Saturday, December 15, 2018


That warm, fuzzy feeling has taken over the government of Atlanta, Georgia.

The leftist Rewire.News reports

After a years-long grassroots campaign documenting ICE’s human rights violations in the jail, Atlanta finally ended the contract in September, realizing that it could not call itself a “welcoming city” while profiting from immigrants’ pain. As we showed in our report “Inside Atlanta’s Immigrant Cages,” scores of immigrants detained at the Atlanta City Detention Center experienced or observed human rights violations, including solitary confinement for arbitrary reasons; grossly inadequate medical and mental health care; an uncompensated labor program; intimidation and threats by the guards; extremely poor-quality food; and sexual assault.

“Atlanta will no longer be complicit in a policy that intentionally inflicts misery on a vulnerable population without giving any thought to the horrific fallout,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said before signing the executive order ending the city’s dealings with ICE. “As the birthplace of the civil rights movement, we are called to be better than this.”

Two months earlier in an Executive Order signed by Bottoms, the city formally ended its agreement with the US Marshals Service to accept detainees from ICE, three months after its new police had been announced.

The city of Atlanta could have considered demanding an end to solitary confinement for arbitrary reasons and to unpaid labor; improvement of medical care; improving the quality of food; additional training and/or personnel to counter intimidation and threats by the guards.

But no, Atlanta is a "welcoming city.  The federal government did not respond by finding more humane facilities in which to house illegal immigrants nor to detain fewer.

Uh-uh. Instead, ICE

turned elsewhere to continue feeding the detention machine. In August, the agency started detaining immigrants at the Robert A. Deyton Detention Facility in Lovejoy; we learned about this in October, not through an announcement by ICE, but by happenstance. The facility is owned by Clayton County, roughly 25 minutes away from the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The private prison corporation GEO Group leases the facility from Clayton and runs it through a contract with the U.S. Department of Justice.

The GEO Group’s detention centers have a well-documented track record of human rights violations, including lack of medical and mental health care; arbitrary solitary confinement; denial of basic hygiene products; and moldy and inedible food. Due to these horrid conditions, death, suicide, and attempted suicide are all too common in GEO-run facilities such as the Adelanto Detention Facility in California,LaSalle Detention Facility in Louisiana, Denver Contract Detention Facility, and South Texas Detention Complex.

The Robert A. Deyton Detention Center is no different, according to the detained immigrants we have spoken to as part of our work with the social-justice organization Project South. They tell us that the food is inedible, they are yelled at and cursed at by the officers, and they are put on lockdown for many hours straight.

In addition, there is inadequate medical, dental, and mental health care.

Motivated by altruistic sentiments, the city has now done its share in expanding the carceral state. GEO probably will do its part in jamming as many detainees as possible into the Deyton Detention Center.

Atlanta also has struck a blow into the idea, which took root in the Reagan Administration, that government has no role in improving the lives of its residents. Since then, a wide array of services in local, state, and national governments has been privatized, to the detriment of both consumers and taxpayers, in the mistaken notion that government is incapable of anything and must be rescued by the market.

There may be a silver lining to the action(s) taken by Mayor Bottoms.  Attention may be paid to the increasing number of inmates housed in private prisons under President Trump. If so, congressional Democrats may come to realize that criminal justice reform measures in the manner of the First Step Act are at best very modest. If not, at least Atlanta can bask in the warm glow of feeling, however inaccurately, that it has done something for immigrants.

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Friday, December 14, 2018

Unverified And Unrefuted Allegation

Maybe he's just exaggerating for the yucks.

Not Tony Schwartz, who is deadly serious, earnest, and clearly feeling the guilt everyone who had anything to do with the rise of businessman/entrepreneur Donald J. Trump should have, but doesn't.  In January, Schwartz wrote for The Guardian

Looking back, I also hear the plaintive wail of a desperate child who believes he is alone in the world with no one to care for him. “I alone can do it” is Trump’s survival response to: “I must do it all alone.”

There are two Trumps. The one he presents to the world is all bluster, bullying and certainty. The other, which I have long felt haunts his inner world, is the frightened child of a relentlessly critical and bullying father and a distant and disengaged mother who couldn’t or wouldn’t protect him

“That’s why I’m so screwed up, because I had a father who pushed me so hard,” Trump acknowledged in 2007, in a brief and rare moment of self-awareness.

I doubt the significance of this psychological profile, though Trump obviously is a phony, mostly bluff and bluster. However, it is probably not the motivating factor in his behavior.

By contrast, information which may very well be out-of-date and (far less likely) completely false is exceedingly pertinent. Perhaps he was simply exaggerating for the benefit of his stand-up routine but Neil Casler, a former staff on The Apprentice, claimed on December 1

I'll tell you one more thing I don't usually tell- I'll tell you two things since you're being so nice to me.

He's a speed freak. He crushes up his Adderall and he sniffs it because he can't read and he gets really nervous when he has to read cue cards. I'm not kidding. This is true. I had a 24-page NDA, a non-disclosure agreement. I didn't know that he was going to become the President. Now, no way, dumbass, I'm telling everything I know.

So he gets nervous and he crushes up these pills. That's why he sniffs when you see him in debates and when you see him reading, that's why he's tweeting- you know, it's like he's out of his mind. 

It makes sense if you think about it. Methamphetamine was invented by the Nazis to keep fighter pilots awake all night on bombing runs. Right?  It makes sense that Trump would use it to hate-tweet in his self-centered ways at four a.m. on the toilet.

