Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Sean: Come Back- All Is Forgiven!

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is doing it all wrong. Oh, she's quick enough on her feet, lies sufficiently well and is nasty enough to serve as Donald J. Trump's press secretary. But as long as she's not defending a reasonably honest President- as was the aptly named Josh Earnest- nor effectively parrying with the press as did the late Tony Snow, nor even flashing the occasional "yea, we both know what we're doing here" of Sean Spicer, she should occasionally go full bore deceptive and delusional like her boss.

There is precedent, in Joey Bishop's performance (video below) in "A Guide for the Married Man." from 1967. At her news conference yesterday, Sanders was asked by ABC Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl "Paul Manafort was high-ranking in the President's campaign at one time. I'd like to know what the President's relationship is with him now. Do they still talk? When was the last time they might have had contact?" She replied

As far as we can tell, we know they haven't spoken in several months. The last known conversation was back all the way to February. And as far as anything beyond that, with Paul, I'm not sure of any other contact.

But why acknowledge that the President even knows Paul Manafort?  Trump's press secretary could have responded to the question with "Who?"  When Karl repeated "Paul Manafort," she might have started to fumble with the last name, as in "Mana, Mana, Manafort?" When the confused reporter followed up, she might have ended the segment with "Manafort- I don't think I know the name."

The press would conclude, justifiably, that Sanders was pleading ignorance on behalf of the man she so loyally serves. That would be the same man who, asked about endorsement of his candidacy by a former KKK grand wizard, responded "Well, just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke. OK? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don’t know." He was elected President of the United States, thus becoming leader of the free world (a role he since has abdicated) less than nine months later.

Deny, deny, deny would be no sillier or less valid than the allegory Sanders led the news conference with. And it might work for Sanders/Trump just as it worked for the character played by Joey Bishop:

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Monday, October 30, 2017

A Case Of Very Bad Timing

Maybe the behavior of the 41st President of the United States of America wasn't so bad, although The New York Times reported last week

Three of the four women — Jordana Grolnick, Heather Lind and Christina Baker Kline — have told similar stories about their encounters with Mr. Bush, the general outlines of which echo what is described in the statement, but which also convey more graphic and disturbing detail.

On Friday, The Portland Press Herald reported that a fourth woman, Amanda Staples, had come forward, alleging in an Instagram post that Mr. Bush had touched her inappropriately in 2006. Ms. Staples had been running as a Republican for a seat in the Maine State Senate when she said she posed with Mr. Bush for a photo, which she published on Instagram alongside her written post.

Mr. Bush “grabbed my butt and joked saying ‘Oh, I’m not THAT President,’ ” Ms. Staples wrote, according to The Press Herald’s report.

It wasn't rape, and what usually is not to as "sexual assault," though the meaning of that phrase is not consistent throughout all news reports and from one individual to the next. However, we shouldn't be subject to what the media is referring to as an "apology," the statement from Bush's office which read

At age 93, President Bush has been confined to a wheelchair for roughly five years, so his arm falls on the lower waist of people with whom he takes pictures.

To try to put people at ease, the president routinely tells the same joke — and on occasion, he has patted women’s rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner. Some have seen it as innocent; others clearly view it as inappropriate. To anyone he has offended, President Bush apologizes most sincerely.

While Bush undoubtedly did not intend to cause the women to suffer emotional distress, the honorable intent of "a good-natured manner"is insufficient. "Some have seen it as innocent" is a suggestion that it may have been appropriate without having the backbone to ascribe that opinion to Mr. Bush.  "To anyone he has offended" is a classic, trite response implying that the problem lies not in the act nor in the person committing it, but rather in the peculiar response of the victim.

Moreover, an individual may "apologize most sincerely" only if he himself is apologizing or the person issuing the statement was himself can legitimately take responsibility for the behavior. With GHWB evidently now unable to apologize on his own, the statement should not have passed it off as an apology.

The Bush camp might be able to maintain legitimately that the alleged actions are trivial.  They could be put into context, recognized as not nearly as serious as sexual assault or even some other cases of sexual harassment. However, issuing a statement and passing it off as an "apology"- unfortunately, successfully- is reprehensible.

Still, it's tried and true public relations strategy and hence unsurprising. But it is both reprehensible and  surprising that

Former President George W. Bush threw out the ceremonial pitch during Sunday night's World Series Game 5, while his father, former President George H.W. Bush, cheered him on the sidelines.

Before the game between the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers, the elder Bush handed his son the ball, who then threw the ceremonial first pitch.

Afterward, the 43rd president handed his father the microphone so he could announce "Play ball!"

Even with last week's allegations, it is legitimate to honor George Herbert Walker Bush.   But it should take place quietly, away from cameras, or in at least a more dignified, restrained venue.  Doing so in the presence of tens of thousands of fans and tens of millions watching on television delivers one of two messages: (a) this is something we're going to ignore or (b) sexual harassment is acceptable, maybe even what sports is all about.

Or perhaps, with the election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency of the United States of America, it sends a different message.   When charged with bad behavior, blowing off the seriousness of the accusation simply works better than falling on one's sword.

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Modest Suggestions

Yascha Mounk, a lecturer on government at Harvard University, has issued a call for a pre-emptive strike because

if you think Trump would never dare to fire Robert Mueller for filing charges against his associates, you still haven't understood his character. And if you think that Congress is sure to act when he does, you haven't been paying attentionfor the past several months.

He would like our ex-Presidents to gather together to  denounce Trump's "clear and present danger to the American republic" and for the two most recent presidents especially to speak out more forcefully than any political heavyweight has.

While Mounk's argument is sound, the criticism levelled at the incumbent by Bush and Obama was not insufficiently strong, but was indirect. Neither mentioned Trump's name, Bush because he was at the time campaigning for a GOP candidate (for Va. governor) and Obama because- well, because he's Barack Obama and having a spine has never been among his greatest strengths.

Nonetheless, it is clear

The people who are best placed to do this, depressingly, sit in the House and the Senate. All members of Congress who care about preserving our democracy (or protecting their constitutional prerogatives) must set out what they are going to do if Trump fires Robert Mueller or pardons the people he indicts. As Ian Bassin, the executive director of Protect Democracy, told me, “Ryan, McConnell, Pelosi, and Schumer must make crystal clear right now that firing Mueller or interfering with his investigation would be met with swift and forceful congressional action, including the opening of an impeachment inquiry against the president and the creation of an independent commission to investigate interference in the 2016 election.”

"Those like Jeff Flake and Bob Corker," maintains Mounk, "who have already bravely expressed their concerns about the president, need to champion efforts to limit the damage he can do right now."

