Thursday, November 30, 2017

No Bar To Election

Vox's Jen Kirby notes that the most recent polls in the Alabama Senate race are far more favorable to Roy Moore than ones previously taken and postulates

Several factors might be sending voters back to Moore. The flurry of allegations that followed the Washington Post story, including a woman who said Moore groped her when she was 14 and he was 32 — have died down, and no new allegations have emerged since around November 15.

Moore also laid low for a little more than a week; until Monday night, the candidate hadn’t hosted a public event in 11 days.

President Donald Trump also broke his silence on the Moore situation before Thanksgiving, saying Moore “totally denied” the allegations. He has continued to bash the Democrat in the race, firing off on Twitter that Jones “would be a disaster.”

I hope she was chuckling, or at least hesitating, when whe wrote "several factors might be sending voters back to Moore." We cannot assume voters are returning to Moore when they might have been there all along. They merely might not have been keen on ostensibly telling pollsters- when the report about Moore was the hottest topic- "I'm with the perverted child predator."

Whether Moore is- or was- perverted or a child predator is not the determinative factor.  He has been portrayed in several quarters as just that and even though most Moore supporters likely view the source as the "liberal media," they did not want to be seen associating themselves with such a guy while the news was so prominent.

The other alternative to Kirby's unrealistic assumption is that voters have come back to Moore- but not for the reasons she cites. By one count, since the charges against Harvey Weinstein emerged, allegations have appeared against two men in sports, nine in politics, 15 in media, publishing and business, and 25 in entertainment.

Some of these are relatively obscure. But they include two Democratic members of Congress, which help Alabama voters rationalize- to themselves or otherwise- their opposition to the Democratic nominee for US Senator. They include also well-known individuals such as Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, Mark Halperin, Charlie Rose, and Matt Lauer.

And the 93-year-old George Herbert Walker Bush.  Although what he appears to have done- or still does- appears to have been far less reprehensible than most of the others, he, too, has gotten some publicity for misbehaving.

The accusations are coming fast and furious. If even a dedicated, elderly public servant can be found to have done wrong, an observation- never uttered in polite company- has taken hold among voters. Everyone is doing it.

If it is perceived as common behavior- and the notion that this conduct is prevalent and tolerated in American culture is being widely propagated- Roy Moore's behavior becomes somewhat normalized. It is seen as regrettable and even appalling. But it is not intolerable, not when his views represent those of a large swath of Alabama voters and his political party is the same as theirs.

When a candidate for President of the United States of America, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, and leader of the free world was found boasting about sexual assault, the American people wrung their collective hands and rendered their verdict.

That verdict was: who cares?  It is a judgement the media, pundits, celebrities, and the American people are loathe to acknowledge. And when the voters of a state are inundated with news of one charge after another, one bad boy after another, it should be unsurprising that they are willing to give one of their heroes a pass. After all: isn't everyone doing it?

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

What Trump Had In Mind

Some reporters and pundits believe that the Senate Minority Leader and the House Minority Leader made a strategic error in refusing to meet with President Grump over the government shutdown. However, Lawrence O'Donnell explains (segment from the beginning, quote from 4:03, of the video below):

Paul Ryan  and Mitch McConnell knew exactly why Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi weren't there today and they would have done exactly the same thing if it could have happened to them, which of course it never could because no Democratic president in history would ever insult the leadership of the other Party publicly when he was expecting to see them at a meeting in the White House. And so Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan knew the instant they saw the latest lie-filled Trump tweet this morning what was probably going to happen.

"Meeting with 'Chuck and Nancy' today about keeping government open and working. Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes. I  don't see a deal." 

And so for what- the idiot presidency that has been firing off lie-filled tweets at members of Congress in both parties (who) all year paid a very serious price today for the idiocy and for the lying. And we can only hope for the sake of the country, for the sake of sanity in government, that as a condition for re-entering the White House or any room to participate in any form of conversation with Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer will make it an absolute requirement that the President apologize for lying about them and their Democratic colleagues by saying that they want illegal immigrants flooding into the country unchecked and for saying that they are weak on crime and for saying that they substantially want to raise taxes.

Donald Trump will not apologize. He apologized once in his life- for saying what he was caught on the Access Hollywood tape boasting about- and now is reportedly claiming that the voice on the tape was not his own. Further, if he can claim with impunity that Doug Jones is weak on crime, he can say it about anyone. Immigration is his signature issue. It is the big lie of the GOP, repeated since at least the lying days of Ronald (6) Wilson (6) Reagan (6), that Democrats want to raise taxes. Without it, they have nothing.

O'Donnell realizes that Trump will not apologize but that the Schumer/Pelosi strategy nonetheless is necessary. He recognizes

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer now have the most powerful leverage anyone has ever had over Donald Trump to force him to retract lies, important lies. The President of the United States is lying about what is at stake in his discusssions with the Democrats. The President of the United States is lying that the Democrats want to substantially raise taxes, and so if  the Democrats reach any kind of legislative deal about anything that does not raise taxes, then Donald Trump will play them for suckers and claim that he won in that deal, whatever that deal might be becuase it does not raise taxes. 

The President is as of this moment playing Lindsey Nelson and Bob Corker, two Senators who have been vicioously attacked and publicly humiliated by Donald Trump, but who voted in the Budget Committee to pass on to the floor the tax bill Trump desperately wants. But the two top Democrats are not so easily used and abused and

Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi did not get played today by Donald Trump. If they and their advisers understand the importance of the moment than Trump has now given them. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer will make Donald Trump pay for his lies in a way that is not settling some petty score but an important lesson about the real governing questions involved in funding the government.

Americans have reason to fear tonight that the Trump insult machine has become so normalized in Washington that Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump will not demand a retraction from Donald Trump as a condition for dealing with him and if they don't, the truth will suffer once again and the future of governance in this country will take a turn for the worse. It is against most politician's nature to be confrontational in these situations.  They are compromisers by nature, especially in the congressional leadership and especially when the rationale for compromise is for the good of the country as it always is when trying to prevent a government shutdown, which is now eleven days away if Congress does not pass some kind of spending bill.

The government may stop operating in the short term. However

sometimes what is more important to the good of the country is not what happens if the government doesn't function properly tomorrow but what happens to the fundamental integrity of the governing process and that has been irredeemably corrupted by the lies of Donald Trump- the daily, unceasing lies of the President of  the United States about large and small times. And this time fighting against lies is more important than fighting to keep the government open because the Republicans don't know how to do that for themselves.

There isn't even much wailing and gnashing of teeth from Republicans. Mostly, there are GOP members of Congress telling receptive reporters that they really, really don't like the President's behavior. Nevertheless, they will (as the psychologists call it) "enable" him, encourage his lies and tweets and insults and threats by voting to give him a win in the House and the Senate.

Trump says the Democratic leaders "want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on crime and want to substantially raise taxes." And he acknowledged that nothing would be accomplished by a meeting because "I don't see a deal."

Imagine you're a married couple invited for dinner at the home of an individual with whom you've had a tenuous relationship. The morning of the appointed day, your prospective host tells everyone- your friends, antagonists, and others- that you "are fine with the neglect of children and want to see them abused. I don't think we're going to get along."