Questions for Mr. Casler abound about Trump's alleged use of the drug. At what times and during what period did Trump use? How did he react to sniffing it and how did he behave otherwise? Were other individuals aware of the habit? Did the star try to hide its use? Were non-disclosure agreements the only reason no one else has spoken out about this? Had Casler spoken to anyone else about this- or did he hear anything further about it since he worked on The Apprentice? Does Casler believe Mr. Trump still uses the drug- why or why not?

The accusation should not simply lay out in public, unconfirmed, even unexamined. Most likely, Mr. Casler either is lying- or we have a President who was once (possibly still) a drug addict. As with Donald Trump's lies to the public about his financial involvement with Russians, it is conceivable that the President is being blackmailed. If this story is ignored by the mainstream media, it is a colossal case of journalistic malpractice.

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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Betting On Stupidity

Welcome to reality, Ann Coulter.

Of course, the conservative author's reacquaintance with reality won't last long, but on Tuesday she did acknowledge

In Trump's behalf (in this context)- or in his disgrace- he is still trying to obtain congressional approval for funding of a wall on the southern border. Thus, there are even stronger indications that, yes, Donald Trump believes his supporters just fell off a turnip truck.

In interviews with Sean Hannity on February 22 and April 4, 2006, according to Politifact, Donald Trump stated

It can be done. ... It will take place and it will go relatively quickly.  ... If you have the right people, like, in the agencies and the various people that do the balancing ... you can cut the numbers by two pennies and three pennies and balance a budget quickly and have a stronger and better country.

However, President Trump has done the reverse and

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that the preliminary federal budget deficit for fiscal year 2018 was $782 billion. That was $116 billion more than the $666 billion shortfall in fiscal year 2017.

And the most recent CBO projection for fiscal year 2019 shows a deficit of $981 billion. Each year from 2020 to 2028, the CBO projected, the deficit would top $1 trillion annually.

This state of affairs was not divorced from actions taken by Trump himself, analysts say.

The two biggest drivers of the projected increase in the 2019 deficit were the Republican tax bill and the bipartisan agreement on federal spending, both of which Trump signed.

Similarly, in an interview with The Washington Post on March 31, 2016, candidate Trump remarked "We’ve got to get rid of the $19 trillion in debt. ... Well, I would say over a period of eight years. And I’ll tell you why.”  However, the accumulated public debt was projected earlier this year to rise from 76.5% of GDP in 2017 to 96.2% of GDP at the end of 2028.

When candidate Trump said that he would reduce the debt and deficits, he calculated that voters wouldn't catch on till after he was elected, if at all.  He has won that debt; uh, er, bet.

Similarly, Trump continues denigrating Christianity as much as possible, wondering when his supporters will catch on. "Two Corinthians" instead of "Second Corinthians;"  referring to "my little cracker (and) little cup of wine; grossly misrepresenting the significance of communion; putting money into the communion plate; confessing he never feels a need to confess.

And now this: asked as Thanksgiving approached what he's most thankful for, the President might have said for "God's grace" or "the love of God for us all," or "living in the greatest country ever."

"God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble," James wroteTherefore (and not however), after unremarkably replying "for having a great family," he added "and having made a tremendous difference in this country."

The oft-offensive and consistently far-right Ann Coulter will not change her ideological outlook nor her perverted perception of Washington Post reporters. However, she now realizes that they've been had. She recognizes that Donald J. Trump believes that his supporters are really, really dumb. And he's out to prove it.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

"I Am Woman, Hear Me Whimper"

The chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel, is a proud woman and proud feminist. Or at least she wants us to think so, because Tuesday we read in Politico

Speaking during POLITICO's Women Rule Summit, McDaniel said the party needs to look into why many white suburban female voters — a traditionally solidly Republican group — switched to Democratic candidates during the midterms.

"Of course, we have to look at why we’re losing with women," McDaniel said. "I’m a woman. I want to know that, too. I don’t think we’re a monolithic group. I don’t like that"....

Describing her own experience leading up to serving as the second female chair in the history of the Republican National Committee, McDaniel said she often felt excluded from discussions with donors because of her gender. She said when she was chair of the Michigan GOP, she was called a kindergartner and laughed out of talks with potential donors. But "you don’t give up, and I got money from that person," she said....

McDaniel herself felt similar hesitancy when tapped by Reince Priebus to run for party chairwoman, but she ran and became one of the most successful fundraisers in the party's history.

“I’m the classic 60 percent qualified apply for the job," she said. "I did what the men did.”

Well, not exactly.  She did as men would not do. Fourteen months after Ronna accep;ted the job as party chairman, The New York Times' Jeremy Peters reported in January that she

tried to leave little doubt about where her loyalty lies. She even stopped using her full name — Ronna Romney McDaniel — professionally after the president joked with her and her husband about dropping her given surname.

“You know the job you’re signing up for,” she said in an interview one recent morning at a diner near her home, referring obliquely to the fact that committee leaders typically have to toe the president’s line when their party holds the White House.

And she has indeed been highly deferential. She fell in line after Mr. Trump insisted last month that the Republican National Committee put resources back into the Senate race in Alabama to aid Roy S. Moore, who had been accused of preying on girls as young as 14.

Alabama rejected Mr. Moore and elected a Democrat to the Senate for the first time in a generation. But even now, Ms. McDaniel will not say whether she believes the committee’s move was a mistake. “I understand why the president did what he did,” she said. “He wants to keep that majority.”

Of course she would not say whether throwing a lot of money into electing a Republican in Alabama, where Republicans almost never lose, was a mistake. We should have expected no less, or perhaps no more, from a woman who changed her identity because Big Daddy Trump asked.

Upon getting married, a woman obviously faces a challenge a man doesn't. She can change her maiden name to her husband's surname, retain her birth name, or opt for a combination, using both last names, with or without a hyphen.