Flake, Corker, and other conservative Republicans who support the President's right-wing agenda but recognize the threat Trump is to common decency and continuation of the planet need not resign or even vote against Trump's initiatives (though that would be great benefit to the Republic).  The following, as presented by Salon, is a list recently compiled by Jerrry Taylor of the Niskanen Center:

Making Trump’s tax returns public

Requiring Trump and all future presidents to put their assets in a blind trust

Demanding that Senate Republicans give more resources to the Intelligence Committee’s investigation of the Trump-Russia connection during the last election

Establishing a bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission to offer recommendations for electoral cybersecurity and protection against foreign disinformation campaigns

Reclaiming war powers that have been delegated in the past to the president

Enforcing the sanctions imposed by Congress on the Russian and allied business entities, which are now going unenforced

Refusing to vote for any legislation that has not gone through the normal process of committee hearings, markups and so on 

The five living ex-Presidents, congressional leadership, and the few Republican members of Congress who have expressed disapproval of President Trump's conduct need not call for his resignation or removal, block his legislative proposals, or do anything any reasonable person might consider excessive or partisan. Taylor's recommendations are non-ideological and would reinforce Congress' opposition to an imperial presidency and to efforts to upend American democracy.

Obviously, they will be ignored.

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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Missing Persons Bulletin Needed

Someone must immediately contact the FBI or the local police.  Van Jones must have been kidnapped and replaced with a body double because a man identified Jones stated (video of this portion not available; instead, two featuring Joy Behar) Friday on Real Time with Bill Maher

I am a little concerned that people are so happy that Flake is making this great speech, he's so courageous. When you're courageous, you say you are going to fight. He said I am going to get the heck out of here. The reason he ran scampering out is because of Bannon and he has a billion dollar cannon pointing at the head of every Republican who opposes Donald Trump and these guys are giving great speeches and turning the Party over to Bannon without a shot and that's not courage.

Donald Trump is the logical outcome of a Republican Party which has been trading for a long time in such things as denial of science, anti-minority animus, and accumulation of personal wealth as the highest ideal and prerequisite for making public policy. But Steve Bannon, with the power and money of the Mercers behind him and the luxury and flexibility of a private citizen, represents something new and different even in GOP politics. "Right now, it's a season of war against a GOP establishment," most recently asserted the guy who has vowed to take out the Senate Majority Leader and any Republican who does not pled allegiance to Trump, the Father.

So Jeff Flake, whose Senate career was dead in the water (or would have been, if Arizona had any water) before Bannon's latest foray, does not impress Van Jones, or at least the individual claiming Friday night to be hi,. It could not have been the real deal because eight years ago

The White House, in an unusual pre-dawn announcement Sunday, said its “green jobs czar” Van Jones would resign after fierce criticism from Republicans about some of his statements and associations prior to joining the administration.

While the job itself is not that high-profile — special adviser on green jobs — Jones’ departure from the position is the first real scalp claimed by the Republican right, which stoked much of the criticism of Jones....

The Van Jones of the Obama Administration sounded like the Jeff Flake of today when

In a resignation statement early Sunday morning, Jones said: "On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me. They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide." 

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said Van Jones' resignation was "a loss to the country."

It literally was a loss to the country because that Van Jones no longer exists or has "scampered out" to some other location. He was forced out by political opponents and presumably encouraged to quit by Barack Obama, whom Jones never fails to praise directly or indirectly. That Van Jones clearly helped turn the Obama Administration over to the GOP and "that's not courage," or so this one would say.

Today, there is someone impersonating the green jobs adviser of the other presidency, someone with a far different perspective on what to do when a person's political days are numbered. With this one deeply unrealistic, the real Van Jones must be found and returned to the comfort and safety of his family.

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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Effective Non-Apology

What's up with ESPN? The network which reprehensibly sidelined Jemele Hill has a few confused writers. Worse, the network itself is wrongheaded.

On Friday, Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta Jr. wrote a piece describing meetings in mid-October among NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, team executives, union representatives, and players. On the second day, individual players were excluded and

As (Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry) Jones spoke, (Washington Redskins owner Dan( Snyder mumbled out loud, "See, Jones gets it -- 96 percent of Americans are for guys standing," a claim some dismissed as a grand overstatement. McNair, a multimillion-dollar Trump campaign contributor, spoke next, echoing many of the same business concerns. "We can't have the inmates running the prison," McNair said.

Wichersham-Van Natta write

McNair later pulled Vincent aside and apologized, saying that he felt horrible and that his words weren't meant to be taken literally, which Vincent appreciated. The meetings were already running long and were ending on a raw note -- and there were more agenda items to hit. 

The following morning, ESPN Staff Writer Sarah Barshop contended

McNair issued a public apology Friday following an ESPN The Magazine report that McNair said "We can't have the inmates running the prison" during last week's owners meeting, in reference to ongoing player demonstrations during the national anthem.

This is the "apology" cited by these journalists:

I regret that I used that expression. I never meant to offend anyone and I was not referring to our players. I used a fugure of speech that was never intended to be taken literally. I would never characterize our players or our league that way and I apologize to anyone who was offended by it.

Granted, McNair had not "meant to offend anyone," which is the stock phrase used when offensive remarks are made, as in "I had good intentions."

The claim that the Houston Texans' owner "wasn't talking about our players" is bizarre, given it's not likely he was talking about the Penn State Nittany Lions, Houston's Westfield (high school) Mustangs, or the Houston Wildcats women's football team.

Certainly McNair did not want "to be taken literally." It does not take a keen observer to realize he was using a metaphor for a prison because, in McNair's mind, black=prison.  Try googling "inmates running the asylum" and the first page reveals no reference to wikipedia or the urban dictionary but eight references to McNair.

There is one other reference- the first, which is "inmates running the asylum" because the idiom always has been "inmates running the asylum."  There was never a phrase "inmates running the prison" except in the minds of individuals closely associating blacks- not black criminals, but blacks- with prison.

The President of the United States in America, angry because he was denied the opportunity to own a National Football League team after helping destroy the USFL, has decided to turn whites against blacks and American against American. He's a provocateur sowing division and discord, and the nation's premier sports network, intentionally or otherwise, shouldn't be running interference for his allies.

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Tried-And-True Political Strategy

For a guy proud that he's not a lifetime politician, President Trump certainly nailed his version of the pol's classic "it's personal for me" shtick in his opiate speech when he stated

I learned myself, I had a brother Fred, great guy, best looking guy, best personality, much better than mine, but he had a problem. He had a problem with alcohol. And he would tell me don't drink. Don't drink.

He was substantially older, and I listened to him and respected. But I would constantly tell me don't drink. He would also add don't smoke. But he would say it over and over and over again. And to this day I've never had a drink. And I have no longing for it. I have no interest in it. To this day I've never had a cigarette. Don't worry, those are only two of my good things. I don't want to tell you about the bad things. There are plenty of bad things too. But he really helped me. I had somebody that guided me. And he had a very, very, very tough life because of alcohol, believe me, very, very tough life.

It was, however, only shtick, which we know because he remarked also

The fact is if we can teach young people, and people generally, not to start, it's really, really easy not to take them. And I think that's going to end up being our most important thing. Really tough, really big, really great advertising. So we get to people before they start so they don't have to go through the problems of what people are going through. 

