistently show backbone" and must continue to "stand firm in defense of the Second Amendment" against Senators who would "decimate the Second Amendment."  

Donald Trump's campaign website has an entire section entitled not "gun control" or even "gun rights" but "Second Amendment Rights."  It begins (however falsely) "The Second Amendment to our Constitution is clear. The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed upon. Period. The Second Amendment guarantees a fundamental right that belongs to all law-abiding Americans."

The only right the Second Amendment guarantees is the right to bear arms for someone who is in a militia. Still, "Second Amendment rights" is a rallying cry for the pro-gun lobby, used by the left only defensively, to assure listeners that they are not being critical of  the Constitution.

Obama's use of "Second Amendment rights" harkens back to November 3, 2010, when he declared Democratic congressional candidates suffered a "shellacking," which further undermined the Democratic Party's credibility, in the previous day's election. A guy who writes a portion of  some speeches and is as adept as he at stringing words and phrases together should know "shellacking" plays into the hands of political opponents, and that "Second Amendment rights" could be easily replaced by "gun safety rights" or at least the more neutral "gun control."

The President does concede that after he leaves the White House "I'm less likely to get involved in all the nuts and bolts of electioneering. In that realm, I'm much more likely to just give advice."  Perhaps he can learn from his own mistakes and help the Party avoid its descent since he took over:

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Monday, December 19, 2016

A Secret, Not Best Kept

Either President Obama has a very bad memory or he's blowing smoke up a portion of our bodies.And he always has had a very, very good memory.

Interviewed by NPR's Steve Inskeep, Obama was asked "To what extent are you suggesting some kind of cooperation between the president-elect and Russian officials here?" He replied

Well, I'm, I'm not suggesting cooperation at all. Keep in mind that those statements were in the context of everyone now acting surprised by the CIA assessment that this was done purposely to improve Trump's chances. And my only point was that shouldn't be treated as a blockbuster because that was the worst kept secret in this town.

The worst kept secret? Not even close, Mr.  President.  It was largely a secret. Admittedly, on Friday, October 7 The New York Times reported

The Obama administration on Friday formally accused the Russian government of stealing and disclosing emails from the Democratic National Committee and a range of other institutions and prominent individuals, immediately raising the issue of whether President Obama would seek sanctions or other retaliation.

In a statement from the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., and the Department of Homeland Security, the government said the leaked emails that have appeared on a variety of websites “are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”

The emails were posted on the well-known WikiLeaks site and two newer sites, and Guccifer 2.0, identified as being associated with Russian intelligence.

“We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” the statement said.

However, on that same date The Washington Post printed a much juicier, and (literally) sexier, story, finding

In that audio, Trump discusses a failed attempt to seduce a woman, whose full name is not given in the video.

“I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it,” Trump is heard saying. It was unclear when the events he was describing took place. The tape was recorded several months after he married his third wife, Melania.

“Whoa,” another voice said.

“I did try and f--- her. She was married,” Trump says.

Trump continues: “And I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said, ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.’”

“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married,” Trump says. “Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.”

The rest is history, with Trump's numbers nosediving- but only temporarily.  Russian interference in the election took, generously speaking, a back seat.

Q:  What were the three most interesting, controversial, or followed stories on October 7, 2016?

A: The Access Hollywood Tape, the Access Hollywood tape, and the Access Hollywood tape.

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Conway Emulating Trump

On his way to the presidency, Donald Trump told lie after lie, including about the Clinton Foundation. However, as Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon noted twenty months ago, no one "ever produced a shred of evidence supporting the theory that Hillary Clinton ever took action as secretary of state to support the interests of donors to the Clinton Foundation.”

We're still waiting, even after an appearance Sunday on CBS' Face the Nation, when Kellyanne Conway stated

When it comes to Russia and coziness, let’s not forget it was Hillary Clinton through her craven foundation requests -- Bill Clinton got a million bucks to give a speech in Russia. And then she turned over 20% of US uranium rights. So let’s be honest about who for money, and who for power, and who for access has cozied up to the Russians.  

That's one powerful Secretary of State.  As explained in when Peter Schweizer made a similar claim in his hit job, "Clinton Cash"

The fact is, Clinton was one of nine voting members on the foreign investments committee, which also includes the secretaries of the Treasury, Defense, Homeland Security, Commerce and Energy, the attorney general, and representatives from two White House offices — the United States Trade Representative and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. (Separately, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission needed to approve (and did approve) the transfer of two uranium recovery licenses as part of the sale.)