After marrying Mitt Romney's older brother, Ronna faced that challenge. She decided, out of familial pride or ambition, to retain the Romney name while assuming the name "McDaniel," thereby assuring the family that once prided itself on "family values" that, yes, she must be a traditional woman because got married.

But then the libertine Donald J. Trump, conqueror of Playboy models, pornographic actresses, fashion models, and all manner of women in the fast lane, took over that Party. And Ronna Romney McDaniel became "Ronna McDaniel" because Donald Trump wanted to stick it to Mitt Romney, and doing it to his niece seemed a fine way. "Well, first of all, I look atDonald Trump as a champion of women" sealed the deal. Take that, Mitt.

As with any woman, Ronna Romney McDaniel can identify in any manner she wishes and if it is as "Ronna McDaniel," best wishes.  However, if she had a little backbone, she would own it. "I did what the men did" is a little rich.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Little Sound And Fury, Probably Signifying Less

In an op-ed Monday in The Washington Post, forty-four former United States senators, most Democratic but many Republican (and Independents Joe Lieberman and Lowell Weicker), wrote

.... it is our shared view that we are entering a dangerous period, and we feel an obligation to speak up about serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security.

Appearing on Cuomo Prime Time with former Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm, Rick Santorum commented (beginning at 17:33 of the video below)

What does this letter really say? I mean, it looks like a letter that was put together or the idea was for the Senate to go after Trump. But it looks like a letter that was put together by committee. They couldn't really come up with anything other than stand for God and country but it says nothing so I don't know what this is really all about. Is it a missive to say this is sort of a wink and a nod vote for impeachment when I think there isn't any realistic possibility that will occur in the next two years? I have no idea what the letter is all about.

That makes two of us. Impeachment, as Santorum undoubtedly knows and understands, takes place in the House. Therefore, even though there is a realistic possibility of impeachment because the House will be controlled by Democrats, the letter has nothing to do with impeachment. It may, instead, be an effort by these Republicans and Democrats, most of whom had a reputation for ideological moderation and/or bipartisanship, to put themselves on the right side of history.  

Additionally, the letter's authors may be big-timing the House, suggesting that Senators are superior to Representatives. "At other critical moments in our history," they write, "when constitutional crises have threatened our foundations, it has been the Senate that has stood in defense of our democracy."

In a mere ten sentences, the writers have stood for nothing except, as Santorum noted, God and country, or perhaps puppies and motherhood. Alternatively, they have done something worse, sending mixed signals.

The music is "sort of a wink and nod vote for impeachment," weak tea, especially because the Senate has nothing directly to do with that act, which approximates an indictment. However, the lyrics go in the opposite direction. 

"We are on the eve of the conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation," the Senators write, a dubious claim arguably intended to push for a conclusion of the investigation. This is similar to the periodic leaks, probably coming from the Trump-Giuliani, camp, that Mueller is about to wrap up his investigation. 

If not from a committee, it might as well have come from one. This letter adds nothing to nothing, playing no role in emboldening GOP senators (or Representatives), who have been, and will remain for awhile, no bolder than an inanimate object. The following morning on the same network, Jeffrey Toobin remarked

I think the Republican Party as s a group, and certainly it’s true for members of the Senate, have said, made a collective decision, that "we’re not gonna change our minds about anything until all of these developments are wrapped up, until there is a Mueller report and then we have to decide whether to throw Donald Trump over the side."

I think that is very unlikely. The Republican Party, as John Boehner said not long ago, is the Trump party today and they are going down with the ship, if the ship is going down.  I think, if you look at Donald Trump’s popularity within the Republican Party, within the voters, it’s still very high. And the Republican politicians are following along.

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Monday, December 10, 2018

Same 'Ol Joe

Hopefully, he has two left feet because

Joe Biden on Sunday waltzed into the backyard of potential future opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders sounding an awful lot like a 2020 candidate.

Six days after saying he's “the most qualified person in the country to be president,” Biden took the stage here and railed against “naked nationalism,” “phony populism” and a GOP that is “not your father’s Republican Party.”

“If you have a problem, what’s the problem? The other. The other. That immigrant, that black guy, that woman,” he said of populism, without mentioning President Donald Trump by name. “That’s the problem, instead of facing up to the problem called greed.”

Without mentioning Donald Trump by name.  That is, has been, and probably always been Joe Biden's problem.  In September, Amanda Terkel reminded us that Anita 

 Hill’s allegations became public just days before the Senate was set to vote on Thomas’ confirmation. Biden initially wanted to delay the vote by two weeks, but a GOP senator who was a Thomas supporter convinced him that fairness demanded the proceedings move faster.

Biden scheduled Hill’s testimony for Oct. 11, and agreed that the Judiciary Committee would not take another vote before sending Thomas to the full Senate on Oct. 15 ― a one-week delay. He also said he would keep questions about Thomas’ general sexual conduct ― such as his interest in pornography ― out of the hearings.

“Joe bent over too far to accommodate the Republicans, who were going to get Thomas on the court come hell or high water,” Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) told Mayer and Abramson.

Biden also handed a major victory to Republicans in agreeing to let Thomas testify both before and after Hill ― most crucially, scheduling his response to her allegations for 9 p.m. on a Friday, when millions of people were tuned in for their prime-time broadcast. 

In the end, Biden voted against Thomas. But when he did so, he said on the Senate floor, “For this senator, there is no question with respect to the nominee’s character.”

Even now, Biden can muster only a "The message I’ve delivered before is I am so sorry if she believes that. I am so sorry that she had to go through what she went through. Think of the courage that it took for her to come forward.” "Twas a shame," he says, but don't look at me."

