Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The President Of The One-Track Mind

You've all seen this tweet, sent by President Trump twelve hours before polls closed in an election I had totally wrong:

Donald J. Trump

Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office “begging” for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!
8:03 AM - Dec 12, 2017

Amanda Marcotte replied with with three tweets, one of them

Amanda Marcotte
Trump supporters, this morning: Step one, read Trump saying Gillibrand would do “anything” for donations, chuckle merrily to yourself while making a rude sexual gesture. Perhaps say something lewd about her to a friend or your wife.
1:21 PM - Dec 12, 2017

Indirectly, Marcotte- not specifying Trump as the recipient of the sexual favor- inadvertently laid the groundwork for Sarah Huckabee Sanders' slick, albeit crassly dishonest, defense of her guy during her Tuesday news conference. Responding to a question about "sexual innuendo" Sanders claimed

I think that the President is very obvious, this is the same sentiment that the President has expressed many times before when he's exposed the corruption of the entire political system. In fact, he's used similar terminology many times when talking about politicians of both parties, both men and women. And certainly in his campaign to drain the swamp. The system is clearly broken, it's clearly rigged for special interests, and this president is someone that can't be bought, and it's one of the reasons that he's President today.

Sanders cleverly misinterpreted Trump's tweet, which Marcotte already had misinterpreted.  The President's spokesperson shifted the argument to one about "politicians of both parties" allegedly being corrupt and implied that they beg for money from special interests.  After the follow-up question, she remarked "politicians repeatedly beg for money, that's not something new."

But Trump had not referred to Gillibrand specifically or special interests generally.  Instead, he spoke of one particular individual who approached one person specifically: someone who would come to my office "begging" for campaign contributions... (and would do anything for them).

The President said nothing about other politicians and nothing about any doing things for a myriad of special interests. He said she came to him for money and would do anything for it. It's his fantasy, one not uncommon among men who both long for and ridicule practitioners of the oldest profession.

American Urban Radio reporter April Ryan tried to meet the Administration halfway, choosing not to say that Trump had employed sexual innuendo but merely that it had been interpreted that way.  "Are Democrats owed an apology," she asked, "for their misunderstanding of the tweet this morning because they, including the Senator, think it's about sexual innuendo?"

The proper answer- given Sanders' denial(s)- would have been "we cannot be responsible for misinterpretation of the President's statement."

Of course, Sanders chose not to defend the boss but to attack his skeptics. She replied "only if your mind is in the gutter would you have read it that way," thus demonstrating a) she is extraordinarily sexually naive; b) she is a ruthless, crude defender of someone more ruthless and crude than most of us ever have met or heard about; or c) the Administration, valuing only victory and strength, cannot be reasoned with, only challenged and defeated.

I vote (b) and (c).  In 2013, Donald J. Trump told Celebrity Apprentice contestant Brande Roderick, a former Playboy playmate, "it must be a pretty picture you dropping to your knee." Some things never change.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Franken Must Go- If....

It was six days- nearly a week- ago that Bruce Bartlett, having had enough, tweeted

The issue is not whether charges against Franken are true; I assume they are & charges against Trump are also true. But I don't hear progressives demanding that Trump resign, only that Franken resign. It's the double standard that the left enforces on itself that drives me crazy.

On Sunday, December 10, Kirsten Gillibrand became the fifth US senator (all Democrats) to call on Donald Trump to resign or consider resigning as President because of the allegations that he has harassed and/or assaulted numerous women. She had been preceeded by Vermont senator Sanders, New Jersey senator Booker, and Oregon senators Merkley and Wyden, though Ms. Gillibrand was notably the first woman to have asked Trump to step down.

Still (as they all realize) Donald Trump won't resign, so their pleas will prove of very limited value. That is, unless they take that emphatic advice from Bartlett, who served Presidents Reagan and Bush 41.  On the same day as his other tweet, Bartlett had remarked "Democrats are so stupid. The obvious thing to say about the Al Franken business is that he will resign the day Trump resigns."

This plan is brilliantly simple. There is no concern that President Trump will call their bluff because Trump still would refuse to resign. Althoug at that point, Democrats would need a response, if Alabama voters do the predictable today (Tuesday), they have one begging to be used: Franken will resign once there is an ethics investigation of Senator-elect Roy Moore.

This would box in Senate Majority Leader McConnell, who otherwise is unlikely to initiate an ethics investigation because of the bad publicity it would engender for the GOP.  He could accept the Democrats' challenge, in which case well-publicized, possibly lurid, hearings would do his Party no good.  Alternatively, he could stubbornly refuse an investigation.  Not only could Democrats then use a Senator Moore as a campaign weapon (which they are expected to do anyway,) but McConnell's refusal would throw upon the issue greater attention because it would be coupled with the Franken matter.

Bartlett believes the Democratic Party is "stupid" because it demanded that one of its own, Al Franken, resign with no questions asked. But when members of the Congressional Black Caucus, singed by pressure on John Conyers to resign, alleged a double standard, other Democratic pols took notice. When that was coupled with a recommendation from seven female Senators that Franken resign, the Party had no choice. The base would not be denied.