Additionally, fact-checker Snopes pointed out

By law, the committee can't veto a transaction; only the president can. According to The New York Times, Clinton may not have even directly participated in the Uranium One decision. Then-Assistant Secretary of State Jose Fernandez, whose job it was to represent the State Dept. on CFIUS, said Clinton herself "never intervened" in committee matters.

The "million bucks" Bill Clinton got for a speech in Russia turns out to have been $500,000, and The Wall Street Journal reportedly "found no evidence that speaking fees were paid to the former president in exchange for any action by Mrs. Clinton."

Mrs. Conway did not explain how Mrs. Clinton "who for access has cozied up to the Russians" (cartoon below from Signe Wilkinson, The Philadelphia Inquirer).  Nor did she explain why Clinton would want to gain access to the Russians, nor whom "the Russians" she was referring to are.  And former President Clinton earned $500,000 rather than $1,000,000 for a speech to "Russians." (If that seems a mere technical point, please mail me a half million dollars and I'll respond with a gracious thank-you note; no personal checks, please.)

That's par for the course for Conway, however.  When Obama press secretary Josh Earnest recently noted Russian influence in the election, Conway commented

That is just remarkable. That is breathtaking. I guess he’s auditioning to be a political pundit after his job is over soon. That is incredibly disappointing to hear from the podium of the White House press secretary. Because he basically — he essentially stated that the president-elect had knowledge of this, maybe even fanned the flames. It’s incredibly irresponsible and I wonder if his boss, President Obama, agrees.

Jonathan Chait countered with

Notice, Conway isn’t directly challenging the truth of the allegation, she’s just calling it “remarkable” and “breathtaking” and “disappointing” and “unfortunate” that people mention it in public. That’s how professional liars in Washington do it. 

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Indulging His Bipartisan Fetish

At his year-end news conference, President Obama was talking tough, remarking

What I was concerned about in particular was making sure [the DNC hack] wasn't compounded by potential hacking that could hamper vote counting, affect the actual election process itself.  So in early September when I saw president Putin in China, I felt that the most effective way to ensure that that didn't happen was to talk to him directly and tell him to cut it out and there were going to be serious consequences if he didn't. And in fact we did not see further tampering of the election process.

But back home in early September, the President's tone was different as he aimed for "a show of solidarity and bipartisan unity." Homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco, FBI Director James Comey, and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson were sent to Capitol Hill to meet with leading Republican and Democratic members of Congress to urge a united front against “the threat posed by unprecedented meddling by a foreign power in our election process.”

While the Democrats were all in,

According to several officials, McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics. at least two Republicans balked, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.

Two months after the President backed down, Donald Trump was elected President and Republicans maintained control of the Senate, which throughout the year had been considered up-for-grabs. And now this:

"Recently, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has received requests from Members of Congress, several electors of the Electoral College and the general public for additional information on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election," the office said in a statement.

President Barack Obama has ordered a "deep dive" on that alleged Russian interference that will be completed before he leaves office on Jan. 20.

"Once the review is complete in the coming weeks, the intelligence community stands ready to brief Congress and will make those findings available to the public consistent with protecting intelligence sources and methods," the DNI statement reads.

No one believes Donald Trump is going to be denied, or even nearly denied, the presidency when the electors meet on Monday. Nevertheless, they are not bound by law or the Constitution to vote for the individual who prevailed in the states whose electoral votes exceed 269. They ought to know who it is they're voting for and should not be given the privilege of plausible deniability when (if ever) the intelligence community deigns to inform the public.

President Obama should not be given a free pass, either. When Mitch McConnell stood up to him, he responded as if McConnell were Bashir Assad. In his own defense, Obama maintains

I wanted to make sure everybody understood we were playing this thing straight. That we weren't trying to advantage one side or another but what we were trying to do is let people know that this had taken place. Part of the goal here was to make sure we did not do the work of the leakers for them by raising more and more questions about the integrity of the election right before the election was taking place at a time when the president-elect himself was racing questions about the integrity of the election.

If President Obama had set out to lend credibility and prestige to Donald J. Trump, he could  not have done a better job.  He states "the president'elect himself was raising questions about the integrity of the election." Yet, Trump at the time was a candidate, not a president-elect, the latter an effort to upgrade his status and givinghim credibility for questioning the election's integrity.

The President  wanted "to make sure everybody understood we were playing this thing straight. That we weren't trying to advantage one side or another but what we were trying to do is let people know that this had taken place. "

Nonetheless, to "let people know that this had taken place" would enhance one of Donald Trump's central claims, that the election was "rigged."  However, informing the voting public additionally that a consensus of the intelligence community had concluded that the intent of any "rigging" was to weaken Trump's opponent would have increased the range of data available to the public and empowered voters.