The problem, amnesiac Joe Biden claims, is that this is "not your father's Republican Party."

It is your father's Republican Party. But accepting the former vice-president's short-sightedness, there still is a contradiction in his approach.  Donald Trump, not the GOP, is the outrage in Biden's view. Yet, he still won't mention the fellow's name.

That is Joe Biden's failure now. It was his failure roughly thirty years later. The Republican Party means well, he believes. And evidence indicates that when it doesn't, he believes Democrats can lead with a compromise and be willing to compromise off the compromise.  Even half a loaf isn't necessary; two slices are all which are needed for a sandwich.

The Democratic Party's "go along to get along approach," nearly perfected in the 2001-2008 era, needs to end. The obstacle facing Joe Biden, assuming he runs for the Democratic presidential nomination, should not be race or gender. It shouldn't even be his age- but rather, for all those years he has been a public official, he has learned very little.

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Saturday, December 08, 2018

Knows What He Has

Today's "Donald Trump is smarter than a 5th grader" installment is the Attorney General Edition.

Rob Reiner, right about almost everything, including Donald Trump and Donald Trump and the Special Counsel investigation. However, he probably is wrong when he remarks

There is something wrong with Donald J. Trump, but more likely of a physical than of a psychological/mental nature. Moreover, suggesting he is delusional (or stupid)  is counter-productive, presenting a bar to recognizing and appreciating the truly vile nature of the man and his presidency.

Was that "bar" or "barr"? Most likely, a delusional president would not have decided to nominate

William P. Barr, a skeptic of the Russia investigation who served as attorney general in the first Bush administration a quarter century ago, to return as head of the Justice Department.

Mr. Barr, 68, would become the nation’s top law enforcement official as Mr. Trump and his associates are under investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, for whether they conspired with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election and help elect Mr. Trump. Mr. Barr would oversee the inquiry as key aspects of it are coming to a close.

Known for his expansive vision of executive power, Mr. Barr has criticized Mr. Mueller for hiring too many prosecutors who donated to Democrats and has cast doubt on whether Trump campaign associates conspired with Russians. Mr. Barr has also defended Mr. Trump’s calls for a new criminal investigation into his defeated 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, including over a uranium mining deal the Obama administration approved when she was secretary of state.

Barr possesses a measure of establishment credibility among Republican senators, and possibly a little among Democratic senators, because he served as Attorney General for a couple of years for the recently (absurdly) canonized President George HW Bush. Further

In that role, Mr. Barr advanced a strong view of executive power. He told Mr. Bush, for example, that he could deploy troops to Panama, Iraq and Somalia without congressional approval. He also urged top lawyers at departments across the executive branch to be vigilant about congressional encroachments on executive power.

primary focus was on domestic law enforcement, particularly street crime — this was, after all, during the peak of the crime wave of the late 20th century. But he was also extremely concerned about the influx of unauthorized immigrants into the US — largely Mexican immigrants looking for work — that ultimately grew the unauthorized population to 2 million to 4 million by the time Barr and Bush left office in 1993....

Barr rolled out a multimillion-dollar plan to beef up security in the San Diego/Tijuana area where crossings were then concentrated. One component of that plan: building a steel fence with the assistance of the Department of Defense

So Barr checks all the boxes because he is obsessed with candidate Trump's opponent,  legitimate (especially in contrast to Matt Whittaker), hostile toward immigration, enthusiastic about the concentration of Executive power, and critical of the Special Counsel's investigation.

Although the last item is the most important to Trump, the next-too-last is critical. Whatever the President's physical or mental health, he may be dangerous. That is if  "may be" is spelled "is incomparably."

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Friday, December 07, 2018

Backlash Likely

On Thursday, Steve M. contemplated the political strategy in which Elizabeth Warren took a DNA test when President Trump ridiculed the Massachusetts senator for claiming that she had a Cherokee ancestor. One commenter sympathetic to Warren remarked "only White Males with an R are 'pure enough' to be beyond attack."

Evidently, that is accurate because it has now come to Kevin Hart. And coincidentally, Elizabeth Warren is among the numerous individuals eligible to pay the price. Esquire reports

Just days after being announced as the host of the upcoming 91st Academy Awards, Kevin Hart has stepped down from his position.

The move was prompted by fury that erupted following the announcement over anti-gay tweets the star had posted years ago—some of them preserved in infamy forever via screen shots, some still living on his account—as well as homophobic jokes that were included in earlier stand-up sets. (Hart has maintained that the bit was a satire of his own heterosexuality, and stopped performing it a decade ago.) He has defended the jokes for years.

When backlash began, Hart posted a video to his Instagram account saying he had evolved—and that he wasn't sorry. “Guys, I’m almost 40 years old,” he said. “If you don’t believe that people change, grow, evolve as they get older, I don’t know what to tell you. If you want to hold people in a position where they always have to justify or explain the past, then do you. I’m the wrong guy, man. I’m in a great place. A great mature place where all I do is spread positivity.”

He would not apologize, he added in a subsequent video, despite the producers asking him to do so, because he had already addressed those remarks "several times." He would not, he said, feed the internet trolls.

Exactly right. It's unlikely that all Hart does is spread "positivity." He is, after all, a comedian and most contemporary comedians excel at sarcasm, snark, and negativity, much of it deserved. The Academy must have realized that when it appointed him.

Hart does, however, try to avoid controversy and there has been no indication that such "homophobia" is a part of his current act nor that he has made similar remarks recently. These posts were posted in 2010 and 2011- at least seven years ago. However, as Esquire continues

Hours later, the 39-year-old actor-comedian's tone had changed drastically. "I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past," he wrote on Twitter, announcing that he is stepping down as host of the Oscars.