Imagine, additionally, that you're a Repub member of Congress. You will moan and groan, express discomfort with your host, and go to the dinner, only to be humiliated then or at a later date.

Now imagine that you are Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. You refuse, maintain your dignity and the dignity of your family, and demonstrate that you will not be played or manipulated.  That's leadership.

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Game Plan

On Tuesday night, Lawrence O'Donnell (segment beginning at 18:43) interviewed Gene Sperling, the director of the National Economic Council under Presidents Obama and Cinton.  Sperling noted of the Corporate Tax Cut Scam of 2017

This $1.5 trillion deficit increase is probably going to be larger when you actually take the gimmicks out. It could easily be closer to two trillion. So (Republican Tennessee Senator Bob) Corker says "well, let's put in a provision. It's kinf of like the whipping boy provision. If the corporate tax cuts don't bring in eonuth revenue, we'll raise taxes on middle-class Americans." Well, either that's not going to happen and it's a gimmick to give them cover for this huges deficit increase or it actually would raise taxes, actually when the economy is weak and make no sense at all.

Recognizing that obsessing over the deficit is bad policy (and probably bad politics), Charlie Pierce notes

The Deficit is about the fourth- or fifth-worst problem with what the Republicans are preparing to pass. Students will be hurt, so will the working poor. (God, Gene Sperling, enough with “the middle class.” When did Democrats decide that the poor were not part of the country?)

It took a while for Democrats to decide that the poor were not part of the country, enhanced by the realization that almost no voters care about the poor. But the lack of concern became evident in roughly late winter of 2008, when Party leadership and (admittedly) its voters decided that a primary race between three credible United States senators should be quickly winnowed to two of the individuals. (This was before the revelation about the sexual appetite of the other.)

The campaign would not be between one of the two candidates attempting to make "history" and the other candidate, John Edwards, who noticed two Americas, separate and unequal, wealthy and otherwise. It would be between the black male and the white woman, either of whose election would make "history," one ultimately doing so. Call it the prioritization of inherited characteristics over policy or something more pithy, but that was that.

The "two Americas," the rich set against the middle class and the poor, became the two Americas, well-educated and not, which worked out well for the Party in 2008 and boomeranged in 2016.

Nevertheless, it would be ironic if, while  suggesting policy should be more important for voters than race or gender, I would neglect arguably the most important policy implication of the Corporate Tax Cut Scam of 2017. Sperling continued

And I think what really is the concrn for so many people is that when they're raising $1.5 trillion deficit, you know, Lawrence,we know what they're going to do, the moment they do this, the  moment they make the deficit that much worse in the out years, they are going to go back and tell people they have no choice but to cut Medicare, Medicaid, maybe even Social Security. In fact,in their own budget, they have 473 in Medicare cuts and 1.3 trillion Medicaid. So when you look at what this is going to be, when you look at why this is going to be a bad deal for the middle class, it's not just that it raises their taxes, it's what they're going to do to make up for the debt increase they create, giving tax cuts for the top 1% and the largest companies in our country. 

Don't take it only from Democrat Gene Sperling. Bruce Bartlett, who served in the Reagan and Bush 43 administrations, concedes that while serving corporate donors is one objective of the GOP tax bill (hat tip to Steve M.)

.. The main reason is that a huge tax cut cements Republican policy into place even if Democrats regain control of Congress and the White House.

In fact, I think many Republicans know and expect that they may lose control of Congress in 2018 and the White House in 2020. Their tax cut will ensure that the era of Democratic control will be brief and unpopular....

Republican deficit hawks, who are now AWOL, will suddenly reappear the moment Trump signs the tax cut. The media will be filled with reports from leading authorities about how the deficit endangers the country in a variety of ways, arguing that action must be taken immediately.

But taxes will be off the table because of the tax pledge. Therefore, all deficit reduction must come from spending cuts. And of course, defense cuts will be off the table. Therefore, the bulk of cuts will have to come from so-called entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare because that’s all that will be left.

That would make the Corporate Tax Cut Scam of 2017 the culmination of Paul Davis Ryan's wet dream. It also would be the wet dream of his Republican Party, whose strategy always has been to make government fail, thereby undermining voters' faith in government, thus spurring demand to slash and burn the government.... such as programs of earned benefits, Social Security and Medicare, as well as Medicaid.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

They've Only Just Begun

Jen Kirby of Vox explains that the foiled Project Veritas sting

began, according to the Post, when a woman reached out to Beth Reinhard, one of the reporters who broke the story of Moore’s alleged sexual misconduct. “Roy Moore in Alabama . . . I might know something but I need to keep myself safe,” the source emailed Reinhard. “How do we do this?”

The story details the reporters’ follow-up with the woman, who identified herself as Jaime Phillips and claimed to have had a sexual relationship with Moore as a teen in Alabama. She became pregnant, she claimed, and Moore drove her to get an abortion in Mississippi. The Post says she pressed the reporters over whether the story would hurt Moore’s chances in the senatorial race.

This story is not as good as it sounds- and the only thing worse would have been if it had succeeded.  Vox notes

Inconsistencies in Phillips’s explosive stories quickly raised suspicion. The place she gave as her employer had no record of her. An online search uncovered a GoFundMe account page registered to a Jaime Phillips who was moving to New York “to combat the lies and deceipt of the liberal MSM.” She claimed in an interview filmed by Washington Post videographersthat she was interviewing for a job at the Daily Caller, but the woman she named as her interviewer wasn’t actually employed at the conservative website.

At the end of that interview, Phillips said, “I think I probably just want to cancel and not go through with it at this point.”

The Post says the woman was later spotted entering the New York offices of Project Veritas.

Stingmaster James O'Keefe could have hired someone without an obvious right-wing GoFundMe page.  Phillips could have named any employer- even Vandelay Industries- instead of a far right conservative website as a potential employer. And someone resolute, unlikely to get cold feet and back out isn't the best choice for such an operation.

Moreover, Phillips later was seen going into a Project Veritas office. What, no private Snapchat or Twitter messages? No text messaging, email, or even- wait for it- phone calls?  She actually walked into the New York office of Project Veritas?

This was, on the face of it, an unusually amateurish operation, clearly not up to the standards of the wickedly devious O'Keefe.

It was so ham-handed that it's suspicious. Aside from that, it should be of some concern if Phillips were exposed only because of these unforced errors- which O'Keefe can now learn from.

There will be other sneak attacks as the right continues to seek to undermine the credibility of journalists and journalism. James O'Keefe, Donald Trump, and others want nothing less than to destroy the free press.   If they are not to make further headway, supporters of the First Amendment will have to turn the tables on the authoritarian forces amongst us.

CNN has begun this. But it is only a beginning and others must join. Time grows short.

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Monday, November 27, 2017

Tip Of The Iceberg

The Hill reports

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in a new interview criticized former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for writing her memoir so soon after the 2016 election. 

“What’s the f---ing point? Keep the fight up?” McCain asked in an interview with Esquire.

“History will judge that campaign, and it’s always a period of time before they do. You’ve got to move on. This is Hillary’s problem right now: She doesn’t have anything to do.”

We know what Senator McCain (and virtually all his GOP comrades) have to do. They have to pass a tax bill shoving money upward because, well, that's what Republicans do. If it weren't their raison d'etre, they wouldn't be Republicans.