But Democratic members of the House and the Senate, especially blacks and women, are not fond of President Trump.  There likely would be little pushback from anyone in the Party if the  resignation of one (of 100) Senators was linked to that of the President of the United States. The Party wasn't necessarily stupid by pressuring Al Franken to go back to Minnesota. Nonetheless, if in the wake of calls for President Trump to resign they don't link the two, Bruce Bartlett's characterization would be proven accurate, and clearly so.

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Monday, December 11, 2017

No Critic Of Sexual Harassment

Nikki Haley has no reason to be "incredibly proud of the women who have come forward." But Donald Trump has plenty of reason to be proud of Nikki Haley.

On CBS' Face the Nation (transcript here) Sunday, USA ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley was asked by host John Dickerson about the "three members of Congress kicked out of Congress because of sexual behavior, misdeeds" and the "cultural moment that's happening."

In 1991, women lined up to testify against the lifetime appointment of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court were bit players in an event sparking a "cultural moment." Twenty-five years later, Donald J. Trump was elected President of the United States of America and Clarence Thomas is still on the United States Supreme Court. That is what passes as "progress."

Nevertheless, John Dickerson does not serve the USA or President Trump; Nikki Haley does and she responded

You know, I am incredibly proud of the women who have come forward. I'm proud of their strength. I'm proud of their courage. And I think that the idea that this is happening, I think it will start to bring a conscience to the situation, not just in politics, but in, you know, we've seen in Hollywood and in every industry. And I think the time has come.

I'm not sure what "time" Haley believes "has come." But I do credit her for saying she is "incredibly" proud, because her pride is simply not credible. She can have no pride in what the women are doing because pride is "feeling deep pleasure or satisfaction as a result of one's own achievements, qualities, or possessions or those of someone with whom one is closely associated."  

Nikki Haley is not closely associated with any of the women who have maintained they have been harassed or assaulted. She is, however, closely associated with a man nineteen women have accused of sexual misbehavior. She is closely associated with a man who reportedly now is questioning the authenticity of the tape on which he is bragging about being assaulting women.

She not only is closely associated with the man, she's his defender. Replying to Dickerson's follow-up question, Haley stated

Well, I mean, you know, the same thing, is women who accuse anyone should be heard. They should be heard and they should be dealt with. And I think we heard from them prior to the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up.

Bold! Nikki Haley acknowledges straight up that the First Amendment should apply to women. However, they will be "dealt with," code for "we will respond as we will respond and they might not like it."

With "And I think we heard from them prior to the election," Haley has echoed the Trump line that upon being elected, he is immune from criticism. The matter has been litigated, the President implies.  

Why should the women speak up when "they've already been heard, "prior to the election?" Even Donald J. Trump has not denied that that accusers have a right "to speak up." Fastidiously loyal, the UN ambassador agrees.

Class act- all of them, Kellyanne Conway, Sarah H. Sanders, and Nikki Haley, each ready to run interference for Donald J. Trump at a moment's notice.

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Saturday, December 09, 2017

Purity Test

Author and journalist Jonathan Alter, who tends to prefer Democratic candidates from the corporate-friendly wing of the Democratic Party, tweets

This post from a top democratic socialist from Alabama who won’t vote for Jones because he’s not for single payer illustrates why Dems might not take House in ‘16. Will other Bernie backers stand up to this?

The article  mentions Bernie Sanders only once, in the paragraph in which "Alex" of the Democratic Socialists of Alabama argues

The problem with Doug Jones is revealed not when you point out what he hasn’t done that Roy Moore has, but rather when you look at what Doug Jones says he plans to do, or, as is often the case, not do. At a time when the already abysmal American healthcare system is at threat of being outright gutted by congress, Doug Jones has repeatedly shied away from supporting Bernie Sanders’s Medicare For All plan, and has not backed single-payer healthcare (an immensely popular policy proposal) despite the fact that his very own website states that he believes “Health care is a right, not a privilege limited to the wealthy and those with jobs that provide coverage.” Jones has also shied away from dedicating himself to supporting a $15 livable wage, again, despite the fact that his own website says that he “strongly support[s] ensuring working Alabamians receive a living wage for their hard work.” And, in a time when the college debt crisis is racking up in the trillions of dollars, he has not endorsed any sort of tuition-free college education program...

Although Alter refers to "Bernie backers," it's hard not to conclude that this is a swipe against the Vermont senator himself.  Similarly, Hillary Clinton in her election memoir criticized Sanders for choosing "to resort to innuendo and impugning my character... His attacks caused lasting damage" and for not promptly endorsing her once his own challenge had clearly ended.

These attacks on Sanders are unjustified and diminish her righteous anger at Donald Trump, James Comey, and Vladimir Putin who- unlike her primary opponent- actually played a role in her defeat in November. In the same manner, Alter's swipe at the Vermont senator diminishes his larger, far more valid notion, that here the perfect is the enemy of the good.

It would be enervating to have a US Senate candidate in the deep south endorse single-payer health care, a livable wage, and (as Alex puts it well) "any sort of tuition-free college education program."