He issued a second apology via a follow-up tweet: "I'm sorry that I hurt people.. I am evolving and want to continue to do so. My goal is to bring people together not tear us apart. Much love & appreciation to the Academy. I hope we can meet again."

If one is to apologize, whether half-heartedly or enthusiastically, the time to do it is promptly. If it comes only after a backlash- such as losing an Oscars gig- it comes off as insincere.  Issued belatedly, the apology also appears self-serving, though if issued after retaliation (as Hart's was), it is less likely to be self-serving because the damage already has been done.

Additionally, though, there is a portion of the public which suffers from apology fatigue and/or sensitivity fatigue.  For every individual whose respect for someone such as Hart is restored following an apology, there is one- or likely, more- viewing it as unnecessary, weak, or even pathetic.

In his third tweet after removal, Hart stated in part "Much love & appreciation to the Academy. I hope we can meet again."

You have just been kicked to the curb, your rear end still smarting from landing hard on the pavement- and you express your love and hope that you "can meet again?" Fourteen years later before Donald J. Trump would ride the principle to the presidency, Bill Clinton recognized "When people are insecure,they'd rather have somebody who is strong and wrong than someone who's weak and right."

Yet, Kevin Hart whines "I hope we can meet again."

Worse yet, someone has again been penalized for what conservatives- and most Americans- believe is regrettable "political correctness."  Hart was not penalized for something he did, nor for being offensive last week. It was for tweets of 2010 and 2011, back when President Barack Obama, a liberal icon, still opposed same-sex marriage. (Obama said he was "evolving;" Hart also says that about himself. One of them was given a pass.)

Worse yet, if this fetish for tolerance, viewed by most Americans as intolerance, continues apace, someone will pay. It will not be in the workplace nor in the public square, where good manners prevail. It will be, as it was in November of 2016, at the ballot box. Justifiably or otherwise, voters will hold responsible one of the political parties, and it won't be the Republican.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

A Man, A Dog, And Religious Faith

She's right, you know. She was, and is.

Slate religion editor Ruth Graham outlined the outpouring of gushy romanticism at the photograph of George HW Bush's service dog, Sully, lying in front of the casket of the 41st President. She concluded that the image

is not proof that Sully is a particularly “good boy” or that “we don’t deserve dogs,” as countless swooning tweets put it on Monday. On its own, it says almost nothing other than the fact that Sully was, at one point in the same room as the casket of his former boss. This is simply a photograph of a dog doing something dogs love to do: Lie down. The frenzy around it captures something humans love to do, too: Project our own emotional needs onto animals.

Her point that the romanticized gushing of Sully has been aided by his "savvy public relations team" was validated by the torrent of critical tweets, strikingly few with any fact-based complaints, rained down upon Graham.

Graham is among the few who at least seem to sense the significance of Wednesday's gesture by President Trump upon recitation of attendees at the Bush funeral of the Apostles' Creed. A Washington Post reporter explains

Video from the funeral of George H.W. Bush showed a front row of presidents at Washington National Cathedral, standing and reciting it along with the program, as the voice of Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry boomed through the speakers to the thousands of mourners. Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and their wives glanced up and down from the programs they held in front of them and spoke the prayer, along with everyone else visible in the video. The program, as is typical, calls for the Creed to be said in unison

President Trump stood, with his hands folded in front of him, waist-high, the program in his left hand, his lips not moving. Melania Trump also did not speak, nor did she hold a program.

Snarky tweets noted by Huffington Post included "The man wouldn’t know the Apostles Creed from Apollo Creed" and "he thought it was something about Apollo Creed and wanted nothing to do with it;" There were even "Are you telling me the so-called "Muslim" president knew all the words to the  Apostles’ Creed, but the 'Christian Conservative' President, did not?" and "Nor did the current evangelical savior (or nude model gold digger) feel it was necessary to recite the Apostles very Christian of them."

But we don't know that President Trump doesn't know the words. The words were written on the program which the other mourners held in front of them.  And Trump did find something necessary- not to recite the Creed but to be seen refusing to do so.

The President (and the First Lady) could have held the programs in front of them, making it difficult to determine whether they were joining the others. They could have enjoyed lip-synching the words or in another manner made it appear they were doing as were the others. The man now called "President" in large measure because he was a spectacular actor on "The Apprentice"could easily have made it appear that he was doing as most of the mourners.

He might have done so but preferred to make a statement. Graham commented
He did it when he referred to "my little wine (and) my little cracker," when he tried to put an offering into a communion plate, and when he remarked "I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don't bring God into that picture. I don't."

Yesterday, the President was making a point. He did not neglect to pray. He chose not to, instead "opting not to participate in the service."

Just as he did when he made the bizarre statement that he and Kim Jong-un "fell in love," he'll keep testing the limits, pushing the envelope   Although Trump believes white, Christian evangelicals may eventually hold him to account, he maintains their support while advocating forced birth, the right to invoke religious faith to discriminate, and arch conservatives for the Supreme Court.  Moreover, if so many people have projected their emotional needs upon a dog assigned to help an elderly former President, perhaps Donald Trump's evangelical supporters have found their own Sully.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Free Pass For Trump

The headline on Chris Cillizza's Washington Post column on October 11, 2016 read "Donald Trump's new attack ad on Clinton's health is brutal. It will also fail."  Notwithstanding the bad prediction, Cillizza accurately noted the ad showed Mrs. Clinton

coughing, needing assistance up steps and then, finally, having to be pulled into her security van after nearly fainting at the service last month in New York City. “Hillary Clinton doesn't have the fortitude, strength or stamina to lead in our world," says the ad's narrator over the Clinton fainting footage. “She failed as secretary of state. Don't let her fail us again."