But let's give Senator McCain a break, even though he's planning to bolster theTrump presidency by passing the Great Corporate Tax Cut bill of 2017. History will judge the campaign, as he notes, and vindicate Hillary Clinton, which he does not. Last week, Gabriel Sherman explained

As Kushner’s Russia troubles mount—last Friday the Senate disclosed that he had not turned over e-mails about WikiLeaks, a claim his attorney, Abbe Lowell, denied—insiders are again speculating, as my colleague Emily Jane Fox reported last month, about how long Kushner and Ivanka Trump will remain in Washington. Despite Kushner’s efforts to project confidence about Robert Mueller’s probe, he expressed worry after the indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates about how far the investigation could go. “Do you think they’ll get the president?” Kushner asked a friend, according to a person briefed on the conversation.

Do you think they'll get the president, a knowing Jared Kushner asks. Odd it would be that he would worry about somone "getting" Trump unless he knew there was something to "get" him for. There is, and he does.

John McCain probably feels bad because he went quietly into the night, or rather, back into the Senate to join the GOP in opposing everything proposed by the guy who beat him- which was revenge of a sort. However, he was opposed only by Barack Obama.  Hillary Clinton had to defeat not only Donald Trump but also Jim Comey, Julian Assange, the right-wing media machine, and Vladimir Putin- and still won the popular vote.

So Hillary Clinton deserves a break. She could have waited a couple of years to put out her book. But given what Robert Mueller will almost surely report at the end of his investigation, John McCain and the degenerate party he belongs to have a lot more to worry about than Hillary Clinton's book.

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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Wishful Thinking

Assume a random selection of twenty (20) individuals believing that life begins at conception and thusabortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Then ask yourselves how many would reconsider- not necessarily change, but reconsider- their opinion if they were told, as Gregg Easterbrook wrote in 2001

What exists just after concption is called a zygote. Research now  suggests that only about half of all zygotes implant in the uterine wall and become embryos; the others fail to continue dividing and expire Of those embryos that do trigger pregnancy, only around 65 percent lead to live births, even with the best prenatal care. The rest are lost to natural miscarriage. All told, only about one-third of sperm-egg unions result in babies, even when abortion is not a factor.

How many anti-abortion rights individuals, informed that most of the time most zygotes do not naturally result in a live birth, will at least reconsider their position?

If you said very few, know that author Michael Wear disagrees with you.  Assessing the Senate race in Alabama, he asks

So, what can Jones do to ensure that Moore does not win in December? In a state where evangelical Protestants account for almost half the total population, it’s pretty clear he needs to win over some of his opponent’s evangelical supporters. But how?

Not through, God forbid, suggesting that he might not have supported Hodges v. Obergefell, in which the US Supreme Court mandated that states recognize same-sex marriage. He argues

In 2006, 81 percent of Alabama voters supported a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and less than 10 years later their vote was overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States. Jones should be able to affirm that decision, while also making clear that he does not think it mandates the government to exert pressure to change the teachings of Alabama’s churches or faithful.

Jones could state that he opposed the decision but that it is the law of the land, and time for the state to move on. That would win him few evangelical voters but would  not compromise policy because such marriages would continue to be performed in Alabama, as elsewhere. Instead, Wear contends that the solidly pro-choice Jones

could at the very least make solid commitments around supporting adoption and pursuing partnership with pro-life groups to find common ground ways to continue our national progress reducing the abortion rate...

None of this would require Jones to compromise his integrity, though national Democrats and some activists might get queasy if, say, he does promise to vote "present" on abortion.

Guest blogger Tom Hilton on No More Mister Nice Guy remarks

What a lovely notion. But of course, Democrats spent decades going down the rabbit hole of trying to find common ground on abortion, and their efforts were never met with good faith on the other side. There's zero evidence that it would buy us anything this time.

It hasn't convinced evangelical voters in the past and would convince few of them in Alabama. The promise would compromise his integrity and, if he were elected and followed through on this harebrained suggestion, it would enhance the Republican Party's efforts to curtail reproductive freedom.

The vast majority of pro-forced birth persons believe life begins at conception and that permitting abortion except in the most dire circumstances (and maybe not even then) is tantamount to "murder."

They believe there cannot be compromise. Were they a little less zealous (video below from 64/15), they would concede that abortion is- at its worst- killing and not murder, the latter being the illegal termination of human life.

But that's how it is with zealotry. And that's why the answer to the question posed in the third paragraph is "zero or close to it," while Michael Wear believes in magic wands, unicorns, and pro-lifers who will find common ground with those they consider their enemy.

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Tough Guy From Afar

In an unintentionally hilarious "Analysis/Opinion" piece on November 21, Charles Hurt of The Washington Times wrote

At some point, every warrior eventually runs out of arrows. His armor wears thin yet grows heavier still. He must lay down his weary helmeted head for rest.

Even Coriolanus was forced to retreat — at the behest of his mother.

Not so Donald Trump.

Not a weary drop of blood pumps through the man’s veins. He wears his thick armor light as skin. His bottomless quiver is never empty.

Fearlessly, President Trump sauntered away from his wife and son into the presence of his enemies. As casually as Clint Eastwood dispatching a horse thief, Mr. Trump laid waste to the media’s carefully choreographed plot to wrest the U.S. Senate away from Republicans and somehow smear the president with an accused child molester.

Would the president throw in with Judge Moore and defend a man accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl he picked up cruising the halls of family court? Would the president place politics above honor and try some wink and a nod? Would Mr. Trump give in and torch Judge Moore so thoroughly as to ensure that Democrats get one seat closer to controlling the Senate after next month’s Alabama election?

No, he wouldn't!  Instead

“I can tell you one thing for sure: We don’t need a liberal person in there, a Democrat — Jones,” Mr. Trump said calmly, referring to Judge Moore’s Democratic opponent, Doug Jones.

“I’ve looked at his record. It’s terrible on crime, it’s terrible on the border, it’s terrible on the military. I can tell you for a fact, we do not need somebody that’s going to be bad on crime, bad on borders, bad with the military, bad for the Second Amendment.”

As a sentient being having read those passages, you would assume that Mr. Hurt would state casually that the brave and bold actually endorsed Roy Moore. You would be wrong:

....The jackals were trying to trick Mr. Trump into getting all hung up on the salacious scandal. He missed the banana peel.Instead, he responded by talking about — ISSUES! Mr. Trump responded by talking about issues Alabama voters care most about. The outrage!....

Note how Mr. Trump did not endorse Judge Moore. He simply refused to endorse Democrat Doug Jones. Because Doug Jones is terrible on crime, the border, the military and the Second Amendment.

Now, that's a guy who knows how to give it to those jackals- he refused to support their candidate, a candidate from the opposite party of his own. Substituting for Steve M on No More Mister Nice Guy blog, Tom Hilton remarks

The most striking thing about this, besides the sheer awfulness of the writing, is the Onion-esque mismatch between rhetoric and subject. I mean, this slobbering paean to imaginary epic heroism is about a guy notable for his cowardice, whose epic battle is defending a guy who sexually assaulted a minor. 