The President's new policy on opioid addiction is characterized by loosening regulations and restrictions, but no assurance of additional money beyond the $57,000 in the Public Health Emergency Fund. His policy is likely to be the comfortable marriage of marketing and unrealistic optimism.

Really tough, really big, really great advertising.  Trump's primary source of wealth in the past couple of decades has not been in real estate because

Many of the properties that bear the Trump name aren't actually owned by the mogul. The Trump Organization has been known to partner with developers in licensing deals. In such an arrangement, a developer pays Trump a licensing fee; in exchange, they're given permission to brand their building with the Trump name and logo. Trump benefits by receiving a regular stream of royalties, while the developer can increase the rates she charges because the Trump name signifies high quality and luxury. According to Trump, his real estate licensing deals, intellectual property, brands and branded development are worth more than $3.3 billion; however, Forbes pegs this number at around $253 million.

But the real tell in Trump's approach was the statement "the fact is if we can teach young people, and people generally,  not to start, it's realy, really easy not to take them."

We tried that in the early 1980s, when First Lady Nancy Reagan launched her "Just Say No" program. Wikipedia recalls "in 1982, the phrase 'Just Say No' first emerged when Nancy Reagan was visiting Longfellow Elementary School in Oakland, California. When asked by a schoolgirl what to do if she was offered drugs, the First Lady responded: 'Just say no."

It was as easy as that- no fuss, no bother; except that it didn't work.  There is little indication that "Just Say No" programs which sprung up in schools, media boosterism, and well-publicized appearances by the First Lady and others helped stem the plague, and strong evidence that law enforcement's Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (D.A.R.E.) had any impact.

After increasing for a few years, cocaine use declined, because that's what happens to an "epidemic" (the buzzword used ten times by the President yesterday).  There is either a massive commitment of resources to the crisis or- as in this case- resources needed elsewhere get shifted to address the shiny new object while other needs get stiffed.  We don't know when the crisis will abate but we can be sure that the President will declare victory whatever the trend of opiate addiction during this presidential term.

 Like marketing and triumphalism, it is what has gotten Donald J. Trump where he is today.

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Those Who Can, Should

Dawn Staley feels rejected. She won't admit it, of course and you and I wouldn't either. The ex-superstar

and her champion South Carolina Gamecocks are still waiting for their invite to the White House.

“We haven’t gotten an invitation yet and that in itself speaks volumes,” the women’s basketball coach told The Associated Press in a phone interview on Friday night. “We won before those other teams won their championships. I don’t know what else has to happen.”

Staley said she isn’t even sure her team, which won the NCAA women’s basketball title in April, would go now if invited. The night her squad won the school’s first national championship, the Hall of Famer said the team would go to the White House because “it’s what it stands for. It’s what national champions do.”

However, the giveaway came when

that was before "some things," as Staley put it Friday night, “transpired over the last few months. I haven’t talked to anyone about it. I got bigger fish to fry than worry about an invitation.”

If someone says she has "bigger fish to fry" and (especially) "I haven't even thought about it," you know it has been gnawing at her.

But give Donald Trump a little credit here. At least in this instance, he has not been a hypocrite.  As compiled by Judd Legum, Mr. Trump has been accused of sexual harassment or assault by Ninni Laaksonen, former Miss Finland; Jessica Drake; Karena Virginia; Cathy Heller, Summer Zervos; Kristen Anderson; Jessica Leeds; Rachel Crooks; Mindy McGillivray; Natasha Stoynoff; Jennifer Murphy: Casandra Searles; Temple Taggart McDowell, former Miss Utah. It's a formidable list, but far less formidable than it probably would be had he not been elected.

Legum observes "when Trump became President, people stopped talking much about the numerous women who alleged he sexually assaulted them."  He is now the individual who- despite legislative proposals to remake the Supreme Court, repeal the ACA, end financial regulation, and give tax breaks to wealthy individuals and corporations- embodies the hopes of the nation. If the President goads North Korea into war, we all go down.

Now that Trump is considered the most powerful individual on the planet, it is now understandably- albeit unfortunately- regarded as too risky to accuse him of something as serious as sexual assault. It is no coincidence that Harvey Weinstein was accused of little when he wielded serious power in Hollywood but now "it's hard," Rebecca Traister recognizes,"not to consider the circumstances, the years, the risks, and the work put in by so many to convince so many others to be able to come forward, and the fact that perhaps only a weakening of Weinstein’s grip permitted his expensive self-crafted armor to finally be pierced." Careers, even lives, were at stake, now not nearly so.

Nonetheless, much more than numerous careers is at stake in this presidency. Senators Flake, Corker, and McCain all have spoken out against the President's disposition, demeanor, and/or temperament in recent days. Two are retiring and the other may do so. Nonetheless, the predictable insults thrown at them by Donald Trump and his supporters, as well as the reluctance of colleagues to follow suit, demonstrate that the three guys have displayed a little courage.

Like Donald Trump, they are politicians- but none of them has risen in the field to the level of President. They are thus more vulnerable to criticism, taunts, and harassment than is an undisputed winner such as Dawn Staley. She is in a virtually unique position to condemn this President while being relatively invulnerable to counter-attack, and would receive an outpouring of suppor if she does.  Individuals and organizations will have her back, and if she does not have personal responsibility, she has an opportunity available to almost no one else. She should take it.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Exclusionary Approach

Responding to the Harvey Weinstein revelations, Quartz "reporter" Leah Fessler recently posted a message on Facebook for "men and male-identifying friends." She demanded "if you are an ally, now is the time to sit down, educate yourself, and speak up, not sure what to say? Worried you'll say the wrong thing? too bad, that's the risk women take every damn day." She charges "your silence is complicit; yes, it's hard to speak up," adding "but by not trying... you are part of the problem, and because of your, and other powerful men's silence, women will continue to be victims, and survivors, of horrendous abuse. It's time to wake the fuck up, and ensure all of your male friends do, too, please."

So classy. A far more credible individual, Senator Jeanne Shaheen

is calling for a comprehensive legislative strategy around the issue of sexual assault, while also acknowledging Congress can only do so much in the wake of extensive harassment and rape allegations against Hollywood mogul and Democratic megadonor Harvey Weinstein.

“I do think we ought to look at every legislative remedy that might be available,” the New Hampshire senator told POLITICO’s Carrie Budoff Brown in the latest episode of Women Rule.

But Shaheen warned that Congress alone can’t provide the “one silver bullet fix.”

“That’s not going to be enough to change the culture,” she said on the podcast. “It’s important as part of the conversation, but we also need women to come forward, women to speak up. We need men to speak up and say, ‘This is not acceptable. We are not going to allow this in our businesses, in our workplaces, in our sports teams, anywhere.’”

The New Hampshire Democrat recognizes "we need men to speak up and say, 'This is not acceptable... anywhere."  Presumably, then, men will be encouraged to express their outrage at sexual harassment and violence.  Not everywhere, however. In an incident which would delight Trumpist critics of "political correctness," The Washington Post reports

A New Jersey-based magazine owned by women has canceled a women’s empowerment panel following criticism because the participants were all men.