Jones did not do so either because he believed it would doom his bid or because he finds it too radical.  However, neither justifies Alex's conclusion that "I can't say that I will be taking part" in voting for either candidate.

"Alex" makes clear that he understands that Roy Moore's personal and professional past and reactionary politics would render him a terrible senator.  But he does not fully understand the stakes involved. There are, including Alabamian Luther Strange, currently 52 Republican senators. If Jones pulls off the upset, there would be only 51 senators (my math is astounding), thus requiring the Democratic Party to peel off only two Republicans to defeat the reconciled Corporate Tax Scam of 2017.

If Justice Anthony Kennedy retires, only two GOP senators- assuming Majority Leader Schumer is able to hold his own caucus together- would be necessary to defeat a candidate recommended to Donald Trump by the Heritage Foundation or the Federalist Society.

Whether for the Supreme Court or legislation, there are enormous consequences.  Consider that noted Republican "moderate"Lindsey Graham has tweeted "It’s long past time for a Special Counsel to investigate Clinton email scandal, Uranium One, role of Fusion GPS, and FBI and DOJ bias during 2016 campaign."

It's time to stop blaming Bernie Sanders. But it's also time for leftists to stop whining about not having the ideal candidate, or their perception of the ideal candidate.  Doug Jones, like Hillary Clinton, may or may not be the lesser of two evils, but it doesn't matter. He's not Lindsey Graham, let alone Roy Moore, Tom Cotton, or Donald Trump. If we can get him, we should take him.

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Not Only The Law

There is an old saying: The law is an ass.

In this case, the Judge is an ass. Also, Black Lives Matter.

In January, 2016  Mesa, Arizona police officers were summoned because a man had been viewed through a hotel window shooting a gun- later determined to be a pellet gun. Once the cops arrived, Officer Philip Michael

Brailsford orders Shaver, 26, to lay face-down in a hallway and refrain from making sudden movements - or risk being shot. He also orders a woman in the hallway to lie on the ground. Shaver is seen complying with the officer's order to put his hands on top of his head and cross his left foot over his right foot.

"Young man, you are not to move. You are to put your eyes down look down at the carpet  you are to keep your fingers interlaced behind your head you are to keep your feet crossed," Brailsford says. "If you move, we are going to consider that a threat, and we are going to deal with it and you may not survive it, do you understand me?"

"Yes sir," Shaver says.

Brailsford then orders the woman to kneel, put her hands in the air and crawl towards officers. Officers then apparently handcuff her out of the view of the camera.

Brailsford then orders Shaver to kneel, and yells for him to keep his legs crossed, to which Shaver replies, "I'm sorry."

Shaver is then seen putting his hands behind his back. The officer yells, "Hands up in the air!," and Shaver complies.

"You do that again we're shooting you, do you understand?" the officer says.

"Please, do not shoot me," Shaver is heard saying, his hands in the air.

"Then listen to my instructions!" the officer yells.

"I'm trying to just do what you say," Shaver says.

"Don't talk! Listen!" Brailsford yells. He orders Shaver to keep his hands up.

"Your hands go back in the small of your back or down, we are going to shoot you, do you understand me?" Brailsford yells.

"Yes sir," Shaver says, sobbing.

Brailsford then orders Shaver to crawl towards him, to which Shaver again says, "Yes, sir," as he cries. As Shaver inches forward, he is seen reaching toward the waistband of his shorts, and Brailsford opens fire. Brailsford said he fired his rifle because he believed Shaver was grabbing a handgun in his waistband.

Brailsford, who had been terminated, on Thursday was found not guilty of criminal liability and of reckless manslaughter. In testimony, Brailsford maintained that he was absolutely certain Shaver was reaching for a gun.  However

The detective investigating the shooting had agreed Shaver's movement was similar to reaching for a pistol, but has said it also looked as though Shaver was pulling up his loose-fitting basketball shorts that had fallen down as he was ordered to crawl toward officers.

The investigator noted he did not see anything that would have prevented officers from simply handcuffing Shaver as he was on the floor.

It is uncertain from the video whether the officer reasonably believed that Shaver was reaching for a firearm. If only there were some other factor which might clear that up:

Footage of shooting, captured on two police on-body cameras, formed the foundation of the prosecution's case. The judge did not allow jurors to hear about an etching on the dust cover of the rifle Brailsford used to shoot Shaver, which said  "You're f--ked," because he felt it was prejudicial.

That couldn't be wrongheaded.  Nor could the twit who in response to the verdict tweeted (emphases his/hers)  "Dear white people, NOW do you believe us?? Sincerely, Black People."

No, I don't, and not only because on the same day that Brailsford, a white officer, was acquitted of the killing of Shaver, a white civilian,

A white former South Carolina officer was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Thursday for fatally shooting an unarmed black motorist in the back in 2015, wrapping up a case that became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Originally, a mistrial was declared by a state judge, whereupon state charges were dropped in return for a guilty plea in federal court on a civil rights charge.

The tweet referred to above, by "PragmaticObotsUnite," mirrors the perspective of Black Lives Matter, which on its website boasts

We are working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically targeted for demise. We affirm our humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression. The call for Black lives to matter is a rallying cry for ALL Black lives striving for liberation.