This isn't the first time someone has noticed that Trump has a backbone composed of jelly.  Two months before the presidential election, Peter Beinart explained that the candidate had

begun doing something he previous avoided: talking to blacks and Latinos. Two weeks ago, he met with his Hispanic advisory council. According to media reports, he was “humble” and “conciliatory.” Did he call for deporting the undocumented immigrants already in the U.S., as he has repeatedly promised his overwhelmingly white crowds? Nope. According to Jacob Monty, who attended the meeting, Trump said “deporting them is neither possible nor humane.”

Then, last week, Trump flew to Mexico City to meet President Enrique Peña Nieto. Did he repeat the pledge that brings white crowds to their feet: that Mexico will pay for a wall along the two countries’ border? Nope. Beforehand, the two sides agreed not to discuss the subject. When Peña Nieto brought it up anyway, and announced that Mexico would never foot the bill, did Trump set him straight?

Nope. Rudy Giuliani, who was attending the meeting on Trump’s behalf, reportedly declared the topic “off the table” and The Donald moved on to less controversial subjects.

When Trump appeared publicly with Peña Nieto after their meeting, he again “avoided direct confrontation,” in The Washington Post’s words. He called it a “great, great, honor” to be invited to the country he has repeatedly trashed during the campaign. And he declared that he had “tremendous feelings” for the “tremendous” Mexican American people, a group he famously derided as rapists and drug dealers in his announcement speech.

But once Trump left Mexico and addressed an overwhelmingly white, anti-immigrant crowd that evening in Arizona, the Post noted, he ditched his “subdued and cooperative tone” and “returned to the aggressive tenor that has defined much of his campaign. Repeatedly raising his voice to a yell, he said that ‘anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation.’”

Twelve months prior to Beinart's article, I had written of the meeting between Trump and Javier Palomerez, chairperson of the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Palomerez's interview afterward with Chris Hayes when

Palomerez stated "The Donald Trump that I met today and that I sat with today was very different from the Donald Trump that I saw in the media," Hayes asked "what do you mean by that?" and Palomerez responded

The Donald Trump I sat with today was hospitable, he was a gentleman. He listened much more than he spoke. He asked questions.

We continue to disagree, particularly on the wall. We agreed on this notion of mass deportation of 11 million people. And we continued to agree on the fact that we will not use Trump properties.

Of course he was hospitable, unwilling or unable to confront Palomarez, there representing the "rapists" who are "bringing drugs (and) crime." Moreover, what Beinart understood in September, 2016 about candidate Trump was not limited to immigrants as

The oscillation continued this weekend, when Trump addressed an African American congregation in Detroit. “Trump’s subdued rhetoric,” noted Politico, “was a jarring contrast to his typically boisterous rallies.” The Republican nominee said nothing about Black Lives Matter being responsible for the murder of police, as he had told Bill O’Reilly. He didn’t imply, as he has to white audiences, that African Americans are prone to voter fraud. He said nothing about Barack Obama not being born in the United States. He didn’t repeat his claims that blacks should vote for him because their lives are so miserable that they have nothing “to lose.” Instead, he flattered his audience, calling black churches “the conscience of our country,” which had inspired America “toward a better moral character, a deeper concern for mankind, and spirit of charity and unity that binds us all together.” Trump’s remarks, noted the Post, constituted a “jarring shift in tone and message.”

Twenty-six months later, Slate's Fred Kaplan pointed out that in a joint appearance with mainland Chinese president Xi Jinping

in front of American business leaders, Trump repeated his long-standing charge that U.S.-Chinese trade relations are “very one-sided and unfair,” but, in a new twist, he quickly added, “I don’t blame China. Who can blame a country that is able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens? I give China great credit.”

Maybe Donald Trump is simply the most politically correct politician in America, frightened when face-to-face with the Red Chinese or minorities, preferring to slam either or both with the safety and  security of distance. Nonetheless, whatever he is, he is no Dirty Harry.

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Friday, November 24, 2017

So Much For The Weak, Lowly, And Destitute

"Hope springs eternal," as the cliche has it. And hope sprang (sprang?) eternal with two Presbyterian ministers who prayed with President-Elect Trump in December.

The tall Scott Black Johnston is senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica, Qeens, at which Donald Trump's mother Mary was a member and her son baptized and confirmed. Patrick H. O'Connor is the senior pastor of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in the borough of Manhattan, closer to Trump Tower than any church.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Great Is Our President And Mighty In Power

Wednesday morning brought, in a dual message, one of President Trump's finest tweets as he remarked

It wasn't the White House, it wasn't the State Department, it wasn't father LaVar's so-called people on the ground in China that got his son out of a long term prison sentence - IT WAS ME. Too bad! LaVar is just a poor man's version of Don King, but without the hair. Just think LaVar, you could have spent the next 5 to 10 years during Thanksgiving with your son in China, but no NBA contract to support you. But remember LaVar, shoplifting is NOT a little thing. It's a really big deal, especially in China. Ungrateful fool!

While Trump believes LaVar Ball is merely "a poor man's version of Don King, but without the hair," Ball would more accurately be described as "a version of Donald Trump, but without the bankruptcies."

Snark aside, much of  the criticism of the President focused on his racial motivation, as in Chris Cillizza blasting

the racial dog-whistling he offers up by describing Ball as a "poor man's version of Don King -- without the hair" and blasting him as an "ungrateful fool"....

Given Trump's demonstrated willingness -- as a candidate and as president -- to play on racial stereotypes and racial animus to benefit his own political interests, it's impossible to ignore the underlying messaging here.

King and Ball are both black. King is someone with a long-held reputation as a over-the-top hype man. By comparing Ball to King, Trump is hoping to minimize him, turn him into a sort of cartoon character in the eyes of the president's political base.

We're accustomed to the Lord Donald's arrogance and ignorance, and even to the peculiarly Trumpian mix of grandiosity and insecurity manifested in a remarkable need for adulation and validation for every action.

The cartoonish insults, in this case "poor man's version of Don King but without the hair," are almost as entertaining as they are rude, unprofessional, and unbecoming of the office of President. These recent tweets, however, combine an incomprehension of civics with gracelessness that would be stunning, if we were to notice.

The rap on the State Department- it wasn't the State Department!- was unsurprising coming from a man who has contempt for American government, American institutions, and the American people.  Yet, we failed to notice that President Donald Trump, he of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., typed "it wasn't the White House."

Although Trump spends an inordinate time at his personal properties, it's nearly inconceivable that he doesn't realize that he actually resides at the White House.  It wasn't LaVar's people, the State Department, or the White House. It was me!!!

The White House is shorthand for the President of the United States of America, the most powerful position, we are led to believe, on Earth. Yet even the White House, Trump argues, was unable to extricate Ball's son from the Chinese. It was Donald J. Trump, and Donald J. Trump alone, able to do what even the President is unable (video below from 4/17).

As it is must be written in Matthew 19:26(b) "with man this is impossible but with Trump all things are possible." Moreover, "'As surely as I live,'" says the Donald, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge Trump.'"

HAPPY THANKSGIVING- and be thankful that one year has passed and the USA has neither begun nor instigated a  nuclear war.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Evangelical Impulse

Roy Moore stands a little better than a 50-50 chance of being elected senator from Alabama, after which he will not be removed. One indication of the former is that Donald Trump, who demands to be seen as a "winner," gave a shout-out to the former  judge Tuesday.