SJ Magazine had titled the panel that was set to include four men as “Women in Business: A man’s point of view.”

The magazine says it believes it is “helpful when everyone is part of the conversation on women’s empowerment and feminism.” But the magazine says it was never its intention to offend anyone with the Nov. 6 event.

We would be mistaken to assume the only snowflake is the magazine because

Criticism against the panel was harsh on social media. The magazine explained three other panels were composed of all women and said it wanted to start a discussion with men.

One of the participants, New Jersey Democratic Assemblyman Lou Greenwald, had decided to withdraw because of the panel’s composition. He said he would offer his seat to someone who can “bring a more diverse and inclusive point of view to this critical issue.”

The assemblyman should be old enough and wise enough to realize that men are more likely to "speak up," as Shaheen and Fessler would put it, if they are on an all-male panel.

In canceling the discussion, the magazine stated "we believe it is helpful when everyone is part of the conversation on women's empowerment and feminism."  Instead of being disqualified by circumstances of birth from contributing to formation of public policy, men would be part of "everyone," engaging in a dialogue which would give them an opportunity to end the "complicit silence" they're accused of.

The argument that "we're all in this together" would be effective if men were generally included, allowed to speak, and not patronizingly ordered to "sit down (and) educate yourself." Otherwise, victims of sexual assault and activists can talk to each other, curse men for failing to speak up, and accuse them of enabling perpetrators of sexual assault. That would be emotionally satisfying, but little else.

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Outrage To (In)Action

Too much is being asked of Senator Jeff Flake, and too little.

Appearing on CNN's New Day on Wednesday, Never Trumper Ana Navarro praised the Arizona Republican's speech but lamented that he chose to resign, enabling the GOP to be ever-more dominated by pols following the example of the apparently rude and crude, wacky and bigoted Donald Trump. A Republican, she was unknowingly echoing the sentiment of Ezra Klein, who wrote

Flake’s decision to retire so he can speak his mind is certainly preferable to choosing to seek reelection while remaining silent. But these are extraordinary times, and they demand more than retirement. Perhaps Flake would have lost reelection if he ran in a Republican primary on the principles and moral behavior he believes in. Perhaps he would have lost if he had mounted an independent candidacy on the principles and moral behavior he believes in. But maybe he would have won, and if he did win, he would have emboldened others in his party, and outside his party, to follow his example.

It is not, though, in a Senator's job description or specification to sacrifice himself for the benefit of either center-left journalists or GOP strategists who- until Donald Trump came along- were fine with their party appealing to bigotry, fear, and plutocrats savaging the poor and middle class.

And sacrifice himself he would have, for Flake would very likely have lost the 2018 Repub presidential primary to a candidate infatuated with Donald Trump. He could have beaten that candidate (probably Kelli Ward) only if the President's popularity had plummeted, in which case the GOP nomination would not have been worth a bucket of warm spit.

Nonetheless, there is something Jeff Flake can do in his remaining 14-15 months short of, but more important than, hanging in there and running again.

He can defy President Trump.  Other Republicans, reportedly exorcised by the President's rants and raves, can defy him, rather than merely offering applause to criticism of him. That is not currently happening as

Senate Republicans on Tuesday night leaned on a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence to kill a landmark financial regulation that restricts banks and credit card companies from imposing mandatory arbitration on their customers as a means to resolve disputes.

The vote is a blow to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and its controversial director, Richard Cordray, who some Republican lawmakers have urged President Donald Trump to fire because of his aggressive regulation.

Surely Jeff Flake would choose to counter "the present coarseness of our national dialogue with the tone set up at the top" by joining all 48 Democrats in voting against rescinding this financial regulation. "Surely" came up short, however, as

The lawmakers narrowly passed a resolution to scrap the so-called arbitration rule after months of uncertainty about whether enough GOP senators would support the effort, which was opposed by consumer and veterans groups. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John Kennedy (R-La.) broke with their party to vote against the repeal.

Jeff Flake shouldn't be condemned for recognizing "sustained incumbency is certainly not the point of seeking office" and for choosing to leave the Senate so as not "to compromise far too many principles."  More is at stake than a Senate seat, held by a very conservative Republican who would have been challenged by a very conservative Republican.

The Arizona senator capitulates to Donald Trump not by retirement but only if he emboldens and reinforces the "reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior" of Trumpism. If he wishes to thwart "the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and instituions, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency," he can vote against the agenda of the individual he accurately recognizes as a national and international menace. The early returns are not promising.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Still The Same

Now 61 years old and fifteen years removed from "Politically Incorrect," Bill Maher- usually left, sometimes right- continues to do the politically incorrect more boldly and insightfully than anyone.  And so it was on Friday that he commented

The conventional wisdomis that in the 1980s Saint Ronald Reagan defeated the Soviet- the Soviet Union and then the Berlin Wall came down and everyone was friends. But what reeally happened was that we stopped fighting the Cold War but the Russians never did. 

Fittingly, the guy whose "Politically Incorrect" was driven off the air (re-emerging with "Real Time with Bill Maher") spoke about name change as he continued

They may have changed the name of the KGB the way Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC but tust me, they're both still out there poisoning people. There is an entire building in St. Petersburg filled with a Russian troll army, hundreds of employees at their defense departments sitting in front of computers, pretending to be Americans and creating thousands of tweets, memes, news site comments and falt-out fake news sories designed not to take sides on any issue but just to get us fighting about it, to create chaos, the better to elect the chaos candidate.

Only individuals who worship Donald Trump- and a few of the leftists who believe Hillary Clinton is the source of all evil and ineptitude- refuse to acknowledge that Russia manipulated social media in part to elect the chaos candidate, Donald J. Trump.

But there are few people who will acknowledge that the Russian threat was not obliterated by President Reagan. That was a heady era, when American exceptionalism seemed to end the danger posed by our designated post-World War II enemy.  Republicans and other conservatives led the charge deifying Ronald (6) Wilson (6) Reagan (6), while most Democrats in the following decades eagerly emphasized the harm perpetrated by modern-day Republicans, who were seen as more conservative and far less amicable than the the 40th President.

Even now, with the Kremlin's successful effort to thwart our democratic process becoming gradually clearer, virtually no one will admit what Maher did last week- that while Americans were led to believe that Kumbaya now would reign, the Soviet Union/Russia had not radically changed.

Oh, it did for a brief time, or at least seemed to while Boris Yeltsin was President. But the fundamental nature of the country had not.  Evan Osnos, David Remnick, and Joshua Yaffa wrote in The New Yorker in March that President Vladimir Putin

knew that the fall of Communism and Soviet power had left a vacuum—the lack of a “national idea” to replace Marxism-Leninism. When Putin returned to the Presidency for a third term, in 2012, he felt the need to develop a Russian ideology of his own, and called on currents that run deep in Russian political culture: nationalism, xenophobia, and social conservatism. When, four years ago, Putin endorsed anti-gay legislation, for instance, he was playing to entrenched conservative prejudices that predate Soviet Communism—perhaps not for Western-oriented intellectuals and the urban middle class but for many millions of others.