That is a call for resistance to the criminal justice system and government because of "deadly oppression." It does not acknowledge that ordinary white people (and hispanic, Asian, and other individuals) may themselves become victims of irresponsible, even trigger-happy, police officers and a court system in need of reform.

The judge in the Shaver case erroneously found the relevance of the etching less impressive than the possibility of prejudicing the case against the defendant. Black Lives Matter, catalyzed by unequal application of justice, believes injustice is imposed exclusively upon blacks. Truly, the law isn't the only thing that is an ass.

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Suck It Up

Newt Gingrich is right.

I haven't said that before, and hope I never have to again. But these are strange times, indeed.

On Friday night President Trump unoficially campaigned for US Senate candidate Roy Moore by speaking, 59 miles east in Pensacola, Florida before an exuberant crowd in the Mobile, Alabama media market.

Appearing in the Florida Panhandle, in which the President is very popular, gave Trump the opportunity to promote Moore in a state- Alabama- in which the President is very popular.  It was a gift to the media and, especially, to the people of the United States of America.

Whatever Donald Trump's ignorance or emotional state, he can read polls and understand political strategy.  This race has been over for a few weeks now, once Moore stablized his support and his numbers after an initial dropoff due to his courtship, or failed courtship, of underaged females.

Yet, if polls are to be believed- which in this case they shouldn't- the outcome Tuesday probably will be close, and is quite uncertain. 

Thankfully for all, when the final tally is in, the media will be able to flatter the people of Alabama- and by extension, the American people- by suggesting that Trump made a difference. Though unpopular nationally, he is not only popular in Alabama but is, still and significantly, President of the United States of America and (not really) leader of  the free world. Voters will be said to have been aroused by the strong support he gave to his fellow conservative Republican, which compensated for (alleged) outrage at immoral behavior.

Ultimately, Roy Moore will have won because it's very difficult for a liberal or even moderate to beat a conservative or even moderate in Alabama, which may have become the most reliably Republican state in the Union. However, there will have been an additional reason, obscured by the convenient intervention of the President, for the victory of a man dubbed a "child predator."

We should have noticed when after candidate Trump's numbers declined following release of the Access Hollywood tape, they bounced back and Trump ultimately went on to a stunning victory.

Nevertheless, we didn't understand then and- whatever our recognition now- will not acknowledge it after Moore's victory.  (If Doug Jones pulls it out, I'll concede error, and be shocked. So will Trump be shocked but he won't admit it: "I wasn't even in Alabama!")

The additional reason will be: people don't care. Oh, of course, some people do care- but they already were planning to vote for the Democrat, in a situation very similar to that of the presidential race.

Disturbingly, it's Newt Gingrich who apparently understands. As a loyal Republican, he won't admit that Moore won because people are relatively unconcerned about sexual misbehavior. But he does realize that the outrage of those in the political class is not matched by actual human voters.

Ignore (if you can), the ex-congressman's evocation of the term "'lynch' mob," which should be used roughly as scarcely as "Nazi," "Holocaust," "slavery," or "Hitler." Conversing with Laura Ingraham, he cites a "weird puritanism," and starts making sense (beginning at 5:46 of the video below) with

Al Franken was a comedian. Comedians often do weird things. He was in the entertainment business. He was doing the kind of things people in the entertainment business do. Now, maybe I'm wrong but I haven't seen anything they say he's done since he was a senator.

The pont is, we're in one of those weird American moments when running around lynching people feels good...

(Representative John) Conyers had a lot of good reasons to reture, but on the other hand- no hearings, no witness. This is Venezuela, this is Cuba, this is every third world banana republic.

That may be a bit of hyperbole but is a reasonable observation, as is

I think they do it because they get together at a cocktail party, look each other in the eye and go "oh, my God, can you imagine...." 

I mean, we're in an age which by any reasonable, I mean, this is cultural anthropology to me. This is when the natives go nuts.

Gingrich went with "cocktail party" because his party of elitists is always anxious to paint the Democratic Party as the party of elitists.  However, he realizes what most people in the public eye won't admit.  It's beyond difficult for a man (to a lesser extent, a woman) to be in a situation- especially a public situation- with a woman and suggest "this really has gotten out of hand" or "we should consider the cirumstances" or even "not all crass behavior is alike."

Many people- and this includes voters- believe one of those three things, a combination of them, or at least something else which propels them to believe the current outrage far exceeds the odiousness of the behavior.

Most of those individuals will vote Republican. It is not that these folks think Trump never abused women or that Moore never atttempted to abuse girls.  They are smarter than they sometimes appear to those of us on the left- and even when not, believe some of the behavior did occur.

They believe, however, that the actions are being exploited by the left for political gain, which they would not believe if they thought that this behavior were as noxious as the media and individuals in public life clearly believe they are. In that case, they would regard the uproar and condemnation as justified or at least not brazenly, politically exploitative.