The ad mirrored coverage from the mainstream media. Earlier this year, Paul Waldman reminded us

Hillary Clinton Is Set Back by Decision to Keep Illness Secret” said the front-page headline in the New York Times the next day. On that day, the cable TV networks ran a total of 13½ hours of coverage of Clinton’s health. Fox News went into paroxysms of speculation about the varieties of brain ailments Clinton might be suffering from. Politico published a photo gallery entitled “Hydrated Hillary: 9 times Clinton quenched her thirst,” just to show her bizarre water-drinking behavior that surely must have been concealing something.

Two days after the episode, the campaign revealed that Mrs. Clinton had been diagnosed two days earlier with pneumonia, which did not impede a poll asking whether voters believed the candidate's explanation (which most did not).

Yet, there was no such survey after Donald Trump sniffed his way through the first two debates with his Democratic opponent.  It might have been from medication, though no such claim has been made. One researcher in sociology claims "sniffling can be a way for a speaker to indicate a shift from personal to professional opinions and vice versa. I have called this ‘the emotional sniff’ as personal statements are allowed to be more emotional."

The sniffling may also be indicative of cocaine use. There is little evidence of this, although it does at least pass the Law of Parsimony/Occam's Razor test compared to "emotional sniffing." We may never know because Mr. Trump's medical records have never been released, only stolen, by a Trump Organization thug from Dr. Harold Bornstein's office in February 2017.

This issue should be a scandal, not only because it is preferable not to have a president under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance, but also we simply don't know what- if anything- is wrong with a president whose behavior would be of intense concern to a family member of anyone as mercurial and erratic as he is.

There may be no drug problem and there may be no psychological problem. However, it should have been of more than passing interest when in May 2017 we learned

President Trump chose to ride in a golf cart while his foreign counterparts took a walk through Taormina, Sicily, on Saturday during the Group of Seven summit.

The Times of London reported the six other world leaders — from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan — walked 700 yards to take a group photo at a piazza in a hilltop town. The U.S. leader decided to wait until he could get a golf cart.

Yesterday, President and Mrs. Trump were to join the GW Bush family at Blair House, at .2 miles less than a  five minute walk from the West Wing of the White House. Instead, the President decided to take a motorcade for what is roughly a 16- minute drive.

Even aside from ideology, were this a President (Mrs. or Mr.) Clinton exhibiting any behavior remotely similar to what we've become accustomed to the past 2-3 years, there would be widespread calls from Republicans- and not a few from Democrats- for resignation of the President.

Trump's refusal to release his medical records should have sent up a red flag. Given statements, tweets, and all manner of actions in his first 23 months in office, the health of the President of the United States of America must arouse far more concern than it has. In what should be a frightening thought, the prospect- actually, threat- of a Mike Pence presidency should do no less.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2018

He Wants Us To Go Along To Get Along

We have met the enemy and he is us.

Steve M reviews how GOP-controlled legislatures in Michigan and Wisconsin are pushing legislation to hamstring newly elected Democrat governors and attorneys general.  The laws then would be signed by Republican governors on their way out the door. Slamming NPR, SM notes "Steve Inskeep interviewed a poli sci professor named Thad Kousser, who assured us all that Both Sides Do It."

But Kousser is merely one, presumably objective, professor. It is more serious when a former President- a Democrat, no less- does the same and no one notices.  Last week, putative Democrat Barack Obama stated (beginning at 24:31 of the video below) at the 25th Anniversary Gala of the (James A) Baker Institute at Rice University

When Jim arrives in Washington in 1981, you still had a whole bunch of conservative democrats, many of them from the south. You had Republicans, many from the north, who were extraordinarily liberal on environmental issues or civil rights issues on a whole range of topics and you know political scientists were getting angry at the fact that American parties don't make any sense.

Actually, they weren't "angry," rather suggesting the possibility that at some distant point in time the parties should transition from "Democrat" and "Republican" to "liberal" and "conservative." Obama understands that has largely, informally, occurred in the decades since. He also pines for the time when progressive leadership (i.e., Speaker O'Neill) was forced to sell out the progressive principles of the party. Obama continues

There's not always any rhyme or reason for it but the advantage of that was that you had overlapping- an overlapping ideological spectrum in each party so that there were going to be some Democrats you could have a conversation with who in turn were going to put some pressure on Tip O'Neill because they said "doggone it, If I'm gonna keep my seat in Tennessee, you're going to have to give a little bit because Reagan's really popular down there, and conversely Democrats would have to deal with the fact that there were going to be some Republicans who were going to reach across the aisle because actually they have same view on certain issues.

The former President continues his history lecture by blaming the media, The New York Times equally with Fox News, alleging

There are a range of reasons why that changed. Some of that had to do with the shift in the media because in 1981 your news cycle was still governed by the stories that were going to be filed by AP, Washington Post, maybe New York Times and the three broadcast stations and whether it was Cronkite, Brinkley, or what have you, there was a common set of facts, a baseline around which both parties had to adapt and respond to and by the time I take office what you increasingly have is a media environment in which if you are a Fox News viewer, you have an entirely different reality than if you are a New York Times reader.

Obama blames gerrymandering and believes both sides are in on it equally, about which North Carolinians beg to differ. The word "Georgia" never escapes his lips and he pretends to be unaware of voter suppression by Republicans there and elsewhere.  Nor does he mention that results of a democratic election are being undone in Wisconsin and Michigan. Instead, we hear

It means the basis of each respective party had become more ideological. It means that because of gerrymandering, members of Congress now are entirely sure they'll win the seat if they get the nomination. What they get to worry about is whether I get somebody from farther to the right or farther to the left who's going to run against me in a primary.  They then are not willing to stray from whatever the party line has become....