The reason, obviously, that Moore may be elected is white evangelicals.  Not only does the vast majority support the Republican, but a recent poll found that 37% found they are "more likely" to vote for him following recent revelations about sexual predation.

That is astounding, or at least seems counter-intuitive.  However, Nate Silver, straining as ever to be objective and neutral, "would encourage some caution about interpreting this" and tweets "for most voters, 'more likely to support after allegations' means 'I'm a Moore supporter & don't believe the allegations' and not " I approve of the conduct the allegations allege.'"

No one is suggesting evangelicals actually approve of the conduct the allegations allege. It's simply that the allegations are of little interest to them.

Eangelical organizations generally accept the four-pronged definition of "evangelical," focused on the kingship of Jesus Christ, promulgated by David Bebbington in 1989. That's interesting and  informative, but arguably irrelevant in the context of American culture and inarguably irrelevant in the context of American politics.

Most polling to determine the prevalence of evangelicals- or of any other religious group, including atheist and "none of the above"- relies on self-identification. That makes it a little less startling that, as Baylor University history professor Thomas S. Kidd notes

One study of the 2016 GOP primaries showed that these nonchurchgoing evangelicals were more likely to support Donald Trump — around 53 percent of Trump supporting evangelicals marked that they seldom/never went to church. That percentage dropped to around 36 percent for Trump supporting evangelicals who went to church weekly. Of course, a strong majority of self-identified evangelicals went on to support Trump in the general election.

Around 53 percent of Trump supporting evangelicals marked that they seldom/never went to church.  It's hard to square that with "Bebbington's quadriennial:" a high regard for  the Bible, emphasis on the saving effects of the crucifixion, and the belief that people must be converted and faith inform one's daily actions.

Those beliefs are secondary because the political is now religious.  The right to an abortion is a litmus test for many of these self-styled evangelicals. Support it  and they won't trust you on any issue and will doubt your commitment to Christianity; oppose it and they'll follow you anywhere, even if you're an accused child predator.

Whatever the historical roots of "evangelical," Kidd recognizes, it now has

become more of a rough political and ethnic signifier. What today’s “evangelicals” have in common is not so much Biblicism or action for the gospel, but a self-defined sense of religiosity and a dogged commitment to Republican politics. And being white.

Kidd observes "Other than political allegiances, we don't know much about what the term evangelical means any more." That was more than enough to get Donald Trump elected, and probably will be enough to get a disgraced ex-judge with curious sexual mores elected to the U.S. Senate.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

On The Mt. Rushmore Of Moral Equivalence

We now know that Stephen Moore knows roughly as much about cultural/social policy as he does about economic policy, which sits fine with many GOP voters.

The economist who has gotten it wrong about tax cuts, the minimum wage, and income inequality while bouncing around amongst the Club for Growth, Wall Street Journal editorial page, Cato Institute, Fox News, and the Heritage Foundation made a ridiculous comment on CNN Monday about the Alabama Senate race. He claimed

By the way, the Democrat is no saint, either. The Democratic candidate is for partial birth abortion in a state that's highly Christian and Catholic. So you know, there's no moral high-ground here between the two candidates.

That's a remarkable invocation of moral equivalence. Additionally

- We have no reason to believe Doug Jones is "for" partial birth abortion. Though decidedly pro-choice, he has not endorsed partial-birth abortion or any of the other procedures used late in pregnancy;

- "Christian" and "Catholic" are not mutually exclusive, given that Roman Catholics (as well as Protestants and Orthodox Christians) are Christian;

-  Virtually every state is "highly Christian and Catholic," as Moore puts it, or "Christian" as do the less ignorant.  Even in Hawaii, at least 60% of the population identifies with a Christian denomination, and nearly 60% in big, bad, liberal Democratic Massachusetts.

- Unless Stephen Moore has quizzed Jones on theology, neither he (nor we) knows whether Doug Moore is not a saint. When the apostle Paul wrote the Romans "To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints," he was referring to all believers in Christ Jesus. When coupled with the assertion two chapers later "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," Paul was asserting that an individual may simultaneously be a saint and a sinner.

It's not surprising that a Repub would equate support for a woman's right to choose with a lifestyle decision of  preying on children. (Although candidate Moore is only alleged to have done these things, economist Moore is not contesting the allegations.)  Though some GOP politicians and pundits (and millions among the rank-and-file) support abortion rights, none dare admit it in public. Openly advocating same-and-sex marriage is now legal in the GOP playbook; advocating reproductive rights is not. Go figure.

Moore is not implying that abortion and the acts of candidate Moore are equivalent but that abortion is worse. Moore is accused of committing heinous acts; no one is accusing Jones of performing a partial-birth abortion, but merely of condoning it. Yet, he is as morally reprehensible as candidate Moore, economist Moore argues.

That shouldn't be surprising. Opposing abortion rights is easy for the arbiters of morality. As more and more individuals- even sons and daughters of Republicans- come out of  the closet and reveal they are gay, opposing them openly leaves some culture warriors feeling exposed to charges of  "homophobia." And as more and more women reveal they have been sexually harassed or assaulted, men are concerned that were they to condone such behavior, the women in their lives would not be amused.

There is no such danger in opposing a woman's right to choose, especially when pro-lifers can stand on the intellectual quicksand of supporting punishment for a doctor who performs the procedure while claiming the woman is a "victim" of dark, sinister forces. Further, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to be focused on the Supreme Court, with abortion being the biggest issue they perceive for  the High Court.

And so it is that economist Stephen Moore, who is as concerned about abortion as you are whether your neighbor four doors down will be enjoying turkey, chicken, or ham for Thanksgiving, will shoot  his mouth off about a  topic he knows nothing about. Yet, there is method in his disingenuousness, which is not madness. For many in the pro-forced birth movement, abortion is "murder," individuals who believe it should be allowed are little better than murderers, and murderers are not to be reasoned with or condoned.

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Monday, November 20, 2017

Smarter Than A Fifth Grader

Maybe Donald Trump is a lot smarter than we give him credit for.

President Trump was busy reminding us Sunday that the doesn't like young black men, tweeting
"Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!"

He has made it clear how little regard he has for other Americans- such as veterans, and not only prisoners of war like John McCain.  The direct hit was last autumn when he said "When you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat and they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in the room have seen many times over, and you’re strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can’t handle it..."

Less direct but more definitive, a couple of months earlier, he had recounted receiving a Purple Heart medal and stated "And I said, 'Man, that’s like big stuff. I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier.” I always wanted to get the Purple Heart, Trump recounted, figuring it was like doing a little paperwork and plunking down a small application fee with no heavy lifting required.

We might have thought Trump was not so bright when after winning the Las Vegas caucus he remarked "We won the evangelicals. We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated."

But maybe he had found electoral gold. In a "Pulse of the People" segment on CNN's "new Day" Monday, Aliyson Camerota probed the views of a modified/abridged/brief focus group of Trump voters. Keith Lee, who idenitified himself as "a Jamaican," commented "if Jesus Christ gets down off the cross and tells me Trump is with Russia,' I'd say 'hold on a second, I'll have to check with the President.'"