Folks are being excoriated, fired or forced to resign or otherwise penalized, for acts ranging from the brazenly criminal to the insignificant, committed recently or in the distant past.  If the likely happens Tuesday, Roy Moore will become one of 100 individuals serving in the more esteemed legislative body of the most prestigious and powerful nation in the world.  Thirteen months earlier, Donald J. Trump was elected President of the United States of America and still is President of the United States of America.

A backlash is coming. It is coming because the reality for many people is: they just don't care.

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Friday, December 08, 2017

Harassment Is Not The Same As Violence

In the majority of cases in which sexual harassment or assault is claimed, proof is lacking, not the least because such incidents occur behind figurative locked doors. In an alleged incident which took place behind a literal locked door

In 2001, the woman said, Mr. Lauer, who is married, asked her to his office to discuss a story during a workday. When she sat down, she said, he locked the door, which he could do by pressing a button while sitting at his desk. (People who worked at NBC said the button was a regular security measure installed for high-profile employees.)

The woman said Mr. Lauer asked her to unbutton her blouse, which she did. She said the anchor then stepped out from behind his desk, pulled down her pants, bent her over a chair and had intercourse with her. At some point, she said, she passed out with her pants pulled halfway down. She woke up on the floor of his office, and Mr. Lauer had his assistant take her to a nurse.

Before the modern age of alleged enlightenment, before calls for "zero tolerance," we would have called this "rape." Now, as you may have noticed, it becomes mere "sexual assault," with its conflicting interpretations and imprecise definition.

Compare that to the incident in which Maineville, Ohio resident Stephanie

Kemplin said while she was stationed in the Middle East during the Iraq War, she met Franken -- at the time, a comedian and writer -- as he was visiting American troops with the USO. A longtime fan of "Saturday Night Live," Kemplin got in line to take a photo with Franken.

"When he put his arm around me, he groped my right breast. He kept his hand all the way over on my breast," Kemplin said in an interview. "I've never had a man put their arm around me and then cup my breast. So he was holding my breast on the side."

Kemplin repeatedly used the word "embarrassed" to describe her immediate reaction at the time.

That was, arguably, the worst act committed by Al Franken, one in which the victim was "embarrassed."  Lauer's victim, assuming the allegation is accurate, was raped.

Now read these words from United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat from New York State. Ms. Gillibrand has been a leader in the chamber against the abuse of women and

“I think when we start having to talk about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping you are having the wrong conversation,” Ms. Gillibrand said Wednesday at a Capitol Hill news conference when asked about calling on Mr. Franken to resign. “You need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is O.K. None of it is acceptable.

To be fair to the New York senator, she did not trot out the bromide "zero tolerance,"deployed by Representative Jackie Speier (D-Cal), who unlike Gillibrand is assumed to harbor no national ambitions.  The term "zero tolerance" sets an extremely, very nearly unobtainable, standard, which Speier virtually acknowledged.  Still, on her Facebook page, Kirsten Gillibrand wrote

As the mother of two young boys, we owe it to our sons and daughters to not equivocate, but to offer clarity. We should not have to be explaining the gradations between sexual assault, harassment and unwelcome groping. And what message do we send to our sons and daughters when we accept gradations of crossing the line? None of it is ok and none of it should be tolerated.

Facts matter. Details matter.  Truth matters. There is a difference between unwanted touching and the imposition of penetration upon another human being.  Assuming the accounts are accurate, then-comedian Al Franken took an advantage of an admirer when he "groped my right breast (and) kept his hand all the way over on my breast."  Approximately two years earlier, the wealthy, powerful star of the "Today" show

locked the door, which he could do by pressing a button while sitting at his desk... The woman said Mr. Lauer asked her to unbutton her blouse, which she did. She said the anchor then stepped out from behind his desk, pulled down her pants, bent her over a chair and had intercourse with her.

Kirsten Gillibrand may tell her two young boys that any unwanted contact of a sexual nature- or perhaps any unwanted contact- is reprehensible.  However, if she neglects to tell them that summoning a woman over whom you have power, locking the door behind you and then raping her is reprehensible, it is only because she is confident they would never commit such an act.

The guess here is that if the United States Senate were to purge itself of all male members who ever have groped or patted the rear end- the latter also inappropriate- of a woman, there would be a very small contingent of men remaining in the chamber.  That is not completely a hypothetical- Gillibrand argued "none of it should be tolerated."   If any of these men were to remain in office, it would ipso facto be tolerated.

You would be distressed to learn that your neighbor had inexcusably punched his friend. You would be far more distressed to learn that he had shot his friend in the face with a Smith and Wesson .45.

Not Kirsten Gillibrand, who minimizes the seriousness of sexual assault by lumping it in with, well, practically everything.  She does not want to have to deal in "differences" and "gradations." And could there possibly be any difference between a George Herbert Walker Bush and a Roman Polanski?

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Thursday, December 07, 2017


Here we go again.

If there is one abiding characteristic- besides profit-taking and corruption- of  this Administration, it may be that if President Obama was for it, President Grump is against it.

In one of its least  significant manifestations, Trump overturned a policy described by The New York Times as "announced in 2016, that allows transgender troops to serve openly and receive the required medical care for their gender transition through the military." Obama's policy could not stand even though "the announcement blindsided top military leaders, who had been moving ahead with plans to integrate transgender troops, based on a 2016 study commissioned by the military."