What they get to worry about is whether I get somebody from farther to the right or farther to the left who's going to run against me in a primary.  But it is not liberal and conservative activists who equally have mounted credible primary campaigns in, respectively, Democratic and Republican primaries.  It's as if the history professor/44th President had never heard the phrase Tea Party.

There is simply no leftist equivalent to the rightist Tea Party, which sent many conservative Republicans, including then-Minority Leader Eric Cantor, packing, and which has had a lasting impact upon GOP legislators, persuaded previously to oppose anything Obama and now supportive of anything Trump.

Playing the bothsiderism game, Barack Obama disappears that history, as he downplayed the threat from the far right while he was President.  In June, Axios noted that "at least nine" Democrats mulling a 2020 run had met with him because "meeting with Obama is an easy way for 2020 contenders to gain legitimacy and presidential wisdom — and, most importantly, a foothold with the man still largely considered to be the Democratic Party's figurehead."

So it matters what Barack Obama thinks.  And what he thinks is that the Democratic Party is becoming too ideological, Washington dysfunction is prompted by the media, and the Democratic Party is as guilty as is the Republican Party of subverting democracy.  And that nothing could be finer than a Democratic House Speaker and a Republican President sitting down together and forging consensus because that was the great thing about the Reagan presidency.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Going With The Flow, As Usual

On Monday evening, former President Barack Obama took the stage at the Baker Institute at Rice University with professional Republican James A Baker and historian Jon Meacham in an event geared to celebrate bipartisanship.

Obama brought his characteristic wit, intellect, insight, charm, and great good humor (edited video here). In his final response, he displayed the last when he stated "not only did I not get indicted, nobody in my Administration got indicted." Turning toward Baker, he added "which, by the way, was the only Administration in modern history that that can be said about." (The passive-aggressive manner made the crack about past GOP presidencies only more poignant.)

Stating "whether it was Cronkite or Brinkley or what have you" (the "what have you" could have included the great Dan Rather, but... Obama), the former president remarked (at 26:39 of the video below)

there was a common set of facts, a baseline around which both parties had to, uh, adapt and respond to and by the time I take office what you increasingly had is a media environment in which if you are a Fox News viewer, you had an entire different reality then if you are a New York Times reader.

Oh, yes. Barack Obama suggested that the credibility of Fox News is roughly that of the New York Times.  We should let that sink in.

He later (at 39:21) argued

When it comes to gerrymandering, it is absolutely true that Democrats do the same thing that Republicans do. If they're in control, then they will try to maximize the number of seats they have and vice-versa.

Up to a point, sir.  Before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in January 2018 found the congressional districts gerrymandered by a GOP legislature unconstitutional and effected a redrawn map

in 2012, Democratic candidates won slightly more votes in US House elections and Barack Obama won the state. But the state’s 18 House seats didn’t split 9-9 between the parties — instead, Republicans won 13 seats there, and Democrats just won five. No seats changed partisan hands in the 2014 or 2016 elections, either.

Vox noted earlier this year that in an ongoing saga in which congressional districts were radically gerrymandered

North Carolina is evenly or nearly evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, Republicans currently hold 10 of the state’s 13 House seats. In their quest for a House majority, even one or two newly competitive seats in North Carolina would be a major boost to Democrats’ chances of taking over at least one chamber of Congress....

But if you look at its congressional maps, Republicans have an incredibly lopsided advantage. That’s intentional; Republican state Rep. Dave Lewis admitted as much in 2016, during the redistricting process.

“I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats, because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats,” Lewis said at a state House hearing.

The map was not redrawn before the elections, and thus the GOP  held on to at least nine of those seats (one still undetermined).  That's how they win elections.

It shouldn't be too difficult for a former Democratic president, consistently opposed and continuously attacked by Republicans- and especially by GOP TV- for being a Democrat to acknowledge that there are big and consequential differences between the two parties. But Barack Obama won't do that, uttering "Republican Party" or "Republicans" only to add to bothsiderism.

Unfortunately, that is none too surprising. Neither is it surprising that when evaluating his accomplishments at the end of the event, former President Obama noted how much he had helped the energy sector and big business generally.

He did not mention the Affordable Care Act or whatever other progressive initiatives he may have implemented. That may be because of the audience to which he was speaking. It may instead have been that he was particularly proud of policies which should have satisfied Republicans, or because there was little else he was responsible for. Whatever it is, one day, liberals or progressives will have to take an objective look at the years 2009-2016. Or not.

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Saturday, December 01, 2018

A Right To Be Wrong

The chickens are coming home to roost.

They probably are not, but they should be.  On Wednesday, Mark Lamont Hill, who holds an endowed chair in Temple University's Klein College of Media and Communications, delivered a controversial speech to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People at a United Nations event commemorating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Craig R. McCoy of the Philadelphia Inquirer/Philadelphia Daily News reports that Mr. Hill

explored numerous ways that he said Palestinians had been mistreated, ranging from their treatment in the courts to restrictions on their ability to travel. He also said violence by Palestinians could be justified as self-defense.

At the end, however, he also

endorsed "a free Palestine from the river to the sea," a catchphrase of the Palestinian cause that critics associate with its most militant wings.

Critics said Hill was in effect calling for an end to Israel. After CNN dismissed him on Thursday, Hill called the criticism "absurd" and noted that elsewhere in the speech, he supported Israel's borders, or at least those that existed before it occupied the West Bank and Gaza after the Six-Day War in 1967.

"No part of this is a call to destroy Israel," Hill wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

He added: "I do not support anti-Semitism, killing Jewish people, or any of the other things attributed to my speech. I have spent my life fighting these things."