Lee still would support the President, however, because Trump would tell him "He is a god because he was captured and executed. I like people who weren't captured... perhaps he was a god, but he's said a lot of very bad things about a lot of people, including the Pharisees."

It's not surprisiing that the President retains the support of individuals such as Lee, who explained

I own a pest control company. It's not much but it's mine. And I work hard for it. I never went to college. Just a typical guy who's trying to make a living. And for years they've just been kicking us to the side. And here comes the President...

Aside from being a small business owner- staunch conservatives  in most societies- and believing the inscrutable "they" are keeping people such as himself down, Lee noted "I never went to college."

Donald Trump has bragged about going "to an Ivy League college" and being "a very intelligent person" When he maintained "I love the poorly educated"- without giving any reason- he probably was thinking "because they have no clue." Still, his target audience was the uneducated... and he told them he likes them. Probably few potential voters ever had heard they were liked because they were educated. Whether Trump was seen as sincere would be less important than that the was telling the individuals that he appreciated them for who they were- and for how they could help him win.

Similarly, when in August Trump was presented with legislation imposing new sanctions on Russia, he understood what was not clearly understood by the media and the public (including myself).  While most of the media (The New York Times an exception) believed he could only sign or veto the legislation, the President had something else in mind.As the beneficiary (at least) of a Russian campaign to throw him the election, he could not safely veto the measure. Instead, he signed it, yet in late October we learned

The administration has since blown past an October 1 deadline to implement the sanctions. Lawmakers are now searching for answers as to whether the president is even planning to follow the law that they passed and he signed.

side from procedural tactics, Congress is essentially powerless in compelling the executive branch to follow through on the law it forced them to sign....

The legislation, which was approved overwhelmingly by both houses of Congress, slapped sanctions on Russia and codified existing ones over its election meddling and incursions into eastern Europe that have drawn condemnation from the U.S. and its allies....

Per the legislation, the administration was required to issue guidance by October 1 on how it was implementing the sanctions against Russia. That process includes publishing a list of the people and organizations who will be targeted by the sanctions, which are primarily aimed at Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors.

But that deadline came and went without any actual guidance issued, and lawmakers feel as though they are being stonewalled by an administration which has the tools it needs to implement and enforce the sanctions, yet has not followed through. A National Security Council spokesman declined to comment to The Daily Beast.

“With all the tough talk coming from the White House, it’s baffling that the administration still hasn’t enforced any of the new sanctions Congress passed in August,” Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told The Daily Beast.

It's not actually "baffling"; it's more like P-U-T-I-N.   Although the President might not get away with it permananently, it's still  a pretty slick move, subtly and skillfully sending the Kremlin the desired message.

It's possible, of course, that neither these items nor anything else will prove to be part of any grand strategy, that they are all part of a warped mind. But though the President is crude and rude,unfeeling, ignorant, and reckless, he may be far more clever than he's generally given credit for.

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Fair Is Fair. Do We Have A Deal?

Slate's Ruth Graham approvingly, even satisfyingly, summarizes

The nonpartisan nature of the current moment of reckoning helps explain why the Bill Clinton moment has finally arrived. On Monday, Caitlin Flanagan published an essay in theAtlantic arguing that it’s time for liberals to reassess Bill Clinton’s moral legacy. On Tuesday, Michelle Goldberg wrote a column in the New York Times titled “I Believe Juanita.” “I think we got it wrong,” Matt Yglesias wrote in Vox on Wednesday. “The [Lewinsky] scandal was never about infidelity or perjury—or at least, it shouldn’t have been. It was about power in the workplace and its use.” In hindsight, he concludes, Clinton should have resigned.

In hindsight, Yglesias is wrong, except that had Clinton resigned, Al Gore would have become President and been elected in 2000, which probably would have prevented US military involvement in Iraq, brought the issue of climate change to the fore, and would have kept Samuel Alito and John Roberts off the Supreme Court.

That's not what Clinton's critics have in mind, but let's strike a deal.  Democrats will acknowledge that Bill Clinton should have been convicted by the Senate and hence removed from office. In return, Republicans agree that a major mistake was made in the autumn of 1991.  Given that both events are well in the past, comparison of the latter with Clinton is far more appropriate than comparing Bill Clinton to Roy Moore, Al Franken, or anyone else.

Clarence Thomas was a liar. He did not merely deceive, obfuscate, or misled, but instead lied his way onto the United States Supreme Court while playing the race card more ruthlessly than it ever was or has been, alleging a "high-tech lynching for uppity blacks...."

We know Clarence Thomas sexually harassed Anita Hill because Angela Wright, who had worked under Thomas at the EEOC, had told Senate interviewers that Thomas once asked her on their way to a meeting "What size are your breasts?" However, Biden harbored doubts about her veracity and discouraged her from testifying. Yet, in a 2010 memoir Lillian McEwen, Thomas' girlfriend at the time of the disputed events, says Thomas "was obsessed with porn. He would talk about what he had seen in magazines worth noting" and that he would talk aout the women with whom he worked- especially regarding their breast size.

We know Thomas sexually harassed Anita Hill because, as laid out by Steve Kornacki in 2010

Rose Jourdain, who had worked with Wright under Thomas, told committee investigators that Wright had spoken to her while they worked together about their boss' conduct. As later reported by Graves, "Though her recollections had differed slightly from Wright's, Jourdain ... had confirmed the basic elements of Wright's account, including Wright's anger at Thomas for what Wright had said was overtly sexist behavior. Jourdain had mentioned "comments [Wright] told me that he was making concerning her figure, her body, her breasts, her legs, how she looked in certain suits and dresses."

We know Thomas sexually harassed Anita Hill because

Three Hill friends -- Susan Hoerchner, Ellen Wells and John Carr -- testified under oath that she had told them about Thomas' conduct as it happened between 1981 and 1983. "Anita said that Clarence Thomas had repeatedly asked her out ... that he wouldn't seem to take 'no' for an answer,'' Hoerchner told senators. "The thing Anita told me that struck me particularly and that I remember almost verbatim was that Mr. Thomas had said to her, 'You know, if you had witnesses, you'd have a perfect case against me.'"

We know Thomas sexually harassed Anita Hill because

In a letter to the committee, a former aide to Thomas at the EEOC, Sukari Hardnett, wrote that many black women at the agency felt they were "an object of special interest" to their boss. "If you were young, black, female and reasonably attractive," her letter read, "you knew full well you were being inspected and auditioned as a female."

We know Clarence Thomas sexually harassed Anita Hill because as the Washington Post three years after Thomas' confirmation described the book written by then-Wall Street Journal reporters Jill Abramson and Jane Mayer

"Strange Justice" uses statements from Thomas's friends and associates to undermine Thomas's testimony that he never talked dirty with Hill. The authors, after interviewing acquaintances as far back as his college years at Holy Cross, report that he often recounted sexually explicit films in lurid detail. Kaye Savage, a former colleague, reports that the walls of his bachelor apartment were covered with Playboy nude centerfolds. The owner of a video store near the EEOC said Thomas was a regular customer for pornographic movies."