Instead, the President released limited information, thereby "advantaging" one side, that of Donald Trump and his Party. Unable to predict the pivotal role of the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Obama may have calculated that Hillary Clinton was a strong favorite to be elected, whatever approach the President would take toward Russian incursion into the American electoral process.

Obama's approach would undermine the Democratic Party's effort to retake the U.S. Senate. However, even with a Republican Senate (and House), the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's greatest legacy, would be protected from repeal and Obama's legacy largely protected. Were it to have subverted Hillary Clinton's presidency, so be it.

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Accurate And Not Very Unfortunate

One of the disappointments of the 2016 presidential election is that we were deprived of the opportunity of seeing Kelly Ann Fitzpatrick Conway slink back into the sewer she came out from.

Fortunately, though, she has done a minimum of  gloating, instead preferring whining. Politico reports

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest’s assessment that President-elect Donald Trump may have known about Russian cyberattacks targeting the U.S. electoral process was “breathtaking” and “very unfortunate,” Trump’s senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said Thursday morning.

Speaking at his daily press briefing, Earnest referenced a remark Trump made at his most recent formal press conference, held in July, when he publicly invited Russian hackers to search for emails deleted from the personal server of Hillary Clinton.

Trump later said he was being sarcastic when he made the remark, but Earnest said Wednesday that the comment “might be an indication that he was obviously aware and concluded, based on whatever facts or sources he had available to him, that Russia was involved and their involvement was having a negative impact on his opponent’s campaign.” Conway took exception to the press secretary’s comment in an interview Thursday morning on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends.”

“That is just remarkable. That is breathtaking. I guess he's auditioning to be a political pundit after his job is over soon. That is incredibly disappointing to hear from the podium of the White House press secretary,” she said. “Because he basically — he essentially stated that the president-elect had knowledge of this, maybe even fanned the flames. It's incredibly irresponsible and I wonder if his boss, president Obama agrees.”

Evidently, it takes very little to take away Mrs. Conway's breath. During the campaign, her boss pleaded "Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.... They probably have them. I’d like to have them released” She is deeply offended- offended!- that the statement could possibly be interpreted as Trump encouraging a foreign power to undermine his nation's electoral system by continuing to hack e-mails of a political party and release them to the public.

Conway, noticing effort of the Hamilton Electors, fears for the legitimacy of  Mr. Trump's election, hence, his presidency.  Politico contines

As she and other members of the president-elect’s team have done regularly, Conway said any suggestion that Russian cyberattacks aided Trump’s win is simply the latest excuse from Democrats upset by the election’s outcome.

“I think coming from the podium and basically trying to relitigate a political campaign when the president and the president-elect and their senior staff are trying to work together very closely to have a peaceful transition of power in a great democracy with just about a month plus ago, I find it to be very unfortunate,” Conway said.

The impact upon the election of  the hacked e-mails, unlike the clearly determinative effect of FBI director Comey's actions, is nearly impossible to determine.  Matthew Yglesias explains

it's challenging to know with any certainty what did and did not move votes. What's more, the election was so close in the three crucial swing states that essentially anything could have been the difference maker. It does seem, however, that Clinton was hurt very badly by late-breaking revelations from the FBI that it had uncovered new emails related to the investigation into her private email server — emails that later turned out to be irrelevant or duplicates.

But there was something more insidious in Conway's remarks than her feeble attempt to refute the notion that the emails influenced voters. The well-spoken Conway, carefully choosing her exact words as always, claimed (emphasis mine) "he essentially stated that the president-elect had knowledge of  this, maybe even fanned the flames."

Notwithstanding first glances, he actually said no such thing.  Earnest had stated

There was ample evidence that was known long before the election, and in most cases long before October, about the Trump campaign in Russia, everything from the Republican nominee himself calling on Russia to hack his opponent. It might be an indication that he was obviously aware and concluded, based on whatever facts or sources he had available to him, that Russia was involved and their involvement was having a negative impact on his opponent's campaign.

Earnest did not "essentially state" Trump knew. He stated it "might be an indication," which, given the facts known, is far less accusatory than it could have been.

More significantly,  Earenest referred to the pre-election period, when the individual was candidate Donald J. Trump running for political office. He was not President-elect Trump, eleccted by the American people (albeit without a plurality of the vote) to be their next President.