The writers note that Masha Lipman, editor of the journal Counterpoint, has written "all these (media)   genres emphasize the stature of Putin, as being everybody and everything- not just the ultimate boss but the embodiment of Russian statehood." Lipman explains

Today he speaks constantly about state nationalism and Russia’s greatness, and he enjoys the approval of more than eighty per cent of Russians. The fact that, twenty-five years ago, a people’s movement changed the course of history is something that he would rather erase from national memory. He rejects the idea that those events marked a historical divide. In 2012, he said, “In order to revive national consciousness, we need to link historical eras and get back to understanding the simple truth that Russia did not begin in 1917, or even in 1991, but rather that we have a common, continuous history spanning over a thousand years, and we must rely on it to find inner strength and purpose in our national development....

Yeltsin may be seen as only a brief, relatively pleasant period between opposite sides of the same coin- Soviet communism and Putin authoritarianism, in which the latter

no longer fills prison camps with countless “enemies of the people,” as Stalin did, but, rather, makes a chilling example of a famous few, like the businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky or the group Pussy Riot, his propagandists have taken their cue from foreign forms: magazine shows, shout-fests, game shows, and reality shows. There are many figures in public life who are not permitted to appear on any talk show or news program. Russians can still find independent information on Facebook and various Web sites; critical books and magazines are available in stores and online; Echo of Moscow, a liberal radio station, hangs on. But, even in the Internet era, more than eighty per cent of Russians get their news from television. Manipulation of TV coverage is a crucial factor in Putin’s extraordinarily high popularity ratings, typically in excess of eighty per cent—ratings that Donald Trump both admires and envies.

The report that a prominent announcer at one of those news outlets- Echo- was stabbed on Tuesday at the station should bring this into a little sharper focus. But whether that attack was motivated by politics (currently undetermined), Bill Maher has yet again gone against the grain and observed that Russia is the same as the one we thought was dead and buried. With Putin now at the helm, notwithstanding variations, Pete Townshend's words apply: "meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

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Monday, October 23, 2017

And Make Sure To Genuflect

The usually smug Sarah Huckabee Sanders seemingly missed her chance Friday when she remarked "If you wanna go after General Kelly, that’s up to you, but I think that — if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that’s something highly inappropriate."  She could have said "if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, go at it" or the trite "... go ahead, make my (our) day."

Nonetheless, the White House spokesperson's comment enhanced President Trump's strategy because it was in complete harmony with that made by the four-star Marine general, John V. Kelly. In the portion of  the chief of staff's statement which was neither dishonest nor hostile toward a member of Congress, Kelly maintained

Well, let me tell you what I told him. Let me tell you what my best friend, Joe Dunford, told me -- because he was my casualty officer. He said, Kel, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1 percent. He knew what the possibilities were because we're at war. And when he died, in the four cases we're talking about, Niger, and my son's case in Afghanistan -- when he died, he was surrounded by the best men on this Earth: his friends.....

Gold Star families, I think that left in the convention over the summer. But I just thought -- the selfless devotion that brings a man or woman to die on the battlefield, I just thought that that might be sacred.

And when I listened to this woman and what she was saying, and what she was doing on TV, the only thing I could do to collect my thoughts was to go and walk among the finest men and women on this Earth. And you can always find them because they're in Arlington National Cemetery. I went over there for an hour-and-a-half, walked among the stones, some of whom I put there because they were doing what I told them to do when they were killed.

"The finest men and women on this Earth." Kelly could have legitimately described them as "the most courageous men and women in the nation," given that they were Americns who risked their lives. But that doesn't necessarily make them the finest people, and "the Earth" is a very big place indeed (unrelated video on same controversy, below).

Nonetheless, the assertion was fundamental to Kelly's central argument, akin to Sanders':  We wear the uniform of the United States of America- you don't. It was Kelly's way of reminding us not only that he was  the commanding officer of "the very best this country produces" but that he is a general, hence: criticize at your own risk. 

Kelly finished his short speech telling reporters "you get the question" if, and only if, the he or she was a Gold Star parent or sibling, or knows one. Masha Gessen identified this as "a new twist on the Trump Administration's technique of shunning and shaming unfriendly members of the news media, except this time, it was framed explicitly in terms of national loyalty."

That makes it, in Sanders' terms, "highly inappropriate" to enter a "debate with a four-star Marine general." The chief of staff was not so blunt and crude as the presidential spokesperson, but was expressing the same sentiment. Given  "a troika of generals being regularly applauded as the only thing standing between all of us and the abyss," we now have learned we are in serious jeopardy.

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"The Wonderful Joy"

The old lie: Dulce et decorum est... Pro patria mori.
(It is good and honorable to die for one's country.)

We now know that John Kelly lied promiscuously about U.S. Representative Frederica Wilson.  But finding out that the Emperor, or in this case, the General, has no clothes or much integrity might not be very important. He is, after all, not Presidential Press Secretary but Chief of Staff, and he'll have little opportunity in the future to fabricate an event.

And it is not news that anyone with any integrity who comes into contact with Donald Trump comes out with very little. More important, however, is the point Steve M. noted that Masha Gessen made in The New Yorker as she wrote

when Kelly described his own distress after hearing the criticism of Trump’s phone call, the general said that he had gone to “walk among the finest men and women on this earth. And you can always find them because they’re in Arlington National Cemetery.” So, by “the best” Americans, Kelly had meant dead Americans—specifically, fallen soldiers.

... It is in totalitarian societies, which demand complete mobilization, that dying for one’s country becomes the ultimate badge of honor. Growing up in the Soviet Union, I learned the names of ordinary soldiers who threw their bodies onto enemy tanks, becoming literal cannon fodder. All of us children had to aspire to the feat of martyrdom....

Kelly married his celebration of martydom with the Administration's hostility toward the working press. Gessen continues with

... At the end of the briefing, [Kelly] said that he would take questions only from those members of the press who had a personal connection to a fallen soldier, followed by those who knew a Gold Star family.... he was now explicitly denying a majority of Americans—or the journalists representing them—the right to ask questions. This was a new twist on the Trump Administration’s technique of shunning and shaming unfriendly members of the news media, except this time, it was framed explicitly in terms of national loyalty. As if on cue, the first reporter allowed to speak inserted the phrase "Semper Fi"- a literal loyalty oath- into his question.

Before walking off the stage, Kelly told Americans who haven't served in the military that he pities them.  "We don't walk down upon those of you who haven't served," he said. "In fact, in a way we're a little bit sorry because you'll never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kinds of things our servicemen and women do- not for any other  reason than that they love this country."