There was more from Kornacki. But since then we also learned that lawyer Moira Smith- in an incident she described contemporaneously wth four individuals- on 10/7/16 (October 7!) wrote on her Facebook page

At the age of 24, I found out I’d be attending a dinner at my boss’s house with Justice Clarence Thomas. I was so incredibly excited to meet him, rough confirmation harings notwithstanding. He was charming in many ways- giant, booming laugh, charismatic, approachable. But to my complete shock, he groped me while I was setting the table, suggesting Ishould sit "right next to him." When I feebly explained that I'd been assigned to the  other table, he groped again.... "are you'sure'"?? I said I was and proceeded to keep my distance.

Thomas was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and confirmed by the full Senate for several reasons. Supporers of Thomas included southerners- and southern blacks, who were important to southern Democratic senators, of whom there were a few back then. Judiciary committee chairperson Biden choked. Additionally, a defiant Thomas was more believable than Hill because sexual harassment and intimidation was little understood at the time and while Hill was calm, the extraordinarily self-righteous Thomas skillfully acted as the aggrieved victim.

But now, some feminist writers and Republicans maintain, we must be more willing to accept the accusations of women that they have been the object of unwanted attention and abuse from men, and the charges against Bill Clinton must be viewed in this spirit of enlightenment. So, okay- let's investigate Mr. Clinton, shall we? And while we're at it, we'll reconsider the case of Hill v. Thomas.

Better yet, if both are found responsible, we can demand that neither hold an office or position in the United States government from this point onward. Game on.

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

There Are Harassment, Assault, And Then There Is Donald Trump

On Thursday, President Trump, with characteristic taste and class, tweeted "The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures 2,3,4,5 & 6 while she sleeps?..." On the related issue of whether Senator Franken should resign, Bill Maher remarks (at 36:52 of the video below)

What I heard from people who were making this argument yesterday was "well, we have to get rid of Al Franken because otherwise it's a 'push.' They're goin to say Al Franken, we say Roy Moore" and this is what Democrats always do. They shrink from making the counter-argument. Instead of going there with "oh, well we can't use this, we're just going to go away, let him resign," make the counter-argument - do what I just did in the monologue, say he's not the Zodiac Killer, it's not the same thing.

No one is the Zodiac Killer in the spate of charges about sexual harassment and sexual assault. But there is someone who may be the Zodiac Killer of sexual impropriety and degeneracy. And as luck would have it- with all the cries, many justified, of outrage- he sits in the White House. Yes, Al Franken acted like, as Maher also put it Friday, a "child" and "d_ _ _," and yet less than a year ago we elected Donald Trump even though (or because)

During a court deposition, Ivana Trump—Donald's first wife and mother to Eric, Donald Jr. and Ivanka—accused the president of raping her in 1989. The private account was described in former Newsweek reporter Harry Hurt III’s 1993 book, Lost Tycoon. It details the alleged "violent assault," in which Trump pulled out fistfuls of his ex-wife’s hair after receiving a painful operation on his scalp.

"He jams his penis inside her for the first time in more than sixteen months," Hurt wrote. "Ivana is terrified.… According to versions she repeats to some of her closest confidants, 'he raped me.'"

Ivana walked back her allegations against Trump after his lawyers insisted she write the following statement at the beginning of her book, according to The New York Times: "During a deposition given by me in connection with my matrimonial case, I stated that my husband had raped me. I referred to this as a 'rape,' but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense."

That alleged rape occurred the year before Mr. Trump

went to a party with Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire who was a notorious registered sex offender, and raped a 13-year-old girl that night in what was a "savage sexual attack," according to a lawsuit filed in June 2016 by "Jane Doe." The account was corroborated by a witness in the suit, who claimed to have watched as the child performed various sexual acts on Trump and Epstein even after the two were advised she was a minor.

"Immediately following this rape Defendant Trump threatened me that, were I ever to reveal any of the details of Defendant Trump’s sexual and physical abuse of me, my family and I would be physically harmed if not killed," Jane Doe wrote in the lawsuit, filed in New York.

The lawsuit was dropped in November 2016, just four days before the election, with Jane Doe's attorneys citing "numerous threats" against her.

Four years later, in 1993, Trump did not successfully pull off a rape, although

A former Trump business associate, Jill Harth, claimed in a 1997 lawsuit the New York real estate mogul “attempted rape” and groped her without her consent on various occasions. In the suit, Harth described a violent encounter at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, in which Trump allegedly threw her against the wall of one of his children’s bedrooms before lifting up her dress.

"It was a shocking thing to have him do this, because he knew I was with George [her partner], he knew they were in the next room," she recalled in an October 2016 interview with The Guardian. "How could he be doing this when I'm there for business?"

In the pre-election interview, Harth maintained her allegations against Trump despite having withdrawn her lawsuit against him after he settled a separate suit her partner filed over a business dispute.

Those are three rapes and/or attempted rapes Donald Trump is accused of, quite apart from the numerous other instances of sexual assault there is evidence he has committed (video below from 10/16).  He has denied all of it because Donald Trump has denied everything at every time, save for appearing on the Access Hollywood tape because there is video seen by hundreds of millions of people across the USA alone.

That revelation (apparently inconsequential to loads of people) occurred approximately four months before he was elected President of the United States of America, the most powerful nation ever on planet Earth.

Referring to the Zodiac Killer, Maher made the plea for proportionality. Though God is in the details, politics is effectively done in sound bites, and I don't know how the Democratic Party would convey the concept without being (unjustly) accused of rationalizing or excusing the less serious behavior of the Minnesota senator and others.

Still, there is trouble ahead, whether for the Party, the culture, or both.  If all offending behavior of a sexual nature is lumped together in an indecipherable Trump-Weinstein-Moore-Franken stew, "they all do it" becomes a handy excuse for an increasingly bored or confused public.

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Who Is Your Father, Again?

There probably is no special place in hell for her or for her father. But there is a huge "H" waiting to be claimed, as it should be, by the individual closer to Donald Trump than anyone else- including Vladimir Putin, Rodrigo Duterte, and Xi Jinping- in the world.

Special Assistant to the President Ivanka Trump 

had harsh words for the alleged behavior of Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama.

Trump weighed in on the scandal to the AP, saying: "There's a special place in hell for people who prey on children. I've yet to see a valid explanation and I have no reason to doubt the victims' accounts."

She did not call for Moore to exit the race.

"There's a special place in hell for people who prey on children;" this from Ivanka Trump, who seems blithely, happily unaware of her hypocrisy.

Her father never has been accused of "preying on children," notwithstanding the fifteen (15) adult women who have accused him of sexual harassment or assault. Still, speaking on air in 2005to Howard Stern

“Before a show, I’ll go backstage and everyone’s getting dressed, and everything else, and you know, no men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it,” he said. “You know, I’m inspecting because I want to make sure that everything is good.”

“You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. ‘Is everybody okay?’” he continued. “And you see these incredible looking women, and so, I sort of get away with things like that.”

Trump always has had his standards. He told Stern "I have age limit. I don't want to be like Congressman Foley, with, you know, 12-year-olds."

We're relieved- no seventh graders for Donald Trump.  However, tenth graders were evidently fine inasmuch as

Four women who competed in the 1997 Miss Teen USA beauty pageant said Donald Trump walked into the dressing room while contestants — some as young as 15 — were changing.