But that did not stop Hill from presenting a reasonably lengthy speech in which he neglected to support the nation of Israel as a Jewish state, yet had the time to refer to Israel inaccurately as conducting "ethnic cleansing" and to repeat the slogan of the most extreme and murderous elements wanting to annihilate Israel because of the religion of the majority of its inhabitants.

That does not validate the statement of Patrick O'Connor, the chairperson of Temple University's Board of Directors, who said "it should be made clear that no one at Temple is happy with his comments. Free speech is one thing. Hate speech is entirely different."

Hill did not explicitly ridicule or disparage Jews, though the inference is clear to anyone who listens to the entire speech objectively.  O'Connor should not do, as the left too often has (the result of which we saw on 11/6/18), label  as "hate speech" remarks simply because they are radical, unpopular, or cause discomfort or distress.  Free expression in a democratic society can be unsettling and. yes, offensive. None of those characteristics renders an opinion illegitimate, nor should subject the speaker to punishment.

Consequently, as the legal director of the Pennsylvania ACLU is quoted as explaining, "Since Temple is a public university, the Constitution applies. Under the First Amendment, Temple cannot punish an employee for making off-the-job statements that it might disagree with. It's not complicated." CNN, of course, is under no such obligation to treat all political opinions equally and exercised its right to terminate Mr. Hill.

Marc Lamont Hill may or may not be anti-Semitic merely because his passionate advocacy of the self-determination of oppressed peoples does not extend to Jews.  But he surely is anti-Zionist, and finds the continued existence of a Jewish state antithetical to the hopes and aspirations of Palestinians.

Hill has the right, without fear of loss of employment at a public university, to blame Israel while absolving of all responsibility the fifteen (15)majority-Muslim countries of the Middle East comprising approximately 99.9% of the region's land area. Nonetheless, Temple University is well within its legal right, and arguably has a moral obligation, to announce that Professor Hill's views are his alone and do not represent the views of the institution. 

And in a parallel universe, the college would assert Hill's right to be controversial, offensive, and misguided while acknowledging that he has engaged in what is commonly misunderstood as "hate speech."The boost for both freedom of expression and tolerance of offensive speech would be almost  as bold and necessary as it would be unexpected.

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Friday, November 30, 2018

Disclosure Not A Sure Thing

Read enough tweets, and you will find a few truly hilarious, such as
 How did they think this was not coming out? There are approximately 86 reasons, but here are a few:

- Trump could have avoided telling Lester Holt on May 11, 2017 "And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: 'You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should've won,'" Two days later, DAG Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller to be Special Prosecutor.

- Attorney General Jeff Sessions might not have recused himself from the Special Counsel's probe. Of course, it would have been clearly unethical had he not done so. However, if he hadn't, the President would have backed him and there is no statute which would have demanded Sessions' removal.

- The President could have effected the dismissal of the Special Counsel early (or at any time) in the probe. If he had done so before the indictments started coming, there would have been relatively little blowback. At that time, there would have been little hard evidence of wrongdoing and virtually no proof of anything. Even now, the investigation is being supervised by a Trump toady, about whom CNN explains

As acting attorney general, Whitaker will have say over key decisions, such as whether to subpoena the President, approve criminal charges of individuals and directions over the scope of the investigation as more information comes to light.

Whitaker will also decide if the final report prepared by Mueller should be made public as well as which portions to redact.

Even with the latest revelations, pundits argue (though exaggerate, given that most details are yet to be revealed) that getting 67 United States senators to vote in favor of removal of Donald Trump from the presidency is almost unimaginable. He could be impeached by the House- as was President Clinton, who went on to become the most popular politician in the USA for a period of time.

President Trump could be indicted, but most legal experts maintain that is highly unlikely given current Department of Justice guidelines.  He would be more likely prosecuted after leaving the presidency, though that might require obtaining an objective jury and would be a long-drawn out process.

-The President could have kept Cohen in the Trump orbit and not abandoned him because Cohen considered himself not only Trump's employer and fixer, but also a member of his family. Only after he realized the President was ditching him did "Cohen began sending up flares, signaling that he was considering cooperating with federal prosecutors and that his ultimate loyalty would be not to Trump, but to his "family and country." It took awhile for Cohen to prefer "being seen as a bad guy to maybe a guy that's trying to do the right thing."

About a month before Michael Cohen released his recording of a sensitive conversation he had with Donald Trump, the President's longtime attorney and adviser was agonizing over the silent treatment he was getting from his former boss.

"I don't understand why no one's calling me. I don't understand why no one's communicating with me," Cohen told Bo Dietl, a longtime friend and well-known private investigator who relayed the conversation to CNN.

Federal prosecutors were bearing down on him over his business dealings, some involving Trump, and Cohen was looking for a sign of reassurance from the President, a man he regarded more as family than as a boss.

"He was very taken aback that no one was communicating with him," Dietl said. "You're so close to somebody and all of a sudden they stop talking to you, you wonder what's happened."

- Donald Trump did not think he would win the presidential election and probably believed that if he did not, there would be little attention paid to his criminal syndicate.

And so there was much reason for Donald Trump to believe that his business and financial entanglements with Russian organized crime and the Kremlin (redundancy acknowledged) would not be discovered and that if they were, he could wiggle out of the controversy as he has every other. He remains President with a substantial base and a coterie of GOP senators worried that if Trump is indeed videotaped shooting someone on 5th Avenue, they would have to reconsider their support for him. Maybe.

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That warm, fuzzy feeling has taken over the government of Atlanta, Georgia. The leftist Rewire.News reports After a years-l...