It was all there, including the condescending "we're a little bit sorry" and the implication that those servicemen and women "love this country" while the others do not. Easily lost however- except by Gessen and a few others- was the glorification of fighting in a war, dramatically dramatized in the 1921 poem by Wilfred Owen:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, 
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, 
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs, 
And towards our distant rest began to trudge. 
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots, 
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind; 
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots 
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind. 

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling 
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time, 
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling 
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light, 
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. 

In all my dreams before my helpless sight, 
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. 

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace 
Behind the wagon that we flung him in, 
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, 
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin; 
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood 
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, 
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud 
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,— 
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest 
To children ardent for some desperate glory, 
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est 
Pro patria mori.

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Friday, October 20, 2017

Trump-Pence-Kelly Administration

Chris Hayes has tweeted "I still can’t quite get my head around the viciousness of Kelly telling that story about Rep. Wilson, which she says is false."

So does Cowanda-Jones Johnson, widow of La David T. Johnson, so Chief of Staff Kelly gets a pass, deservedly or not, which it is not.

Trump's Chief of Staff on Thursday remarked also

It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation. Absolutely stuns me. And I thought at least that was sacred. You know, when I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. That's obviously not the case anymore as we see from recent cases. Life -- the dignity of life -- is sacred. That's gone. Religion, that seems to be gone as well.

It stuns me that Kelly would be surprised that Mrs. Johnson would allow others in the car with her when she received the President's call to have listened to the call, especially because the congresswoman is a friend of the family. He should be stunned- better yet, embarrassed- because the guy he works for claimed he had "proof" that Representative Wilson's version of events was inaccurate, and has yet to produce such "proof."

Kelly is entitled to use his position to rengage the culture war by lamenting a time when "women were sacred" and were second-class citizens, and when the dignity of life meant depriving women of reproductive freedom. He also is entitled to imagine that religion is "gone as well."

Claiming "religion, that seems to be gone as well," Kelly evidently has slept through Sunday mornings, unaware that tens of millions of Americans gather in their preferred house of worship at that time (or at other times if they so choose).  The plea for vague religiosity, women on a pedestal, and a woman's right to choose as an evil are straight out of Donald Trump's playbook. Kelly now should be held accountable for the Trump presidency in a way that he didn't before, when he was held above criticism as one of the presumed "adults" in the Administration.

Lawrence O'Donnell closes his program on MSNBC by giving someone "the last word." Now the last word will go to Gregg Popovich.  "The people who work with this president," Popovich told The Nation recently, "should be ashamed, because they know better than anyone just how unfit he is, and yet they choose to do nothing about it. This is their shame most of all.”

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No Soul, No Courage

Donald Trump and Mike Pence," Paul Waldman recognized in early September, "are united in the belief that strength is a performance, not a characteristic,."  For example

North Korea detonated what may have been a hydrogen bomb, a follow-up to a series of tests seeming to show that they could reach the United States mainland with a missile. They seem completely undeterred by a regular stream of taunts and threats from President Trump, who among other things promised just before taking office that they wouldn't be able to do what they've now demonstrated they probably can. It's almost as though they don't take him seriously.

Not only that, Kim Jong Un was not deterred when back in April, Vice President Mike Pence went to the DMZ and made a stern face across the border to show them we mean business. That sounds like something out of a comic satire, but it actually happened. "I thought it was important that people on the other side of the DMZ see our resolve in my face," Pence said afterward.

That look of resolve should have been replaced by a bout of laughter. It's six weeks later, threats from Pyongyang have only been ramped up and the Administration continues to mistake bluster. for resolve and not only as pertains to Korea.

The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, Slate's Fred Kaplan explains,

requires the president to certify, every 90 days, that Iran is still in compliance. If he certifies otherwise (in other words, if he acknowledges that Iran has been caught cheating), Congress could vote within 60 days to reimpose the sanctions.

Both as candidate and as President, Donald Trump has condemned the Iran deal in the harshest of terms, most recently as "one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into." Therefore

In his speech on Friday, Trump said, “Based on the factual record I’ve put forward, we cannot and will not make this certification.” But there is no such factual record. The Iranians have terminated all the programs that the deal has required them to terminate at this point, and the “violations” that Trump cited are fiction. If anyone is in violation of this deal, it is Trump.

So what will he do about it? At this point, as he has done on many other issues, Trump abrogated his responsibility; he doesn’t want to take the heat for taking any steps that might turn out badly so he put the burden on Congress. He can’t rewrite the Iran nuclear deal, much as he’d like to; so he told Congress to rewrite the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.

That's the Donald Trump of reality, once we get past the bluff and bluster. In July 2015 he pledged to "eliminate immediately" President Obama's "illegal executive order" on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program. Early last month, he announced that he was ending the program. He then made a deal with Senate Minority Leader Schumer and House Minority Leader Pelosi to continue it, only later to remark that he still wanted his Mexican-American wall and other concessions.

Bill Clinton once remarked that voters prefer a politician who is "wrong and strong" rather than "weak and right."  When Trump backs down from his earlier positions on Iran and on individuals brought to the USA as children, he is weak and (somewhat) right, turning Clinton's observation on its head. Trump boasts Kim Jong-un  "best not make any more threats against the United States" and sits idly by as threats are made; makes a deal on DACA, then backs out of it: and shirks his responsibility as Chief Executive on the Iranian nuclear deal by shoving the issue onto Congress.

Still, Trump's gift and advantage is that he appears- both to opponents and supporters- as strong and  reasonably resolute.   But he is cowardly and soulless, the latter trait most recently observed by  Cowanda-Jones Johnson and Representative Fredericka Wilson.  And so he may have been best described by the NBA's greatest active head coach, Gregg Popovich, who recently concluded "this man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward."

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Man With A Plan

In late June, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski noted they "have known Mr. Trump for more than a decade and have some fond memories of our reltationship together. But that hasn't stopped us from criticizing his abhorrent behavior or worrying about his fitness," which they evidently believe borders on mental illness.

"I think — I think he’s crazy. I mean, I don’t say that lightly and as a kind of a goofy guy,” said Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) to Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), who clearly chooses not to disagree, in a conversation they thought private

Many psychiatrists argue that Donald Trump suffers from a sort of  mental illness.  John McCain recognizes Trump "can be impulsive in his speech and conduct," which is about as far as any senator can go in questioning a president's personal behavior.

Similarly, Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal Constitution argues the President "is not a man who picks his battles carefully or strategically. To him, conflict is not a necessary evil or a means to an end, it is his natural state of existence."  Benjamin Hart in New York magazine explained this perspective:

Almost eight months into his decidedly abnormal presidency, there remains a persistent and surprisingly widespread impulse among political journalists to transmogrify Trump into a traditional president, one who makes decisions based on long-term strategy, one not governed by pure id — a president who has something in common with men who came before him. (Perhaps there’s something comforting in that?)...

Waiting for him to transform into some semblance of a normal human being, much less a president governed by anything beyond impulse, will be a long wait indeed.