More dramatically and significantly, President Grump now has proclaimed that the USA will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move its embassy to Jerusalem, issues which a succession of American presidents had recognized should be the subject of final status negotiations.

As Thomas Friedman explains, Trump is a chump. But more than that, he's Opposite-Obama.  The GOP was convinced- or appeared convinced- that President Obama's policies were hostile to Israel's interests.  Typically, as recently as a year ago- after the presidential election- Rudy Giuliani claimed that President Obama had "created a false narrative that the Palestinian Authority, as a victim, is morally superior to the state of Israel."

No one can say the same about President Trump, who now has not only enraged Arab governments and the Arab street, but also American allies, and endangered USA security interests in the region. But at least it's something Obama wouldn't have done, so it's all good.

Still doing as Obama did not, and simultaneously reinforcing one of the core tenets of
GOP conservatism

The Trump administration on Wednesday said it would oppose public sector unions in a major case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, reversing the view taken by the Obama administration in an identical dispute.

The Justice Department filed a friend-of-the-court brief against the unions in a case brought by a non-union government employee in Illinois that targets fees his state and many others compel such workers to pay to unions in lieu of dues to fund collective bargaining and other organized labor activities. He is arguing that such fees violate the free speech rights of non-union members.

The high court heard a similar challenge out of California in January 2016 and had appeared headed toward ruling the fees unconstitutional. But conservative justice Antonin Scalia died a month later and the short-handed court ended up with a 4-4 split in April 2016 that left the law intact but set no nationwide precedent. In that case, the Obama administration filed a brief backing the unions.

Determine what President Obama did- then do the opposite. The Trump administration

has already adopted opposing positions to those taken by the Obama administration in other major cases pending at the Supreme Court, including another labor case on whether employers should be able to require workers to sign contracts that prevent them from making class action claims.

The administration also reversed an Obama administration stance by supporting Ohio in its bid to revive a state policy of purging people from voter-registration lists if they do not regularly cast ballots.

Fundamental Republican values include voter suppression and destroying public sector unions, the latter an effort to dismantle the middle and working classes piece-by-piece.  In the Middle East, an incendiary policy encourages terrorist acts, which Trump can then exploit in his jihad against Muslims.

Nonetheless, there may be no policy or program promulgated or eliminated by the Administration which better illustrates Trump's animosity toward Barack Obama than trying to wipe out the transgender ban. The public favored the Obama way, the military was implementing it without controversy, and so Donald J. Trump must sabotage it.   He is, in this and so many ways and at great public jeopardy, the Disrupter in Chief. That isn't necessarily bad. But when Trump moves, it's usually an instance in which things are better left alone.Children should not play with matches.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Republican Wet Dream

Marco Rubio, perhaps best known for publicly debating penis size with future President of the United States of America Donald J. Trump, last week:

"The only way you are going to deal with the debt is you have to do two things. ... You have got to generate economic growth because growth generates revenue. But you also have to bring spending under control. And not discretionary spending. That isn’t the driver of our debt," Rubio said.

"The driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries. We still have time, not just to save those programs, but to responsibly structure them in a way that doesn’t impact current retirees or people about to retire. But it would probably impact it for me and people younger than, in ways that quite frankly you wouldn’t really notice and you wouldn’t really object to because it’s reasonable."

Credit the Florida senator for speaking out-of-turn. Thus, Charlie Pierce observes 

Jesus, Marco, get with the program. You’re supposed to sell this Abomination of Desolation as a boon to “the middle class.” Then, when it blows up the deficit, you’re supposed to come sadly before the nation, blame the Democrats for not “compromising,” and mournfully tell millions of the elderly and disabled that it’s time for those lazy moochers to kick in.

Lacking patience, Senator Grassley has said "I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.” So, too, Orrin Hatch, who puts President Trump in the class of Saint Reagan, rationalizing why Congress can't afford $8 billion for the Children's Health Insurance Program over the next five years because "Unfortunately, the liberal philosophy has created millions of people that way, who believe everything they are or ever hope to be depend on the federal government rather than the opportunities that this great country grants them.”

Rubio- and maybe even Grassley and Hatch- realizes they can merely wait.  The Tax Policy Center explains that the congressional PAYGO rule requres "that (using current law as the baseline) tax cuts as well as increases in entitlement and other mandatory spending must be covered by tax increases or cuts in mandatory spending."  Probably worse yet: "It does not apply to discretionary spending (spending that is controlled through the appropriations process)."

Congress will not be able to reduce the Pentagon budget (commence laughing) to cover the roughly $1.3 trillion increase in the debt from the Corporate Tax Scam of 2017. So Medicare and Social Security will be automatically slashed, by $400 billion in the next ten years, according to Social Security Works.  Or as Bruce Bartlett calmly noted on "AM Joy"

And I believe that the minute the ink is dry on this tax cut, all of the fiscal responsibility groups and the Office of Management and Budget and the White House will all be saying "I'm shocked,shocked to discover that the national debt is rising very, very rapidly. We must do something about it" and it will all take the form of cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Or as he less calmly has tweeted, "every Republican senator is a whore. Some just took longer to get their price."