It is a crucial distinction, given the greater credibility and legitimacy of someone given the nod for President rather than a candidate spinning every which way in order to win an election. The choice of "President-elect" rather than Trump or- the more precise "candidate Trump"- was not accidental.

Kellyanne Conway knows the distinction and spoke accordingly in order to de-legitimize the words of the President's spokesman. And there should be little doubt where the truth lies when considering her words against those of someone who is, well, Earnest.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Of Little Or No Help

Politico's Edward-Isaac Dovere details the infighting among the Clinton camp, organized labor, the DNC, and state organizations in the Midwest which contributed to triumph on November 8 for someone clearly unqualified, corrupt, and misogynist.

Ultimately, Clinton did not win because she failed to win in either Pennsylvania or Florida, which states she lost narrowly, but whose results do not appear to have been brought about by a dysfunctional campaign. Without victory in one of those states, the Democrat could not have prevailed, even if she had carried Michigan and Wisconsin.

The failure in Michigan was both remarkable and unavoidable, with one factor particularly intriguing. Dovere writes

Sanders threw himself into campaign appearances for Clinton throughout the fall, but familiar sources say the campaign never asked the Vermont senator’s campaign aides for help thinking through Michigan, Wisconsin or anywhere else where he had run strong..... People who asked for Vice President Joe Biden to come in were told that top Clinton aides weren’t clearing those trips.

The failure to approve a visit by the Vice-President was emblematic but not determinative, while the failure to get Senator Sanders involved in Wisconsin and Michigan may have been both.  And there seems an assumption that Clinton could have been dragged across the finish line in the latter state if the campaign had gotten President Obama more involved. Dovere adds

It was already November when the campaign finally reached out to the White House to get President Barack Obama into Michigan, a state that he’d worked hard and won by large margins in 2008 and 2012. On the Monday before Election Day, Obama added a stop in Ann Arbor, but that final weekend, the president had played golf on Saturday and made one stop in Orlando on Sunday, not having been asked to do anything else. Michigan senior adviser Steve Neuman had been asking for months to get Obama and the first lady on the ground there.

According to Dovere, internal numbers from Clinton's campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, NY showed the Democrat ahead by five points in Michigan on the morning of November 8. Nonetheless, by early afternoon, campaign headquarters found "urban precincts" (were) down 25 percent.

Urban precincts, dominated by black voters, were down disastrously- after an appearance by President Obama two days earlier, who presumably would have helped considerably there.  In Pennsylvania, a state the campaign was confident of carrying, a massive rally featuring the candidate and her husband, Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, and Mr. and Mrs. Obama was held the evening before the election.  (This may have been spurred by the strategy of acting DNC chair Donna Brazile to run the vote up in cities so as to prevent Trump from winning the popular vote while Clinton won the electoral vote, thereby jeopardizing a mandate. Seriously.)

Clinton lost Pennsylvania the following day, by a little more than she lost Michigan, in what everyone- no matter other disagreements- agrees was a "change election."  Massive amounts of people fed up with "Obamacare" and believing the country was on the "wrong track" rather than the "right track" either rushed to the polls to vote for Donald Trump or were adequately disillusioned not to vote for either major party candidate.

Gallup polls imply that President Obama had a 56% or 57% approval rating on the day of the election.   However, reliable polls also suggested that Clinton would win the national popular vote by more than she did, and state polls had her running significantly stronger in such swing states as North Carolina and Florida, as well as the aforementioned Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan.  And those polls were not asking people what they thought of the first black President, whose election some voters insist proved that America is not "racist."

Amidst all the explanations- and there are a lot, mostly legitimate, of them- of Trump's victory, there is one missing. President Obama may have ultimately damaged Mrs. Clinton's chance of prevailing in a "change election." Clinton grabbed hold of President Obama, hung on tight, and lost a race that could not be lost.

Hillary Clinton may have done better acknowledging the problems with the Affordable Care Act and aggressively promoted solutions.  She might have acknowledged the long-term decline of the middle class and emphasized the importance of unions (which President Obama has failed to do) in maintaining an adequate standard of living.  She could pointed to the role of free and unfair trade pacts, promoted by the incumbent President, in the loss of American jobs.

It might not have worked, and would have been a major gamble in a race she was heavily favored to win, and very likely would have in the absence of voter suppression, voting irregularities, and GOP operative Jim Comey.  However, as people point to Hillary Clinton as representing the political establishment and embodying the status quo, they ought to admit that the popularity of the incumbent Democratic President may not only not be transferable, but may be highly overstated.

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This  is a reasonable question. If going to a predominantly Jewish neighborhood to harass and intimidate Jewish people at a synagogue is no...