Donald Trump certainly is very impulsive and he may suffer from a mental and/or psychological disorder. But with all of that, there is a strategic element and a method to his madness. As Chris Hayes pointed out Tuesday evening, "the President has his own conceept of truth. To him the question isn't whether he's right. It's whether  many people are saying it." Hayes referred to Trump's interview in late January with ABC News' David Muir and an interaction earlier Tuesday when

President Trump was confronted by Mike Sacks of Scripps News Service, who reminded Trump that he has "repeatedly said that we are the highest tax nation in the world when that's been seen as objectively false, with the credibility you need to pass tax reform."  Then

Mr Trump responded by interrupting and claiming he was merely using it as shorthand and it might be more accurate to say the US is the most taxed nation among developed countries.

He said: “Some people say it differently, and they will say we are the highest developed nation taxed in the world.” 

“A lot of people know exactly what I am talking about, and in many cases they think I am right when I say the highest. As far as I am concerned, we are really essentially the highest. But if you’d like to add the ‘developed nation,’ you can say that, too. But a lot of people agree that the way I am saying is exactly correct.”

A lot of people know exactly what I am talking about... they think I am right... a lot of people agree with me.

The President's assumption is decidely and demonstrably false but the "everybody is saying it" tactic is a tried-and-true formula for Trump. Five days after he was inaugurated, he was interviewed by ABC's Muir. Muir told the President that Speaker Ryan had said "I have seen no evidence" that 3-5 million people had voted illegally and  that Senator Graham had observed "it's the most inappropriate thing for a president to say without proof."   However, it became clear that Trump was unconcerned with accuracy when he responded

Let me just tell you, you know what's important, millions of people agree with me when I say that if you would’ve looked on one of the other networks and all of the people that were calling in they're saying, "We agree with Mr. Trump. We agree." They're very smart people.

The people that voted for me- lots of  people are saying they saw things happen.

Millions of people agree with me... lots of people are saying they saw things happen.

Logic suggests there is a reason, somewhere, that Donald Trump thinks if he keeps repeating something, and adds that many people believe it, other voters will conclude that they also should.  This strategy did not appear to him out of  thin air for

Donald Trump reportedly owned a copy of Adolf Hitler’s speeches and kept them in his bedside cabinet.

A 1990 Vanity Fair article about billionaire businessman stated that Mr Trump’s then wife Ivana, said her husband owned a copy of “My New Order” – a printed collection of the Nazi leader’s speeches.

Marie Brenner, the article’s author, wrote: “Ivana Trump told her lawyer Michael Kennedy that from time to time her husband reads a book of Hitler's collected speeches, 'My New Order', which he keeps in a cabinet by his bed. 

Call him remarkably, even unbelievably, impulsive and mentally ill or emotionally twisted. Whatever he is, however, he has a strategy and one which has kept him extremely popular with a sizeable minority of American voters.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Some For It, Some Against It

Roger Ailes was brilliant when he invented the catchphrase "Fair and Balanced" for GOP TV. The network recently dropped it after it had served its purpose, both in promoting the network and in convincing much of the media that presenting a "fair and balanced" story eliminates the need to be accurate and thorough.

Politico reports

Nearly half of voters, 46 percent, believe the news media fabricate news stories about President Donald Trump and his administration, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.

Just 37 percent of voters think the media do not fabricate stories, the poll shows, while the remaining 17 percent are undecided.

More than three-quarters of Republican voters, 76 percent, think the news media invent stories about Trump and his administration, compared with only 11 percent who don’t think so. Among Democrats, one-in-five think the media make up stories, but a 65 percent majority think they do not. Forty-four percent of independent voters think the media make up stories about Trump, and 31 percent think they do not.

Wait, ye denizens of planet Earth, before accusing three-quarters of Republican voters of being "crazy" or "idiots" or "ignorant." Wait, because it arguably gets worse.  Shepard continues

But voters diverge from the president on whether the federal government should be able to punish news organizations that he believes make up stories about him. Trump last week suggested the government could revoke NBC’s broadcast licenses.

Only 28 percent think the government should have the power to revoke broadcast licenses of major news organizations that it says are fabricating news stories about a president or the administration, while 51 percent think the government should not be able to do that. Another 21 percent are undecided.

Voters are split along party lines on this question, too. More than two-thirds of Democrats, 68 percent, think the federal government should not have the power to revoke broadcast licenses of those organizations. But more Republicans, 46 percent, think the government should have that power than the third of GOP voters who don’t think so.

Shepard gently notes "only 28 percent think the government should have the power to revoke broadcast licenses of major news organizations that it says are fabricating news stories abut a president or the administration."

Only 28 percent? The journalist's diplomacy and kindness are impressive- but not admirable- as he wrote "only 28 percent," including 46 percent of Republicans "think the government should have that power."

That certainly is balanced, and it's arguably fair. But it's missing the larger picture.

The framers made as the first of the two parts of the First Amendment to the Constitution "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press."

More than one-quarter of voters- and nearly half of Republicans- believe Congress should consider a law abridging freedom of the press. And only a bare majority- 51 percent of the electorate- believes Congress should not have the power to render null and void First Amendment protections of freedom of the press.

Shepard did not explain that.  He did not observe that Americans are uneasy with the idea that there is a right to criticize this President. He did not notice that voters appear uncomfortable with the First Amendment.  He did not even mention the amendment, which in the minds of roughly half (46%) of Republicans should be in serious jeopardy.

These are remarkable numbers, or should be so considered. And they are especially dangerous numbers when pertaining to the party which controls the federal and most state governments and whose elected officials pander to voters in primaries rather than in general elections. Such journalism may be "fair and balanced," but is dedicated to avoid revealing the hard, discomfiting truth about our fellow citizens.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

"Joking About Murdering People" Is The Least Of It

Of Vice President Mike Pence, George Takei has tweeted "Not sure what's more disturbing, that Donald would joke about such a thing or that he would pick a man with these views as his number 2."

Takei can be sure, but he is at least closer to the answer than so many supporters of the gay rights movement. We read in Huffington Post

A growing number of celebrities, activists and tweeting voters expressed astonishment Monday over a report that President Donald Trump appeared to joke about Vice President Mike Pence’s stance on gays, saying he wanted to “hang them all.”

“What the fuck,” Josh Groban tweeted, getting right to the point.

According to a New Yorker profile on Pence published Monday, when an unnamed “legal scholar” began to discuss gay rights with Trump, the president gestured toward Pence and responded: “Don’t ask that guy — he wants to hang them all!” The article, “The Danger of a Pence Presidency,” addressed Pence’s religion and religion-based political positions and Trump’s frequent mockery of them. But former White House strategist Steve Bannon is also quoted as saying that “Trump thinks Pence is great.”

George Takei tweeted: “Not sure what’s more disturbing, that Donald would joke about such a thing or that he would pick a man with these views as his number 2.”

Chelsea Clinton noted that the president needs to be reminded that it’s never OK to joke about murdering people. The LGBTQ community is a particular target of hate crimes. At a Justice Department meeting on hate crimes in June, Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed an alarming “spate of murders ... around the country of transgendered individuals.” 