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Monday, December 04, 2017

Fair, Balanced, And Inaccurate

I apologize in advance.

You're a busy man or woman. You shouldn't have to waste your time, even two minutes of it, reading, or thinking, about Van Jones.

But think of it instead as an observation of the state of the two major political parties- or rather, how they are perceived.   Twelve months ago, CNN pundit Van Jones stated on ABC's The View

Both political parties, I think,right now have a big problem and they don't want to discuss it. And if you discuss it you get in trouble. 

The liberals you just talked abut how liberals and Democrats, we see ourselves as champions of the poor and donstrodden.That's how we see outselves. But we somehow have let a little camp of elitist-sounding, snobby people camp of elitist-sounding, snobby people come into the Party and it's obnoxious and then talk down to people and everybody hates it. And if  you say as a Democrat "well, what are you talking about?" Bit evrybody knows we have a problem with elitism.

This was from the guy who a year earlier had endorsed for President one Hillary Clinton, who later suggested some American voters are "deplorable" and "irredeemable," over the decidely non-elitist Bernie Sanders.

Jones also had loyally served President Obama, who cut him loose under a little pressure. He still is a loyal follower of the former President, who as a candidate remarked that some voters "get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Van Jones blasted the "elitists" of the Democratic Party, casually unaware that he had supported in 2008 and 2016 the two more patronizing of the Democratic candidates for President.

Nonetheless, Jones' lack of introspection is less significant than his naivete. Barack Obama, arguably the most patronizing Democrat of his generation, went on to win two terms as President despite being widely characterized by critics as "elitist." It was no bar to his success, nor is it likely to be for the perenially popular seven-term US Senator from Iowa, who we now learn has

defended his party's tax plan this weekend by saying that plans to reduce or eliminate the estate tax mean that people will use their money more wisely.

"I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing,” Grassley (R-Iowa) told the Des Moines Register, “as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

Unless he gets just plain tired of living in Washington, D.C., a thousand miles from his home state, Charles Grassley will be elected to his eighth term in the United States Senate on November 8, 2022.

Elitism is the least of the problems of the Democratic Party, which has gotten its rear end kicked on the local, state, and national levels by the far more elitist Party.

Chuck Grassley was only one of 51 GOP senators who voted for the tax bill which aids the elites of society, whether the individually wealthy or corporations, and shortchanges the poor and middle class. Even the short-term tax cuts for the middle class, which will turn into tax increases in the long term, is inherently elitist, as the Party counts on average Americans to forget who was doing it to them.

This is an ongoing problem as either members of the media or pundits representing the Democratic Party let the Republican Party off the hook as they seek to demonstrate their bipartisan bonafides by claiming that both parties are responsible for dysfunction in Washington.  Whatever the perception, there is only one elitist party in Washington, and it's run by Donald J. Trump and his sycophants on Capitol Hill.

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Saturday, December 02, 2017

Let's Call It A "Boot."

We don't know how the vote will proceed on the Corporate Tax Scam of 2017 once it's reconciled but as for now, good on you, Bob Corker. And John McCain gets a pass, even though he was captured because, well, because he was captured, tortured, and then he refused release.  But....

as for you, Ben Sasse:  candidate Donald J. Trump tweeted "@Ben Sasse looks more like a gym rat than a U.S. Senator. How the hell did he ever get elected?"

as for you, Marco Rubio: candidate Donald J. Trump tweeted "Little Marco Rubio the lightweight no show Senator from Florida is just another Wahington politician." (Rubio reportedly is 5'10"; the average American male, 5'9").

as for you, Rand Paul: candidate Donald J. Trump: Donald J. Trump tweeted "Why would anyone in Kentucky listen to failed presidential candidate Rand Paul re: caucus. Made a fool of himself (1%.) KY his second choice!"  (Translation: "get rid of him, Kentucky voters.")

as for you, Ted Cruz: candidate Donald J. Trump tweeted "Wow, Lyin' Ted Cruz really went wacko today. Made all sorts of crazy charges. Can't function under presure- not very presidential! Sad!" (Also, he linked your father to assassination of John F. Kennedy.)

as for you, Lindsey Graham: candidate Donald J. Trump gave out your cell phone number and publicly called you an "idiot" and "lightweight." (In fairness, you have tried to prove him right.)

as for you, Dean Heller:  President Trump at a White House luncheon quipped "You weren't there (on ACA repeal) but you're going to be." After the desired laughter, it was "Look, he wants to remain a senator, doesn't he?" (Nice little Senate seat you have there. Be a shame if something happened to it.")

as for you, Jeff Flake:  President Trump tweeted "Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is runing against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He's toxic!" ("WEAK on crime" from a guy accused of sexual assault (by conservative definition, not this one) at least twice and sexual harassment several times.)

as for you, Lisa Murkowski: President Trump tweeted "Senator @lisa murkowski of the Great State of Alaska really let the Republicans, our our country down, yesterday. Too Bad!" (Admittedly, a relatively mild rebuke for voting to uphold the ACA. He's a misogynist; of course he treats women differently than men.)