“I remember putting on my dress really quick because I was like, ‘Oh my god, there’s a man in here,’” said Mariah Billado, the former Miss Vermont Teen USA.

Trump, she recalled, said something like, “Don’t worry, ladies, I’ve seen it all before.”

Three other women, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of getting engulfed in a media firestorm, also remembered Trump entering the dressing room while girls were changing. Two of them said the girls rushed to cover their bodies, with one calling it “shocking” and “creepy.” The third said she was clothed and introduced herself to Trump.

Then there was the time that

Eight former “Apprentice” crew members told the AP Trump once compared a camerawoman’s beauty to his daughter’s, making repeated comments about the camerawoman’s behind.

A former contestant on the show, Poppy Carlig, said Trump once asked her to twirl in front of him so he could look at her figure.

“I don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that people are having bad intentions with what they are saying,” Carlig told the AP. “He said I reminded him of his daughter and I thought that was really touching because I know how much he values his family.”

Yes, Donald Trump values his family, including his daughter, just not in the way that you, the reader, does, unless you're on lifetime supervision for a sex offense.  And who can forget the time that Trump on ABC's The View stated "if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps, I would be dating her.”

It's unlikely Donald was talking about taking her for an afternoon of fishing, to the neigborhood malt shop, or for square dancing at the local Presbyterian Church. Nonetheless, Ivanka sat next to him, smiling all through it, not thinking "There's a special place in hell for people who prey on children" or openly lust for their daughters. 

It would be presumptuous to supplant God's prerogative and suggest there is a special place in hell for Ivanka Trump or even her lascivious father.  But maybe a special place in heaven could be reserved for her if she would do us all the favor of going away, now and permanently.

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Act Out And Be Rewarded

This is not helping, and somebody powerful is responsible.

President Trump, providing further material for the psychologists who would plumb the depths of his psyche, has in two posts tweeted

To the three UCLA basketball players I say: You're welcome, go out and give a big Thank You to President Xi Jinping of China who made your release possible and, HAVE A GREAT LIFE!” Be careful, there are many pitfalls on the long and winding road of life!”

Each of the three players expressed appreciation for the intervention which led to their release:

"To President Trump and the United States government, thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf. We really appreciate you helping us out," Cody Riley, one of the three UCLA players, said at a press conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

LiAngelo Ball, another of the players, said he "would also like to thank President Trump and the United States government for the help that they provided," and Jalen Hill, the third involved player, said, "Thank you to the United States government and President Trump for your efforts to bring us home."

Unfortunately, the athletes did not respond promptly after their release, but instead after Trump's initial tweet, in which he selfishly renarked "Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!"

Mr. Trump, the alleged Christian:: I'll help you but you better thank me, and thank me publicly.

Prior to Trump's last tweet and the thanks offered by the players, Chris Cillizza noted, in what is probably less pathetic and more alarming

That the three players are all young black men should also not be lost here. Trump's history on racial issues -- both as president and as a private citizen -- shows some level of intentionality when it comes to using racially coded language and taking advantage of racial animus and stereotypes for his own political gain.

The image of an older white man in a position of power demanding thanks from three young black men for saving them will set off a lot of alarm bells for people. And, understandably so, given Trump's previous actions in the wake of the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and in the ongoing NFL anthem protests.

Even if you take out the racial element, what Trump is asking for is to be thanked (or, more accurately, thanked by the "right" people) for doing his job.

But even without Trump's arguably racial motivation and his attitude of entitlement, the Ball-Hill-Riley response was ill-timed. Even before the President's first tweet, the gratitude of the college basketball world was conveyed to the President by Pacific-12 athletic conference commissioner Larry Scott, whose statement read

"We are grateful for the role that our Chinese hosts played, and for the courtesy and professionalism of the local authorities," Scott said Tuesday. "We also want to acknowledge UCLA's significant efforts on behalf of their student-athletes."

He added: "Finally, we want to thank the President, the White House and the US State Department for their efforts towards resolution."

That was swift, tasteful, and appropriate, coming from an individual of authority.

That should have ended it. Once Trump responded with his characteristically haughty and imperious tweet, the players should have been allowed to remain silent, The only response should have come from the league in a manner which would not have been ego-gratifying to America's big baby.

The back-and-forth in this matter is not a big thing. But though psychologists differ on whether Donald  J. Trump suffers from a mental illness, he obviously often behaves as a child.  While some professionals call it "enabling," it is, expressed more generically, approval of the behavior, thereby empowering and President and facilitating his behavior.

Recording a hostage tape, the players deserve credit, given that their affect made clear that the statements were scripted and their participation forced. But someone clearly of a higher authority decided to succumb to to an immature, would-be authoritarian. It's difficult to say "no" to a child, particularly when he wields the power of the presidency, but it needs to start somewhere.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Imagine An Undocumented Alien

As activists reach for effective code words as tools of persuasion, objectivity and accuracy take a whacking. We're reminded by Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer Jeff Gammage that words matter. He observes

“The correct term is ‘illegal alien,’ ” Hans von Spakovsky wrote in the conservative magazine National Review. “The politically correct term ‘undocumented immigrant’ … is a made-up term used by progressive groups and media sources to extinguish the line between legal immigrants and illegal aliens.”

This sort of thing does not sit well with advocates of illegal immigration- uh, er, illegal immigrants (video below from 2/17). Gammage notes

“I’m a human being,” said Maria Sotomayor, who immigrated from Ecuador and is now deputy director of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, an advocacy group. “A human being is not a crime.”

Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel famously said that no human can be illegal. Pope Francis refers to “migrants” and “refugees” and “our brothers and sisters.” And last year, the Library of Congress dropped “illegal alien” from its subject headings — angering conservative lawmakers who claimed the library had bowed to liberal pressure.

I hate to argue with Elie Wiesel and anyone named "Sotomayor" (no indication whether Maria is related to that other Sotomayor), but they're roughly as wrong as von Spakovsky.

Admittedly, no human being can be illegal- or legal, for that matter.  However, the term "illegal immigrant" describes someone who has immigrated illegally. (If this sounds easy to understand, kindly inform Wiesel and Sotomayor.) Moreover, in this phrase, "illegal" is an adjective modifying "immigrant"- not person.

Thus, an individual may be an "illegal immigrant" just as she may be a "lousy carpenter" or "good carpenter," which is not an evaluation of her value as a person, but only as a carpenter. Similarly, she may be an "inadequate pastor," one who is insufficiently effective as head of a church, though possibly a great woman.  Or she may be a great mentor, impressive at mentoring, or a great athlete or great mother or conversely, a bad athlete or mother.

Hans von Spakovsky, a leading light of the voter suppression movement, is also off-base.  The term "illegal alien" lacks the symmetry necessary if there are aliens who are "legal." If there are "illegal aliens," there must be "legal aliens," a term absent from anyone's lexicon. If instead there is no such thing as a "legal alien," the phrase "illegal alien" is redundant and thus must be discarded.

There may be insidious motives to the word "alien." It is intended either to offend as many people as possible, to rile critics, or both. Additionally, when I hear the word "alien," I can't help but think- and probably am expected to think- of this sort of creature:

So go ahead, activists. "Illegal immigrant" isn't as sexy as "alien" or "undocumented," but at least it's accurate.

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Simply a Felon

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