The Advocate asked its readers: “Still think he’s an ally? Trump joked about gays being hanged from nooses.” The National Center for Lesbian Rights responded, over and over, in a tweet: “This is not normal.” 

Spare me the self-righteousness.  Donald Trump was speaking rhetorically, intentionally exaggerating Trump's extremism regarding homosexuals (note: the opposite of this is "heterosexuals.") He was not criticizing, ridiculing, or even stating his opinion of their place in society, though it's extremely unlikely such a remark would be coming from a guy who endorses Pence's perspective.

The answer to Takei's question is that he would pick a man with these views as his number 2. In the article ("The Danger of President Pence") in The New Yorker in which the remark was published, investigative journalist Jane Mayer writes that early in his career

Even as Pence argued for less government interference in business, he pushed for policies that intruded on people’s private lives. In the early nineties, he joined the board of the Indiana Family Institute, a far-right group that supported the criminalization of abortion and campaigned against equal rights for homosexuals.

Before he was in elective office, "while Pence ran the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, it published an essay arguing that unmarried women should be denied access to birth control." Less than a decade later

In 2000, when a Republican congressman in northern Indiana vacated his seat, Pence ran as the Party favorite, on a platform that included a promise to oppose “any effort to recognize homosexuals as a discrete and insular minority entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws.” He won, by a twelve-point margin.

One non-partisan Indiana political scientist stated "The conventional wisdom is that he ran for governor so he could check that box, get some executive experience, and then run for President." However

In the spring of 2015, Pence signed a bill called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which he presented as innocuous. “He said it protected religious freedom, and who’s against that?” (Republican co-founder of Angie's List Bill) Oesterle recalled. But then a photograph of the closed signing session surfaced. It showed Pence surrounded by monks and nuns, along with three of the most virulently anti-gay activists in the state. The image went viral. Indiana residents began examining the law more closely, and discovered that it essentially legalized discrimination against homosexuals by businesses in the state.

Pence later signed a less discriminatory form of the bill following condemnation of the RFRA by gay groups, the NCAA, and the business community, including several companies which "began cancelling conventions, and threatening to reverse plans to expand in the state."  Nevertheless, he is has been a staunch opponent of anything gay, as well of reproductive freedom. He places religious belief above the Constitution and as Mayer puts it, is "the inside man of the conservative money machine" and is very close to the Koch brothers.

Anyone and everyone can get exorcised about a joke or, as it was from Trump's lips, a means to demean  #2.  Of far greater importance is what it says about Trump, and what it says about the guy who may replace him before November, 2020.. Mayer notes

“Trump’s supporters like to say, ‘It’s not what he says, it’s what he does that matters.’ That’s definitely the case when it comes to issues affecting LGBT Americans,” said Jimmy LaSalvia, who started the now-defunct conservative gay rights group GOProud along with Barron. “I never thought that Donald Trump was an anti-gay homophobe. I certainly didn’t think that when I met him back in 2011. But we’ve all learned a lot about who he really is since then. With his political pandering and posturing to endear himself to the intolerant wing of the GOP over the last few years, it doesn’t surprise me that this administration will go down as the most anti-LGBT in history.”

That is, of course, until and unless there is a Pence administration, which would be far more offensive than some off-hand remark by Donald Trump.

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Monday, October 16, 2017

The Man Behind The Curtain

As convention calls for, we call him "Mr. President."  His victory in the presidential race was impressive and despite a questionable performance as Chief Executive, he is due the respect his office commends.

I am talking of course about President Barack Obama. Someone should.

Appointed to the Democratic National Committee's Unity Commission as one of Bernie Sanders' representatives, activist Nomiki Konst tweets "Imagine a world where fall-in-love Dems hated former Dem VP nominee @Joe Lieberman as much as they hate progressive caucus members @SenSanders."

Senator Lieberman became unpopular among Democratic voters in Connecticut for continually and steadfastly supporting the Iraq War, and lost the Democratic primary for Senator in 2006. He then ran as an Independent, was supported by national Republicans and such conservatives as Rush Limbaugh, and easily won re-election.

Lieberman, who endorsed McCain-Palin in 2006 and was an opponent of the public option for health care, retired after that term.  However, he later appeared on the short list of the incoming Trump administration as a candidate for director of the FBI.

There was an uproar among congressional Democrats, and Lieberman obviously never was nominated. Understandably, then, Charlie Pierce had a point when in response to Konst's remark he snarked "Memer of Unity Commission Apparently Not Conscious For 15 years."

However, he missed another point, which may or may not have been in Konst's head. So did the individual who tweeted "Yeah, Dems 'loved' him for killing the Medicare buy in for ACA, oh man was he praised for that." One wonders how he was allowed to kill the Medicare buy-in.  The Guardian understood when it explained in 2009 that then-Senator Lieberman was

plumbing new depths of betrayal by using his deciding vote as an independent member of the Senate to hold hostage Barack Obama's reform of America's dysfunctional healthcare system.

Obama, desperate to ensure that the reform bid does not fail, has told congressional leaders to rewrite the legislation to keep Lieberman happy by removing any real competition to private insurance companies in an effort to get it passed by Christmas.

Lieberman's tactics have upset Democratic party members of Congress who are asking why a popular president's agenda is being stalled by a senator who has repeatedly turned his back on his old party. "I have no idea what Senator Lieberman's agenda is," said a Connecticut member of Congress, Chris Murphy. "I have stopped trying to be Sherlock Holmes."

Another member of Congress from Lieberman's home state, Rosa DeLauro, told Politico website: "No individual should hold healthcare hostage, including Joe Lieberman, and I'll say it flat out: I think he ought to be recalled."

Lieberman, 67, used his deciding vote in Congress to help strip out a provision for government-run medical insurance, intended to set up competition to the abuses of private companies, by threatening to filibuster the legislation.

One tweeter tried to rebut Konst by remarking "she seems totally ignorant of the fact that Joe Lieberman killed single payer, was supported by drug companies and is reviled by most D's. But Lieberman had an influential accomplice (video below from 1/12) in killing single payer and supporting drug companies. The Guardian continues

Senate leaders agreed to drop the public option for all in favour of allowing people over 55 to buy into an existing government-run scheme for the elderly. In September, Lieberman supported the measure, as he had when he was Al Gore's running mate. But just as it seemed that a deal was done, Lieberman scuppered it by announcing that he had changed his mind and would block any bill that expanded government insurance coverage. Obama gave way.

At least Konst realizes there is somewhere too little tolerance for progressive Democrats and a little too much for Lieberman. But like her critics, she does not recognize (or won't acknowledge) that Donald Trump was elected as a rejection of everything Obama, the most powerful Democrat of the last decade, who was ultimately responsible for killing the public option and most responsible for putting the Party where it is today.

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One of Our Own, Or So He Says

So do your thing ,Charles! Stephen A. Smith on Fox News on Wednesday night commented I got to tell you something. As much as people may ha...