And so you have it.  Forty-two Republicans, including the sainted Susan Collins, voting for the Corporate Tax Scam of 2017 because, as Graham and Rep. Chris Collins admitted, they're scared of their donors or, as Rubio revealed, it will create the pretext for going after Medicare and Social Security.

Then there were the other senators, who will give all manner of excuses. However, there is one thing certain: each was humiliated, receiving a boot up their rear end by Donald J. Trump. All of them now have voted to enhance the prestige and power of that same man by simultaneously voting for his unpopular tax cut plan and health care mandate repeal.  There are eight GOP senators (seven if Lisa M. is generously excluded) who have no spine but like the feel of the Timberland up their rear end.

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Friday, December 01, 2017

Awful Situation Made Worse

As of this moment, the US Senate probably is on the verge of approving a bill which, if enacted, may complete the trifecta of further shoving wealth upwards from the poor and the middle class, exploding the deficit, and sparking a recession.

The President of the United States has tweeted fake news videos from a "fringe British ultranationalist group," upsetting the relationship with arguably the USA's most important ally, which recognizes that framing the fight against radical Islamism as one of west vs. east or Christianity vs.Islam threatens the safety of European citizens.

The bad news is this post is not about either of those extraordinarily significant issues. The good news is that it is also not about sex, which has been the dominant news of the past six weeks in this nation.

Kate Steinle was killed in July 2015 with a Sig Sauer .40 caliber semiautomatic pistol, stolen from an apprently locked car of a US Bureau of Land Management ranger. The assailant was unconnected to the theft and may or may not have himself brought the weapon to the Pier 14 in San Francisco. It is not clear how the incident- which candidate Donald Trump exploited in his campaign for a border wall- occurred. As CBS News explained

Garcia Zarate said he found the stolen gun wrapped in a shirt under a chair on a pedestrian pier and that the weapon accidentally fired when he picked it up. The bullet ricocheted on the pier's concrete walkway before it struck Steinle.

His attorneys say the ricochet showed the shooting was an accident. Much of the testimony during the trial has focused on ballistics experts...

Defense attorney Matt Gonzalez said in his closing remarks that he knows it's difficult to believe Garcia Zarate found an object that turned out to be a weapon that fired when he picked it up.

(The prosecutor) painted a picture of a man who hid a firearm in his baggy clothes, went to a pier filled with tourists and whirled about on a stool for more than 20 minutes before shooting it at Steinle's back.

Zarate then threw the weapon, whose bullet may have traveled as much as 78 feet before striking the victim, into San Francisco Bay and ran away.

The understated spokesperson, Alex Bastian, for the District Attorney's Office stated "We will respect that decision... This is really about the Steinle family. Our hearts go out (to) them."

Words matter. I will accept the decision, much as I accept the statement of the D.A.'s office. But I will not respect it.

The defendant will not walk away unscathed because he was convicted of illegal possession of a firearm by a felon and ICE plans to pursue his removal from the country. However, Garcia was acquitted of first and second degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter.

The maximum sentence in California for involuntary manslaughter is four years of incarceration while for voluntary manslaughter it is eleven years in prison.

Never mind involuntary manslaughter.  The Shouse California Legal Group believes that according to California Penal Code 19 (a) PC, when an individual "intentionally kill(s) another person (without a legal excuse for doing so) or act(s) with a conscious disregard for human life," he has committed either murder or voluntary manslaughter.

Having not acted- according to California standards- with "malice aforethought," Garcia evidently was not guilty of murder.

But let's review. A man, who has committed drug crimes though no violent crime, has been deported five times for illegally entering the country and is awaiting deportation for the sixth time. He either took the gun to the scene or picked it up and somehow assumed it was- what- a football? a broom handle? a dildoe?

I wasn't on the jury, and so do not know all the facts. Nonetheless, most of us (evidently excluding members of the jury) are in possession of common sense, which  would have dictated a finding of guilty on the charge of voluntary manslaughter.

Predictably, Donald Trump already is trying to exploit the decision.   Little will be heard from the left, most of in thrall to immigration, even of the illegal kind, which is washed, dressed up, and trivialized as "undocumented."

The victim was the totally innocent, unsuspecting Kate Steinle. However, there also is a failure of the American political system, in which neither side of the argument- unconcerned about guns- can lay claim to making any more sense than did the jury. It's as if the political class and activists both buy the ridiculous "guns don't kill people, people kill people" trope.

For Donald Trump, the victim was killed by a Mexican, necessitating a border wall of perhaps tens of  billions of dollars, conflated by his supporters as justifying a war against Muslims. (With the big stories of the day, this will hopefully not provoke a major backlash from the right.) Many of his critics probably will view the killing as an accident coincidentally committed by an immigrant who might as well have merely forgotten his documents at home. Like the GOP Corporate Tax Cut Scam of 2017 or the President's war against the world, it was a  phenomenally tragic event and crime which will bring about nothing positive.

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The President Of The One-Track Mind

You've all seen this tweet, sent by President Trump twelve hours before polls closed in an election I had totally wrong: Donald...