Friday, April 20, 2018

More Than Ted Cruz

It's obscured, arguably concealed, yet potentially extremely important.

TIME annually publishes a list of the 100 most influential people in the world and the blurb recognizing Donald Trump was written by Texas senator Cruz, who (in full) remarked

President Trump is a flash-bang grenade thrown into Washington by the forgotten men and women of America. The fact that his first year as Commander in Chief disoriented and distressed members of the media and political establishment is not a bug but a feature.

The same cultural safe spaces that blinkered coastal elites to candidate Trump’s popularity have rendered them blind to President Trump’s achievements on behalf of ordinary Americans. While pundits obsessed over tweets, he worked with Congress to cut taxes for struggling families. While wealthy celebrities announced that they would flee the country, he fought to bring back jobs and industries to our shores. While talking heads predicted Armageddon, President Trump’s strong stand against North Korea put Kim Jong Un back on his heels.

President Trump is doing what he was elected to do: disrupt the status quo. That scares the heck out of those who have controlled Washington for decades, but for millions of Americans, their confusion is great fun to watch.

It's hard to imagine so much minsinformation in seven sentences, but most reaction- understandably- has been on the effusive praise given freely to a man who has so insulted (first video from 3/16; the latter from 5/16)the Senator's family. Typical was one from a Matt Fuller:

Cruz will be easily renominated but is in very serious danger of losing his November re-election bid to Democrat Beta O'Rourke. Therefore, it's counter-intuitive that he would strive to endear himself to Trumpists while risking support among independents and right-leaning Democrats. Steve M, however, suggests the possiblility "he grovels because he thinks he's going to lose in November. Hey, there are sure to be some openings in the Trump administration in 2019, right?"

Not only will there be openings in the Trump administration in 2019, but even more in the unlikely event of a second Trump term.

Rafael Edward "Ted" Cruz has argued nine times before the US Supreme Court and is seemingly unaware that the US Constitution establishes the President as Commander in Chief only "of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several states, when called into the actual Service of the United States."

But of course he does know that because he is the same Rafael Edward Cruz of whom Al Franken once said "I like Ted Cruz more than my colleagues like Ted Cruz, and I hate Ted Cruz." Veiled and obscured in fulsome praise in TIME, the message is: do not question Donald Trump- he is our Commander in Chief, to whom full obedience is due.

Ted Cruz was, is, and evermore shall be a con man. However, this goes well beyond Ted Cruz.  If the President is re-elected, he will need the cooperation of his minions to get out the messages that dissent is unpatriotic and all resistance is futile.  Fulfilling the latter aim would be law enforcement agencies which would be called into service at each level of government- perhaps assuming credibility by acting on behalf of the "Commander in Chief."

But there will be individuals tasked with the first aim and expected to undermine the First Amendment's protections of a free press and freedom of speech.  It would be too important to leave to the President, who on his own cannot destroy the fabric of society. In this first term, congressional Republicans offer no resistance to the President, and often serve as his attack dog.  In a second term, the stakes would be much higher, and Ted Cruz has performed very well indeed in his first audition.

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Timid Trio

Enabling President Trump to continue his antisocial behavior, Jeff Flake has voted for all of the President's legislative priorities while posing as a fervent critic of Mr. Trump Therefore, at first thought, it was simply another example of Flakes' uselessness when

A confluence of events put President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead NASA on the verge of an unexpected blockade Wednesday afternoon.

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona had initially voted against limiting debate on the nomination of GOP Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, but after almost an hour, he switched his vote.

While Flake was recorded against the cloture motion on Bridenstine, the vote was deadlocked 49-49. His reversal allowed the nomination to move forward 50-48. A confirmation vote is likely before the Senate wraps up work for the week on Thursday.

Under the normal course of events, a generally partisan tie vote could have been overcome with the assistance of Vice President Mike Pence, voting to break the tie in favor of Trump’s nominee.

Wednesday, however, Pence was joining Trump for meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in South Florida. So the Senate would have needed to hold open the Bridenstine vote, potentially for hours.

All 98 of the 100 senators expected to be available to vote Wednesday were present, with John McCain battling brain cancer in Arizona and Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, taking leave after giving birth on April 9.

The first thought would be inaccurate, however, as Flake appears to have gotten a concession, albeit unknown and probably minor and irreversible, from the Administration on either immigration or Cuba.

But not every Republican senator who gets an A+ on Submission 101 has gotten something in return.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asserted that (assuming it is approved next week in committee) he would not put on the floor a bipartisan, combined (Tillis-Coons/Graham-Booker) bill which would give Special Counsel Robert Mueller an opportunity to appeal a presidential decision to fire him. Though McConnell is understandably loathe to admit it, his strategy will protect members of his caucus from casting a vote, which in either direction would leave them electorally vulnerable.

However, most Republican senators, though relieved McConnell is blocking the legislation, nevertheless have a different strategic consideration:

South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds said Tuesday that Trump should make the decision on his own and be responsible for the consequences.

"I think having Congress tell him what we believe he should do in this case is simply poking the bear, and I'd just prefer not to do that," Rounds said.

Oklahoma Sen. Jim Lankford said the bill is a "political distraction."

"You create this whole constitutional political stir over something that is not going to happen," he said.

Others said there was little point.

"It's about as popular as cholera with the leader in the Senate and it's about as popular as malaria in the House," said Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy, a member of the Judiciary panel. "I think most people think we're picking an unnecessary fight with the president."

(Below: Deficit hawk Lankford pleads his concern about the deficit before voting for a tax bill increasing deficits $1.4 trillion over ten years.)

Picking a fight. Political distraction. Poking the bear.  Against such fear, logic cannot prevail, though Delaware's

Coons bristled at the criticism that the legislation is unconstitutional, noting that several courts have upheld similar special counsel statutes.

"If I were convinced this were unconstitutional, I would not be moving it," said Coons, a lawyer.

(Warning: antiquated phrases ahead.) In the bygone days of an era long gone, we youngsters would call the likes of Rounds, Lankford, and Kennedy "scaredy cats." They are frightened, craven men shivering in a corner, afraid that Donald Trump will send out an upsetting tweet if they do the wrong thing by him.

Republican Robert Mueller has been a highly decorated Marine and platoon commander, head of the criminal division of the Justice Department, and director of the FBI. That's not a bad resume, and is only part of it.

Senators Tillis, Coons, Graham, and Booker aim only to offer the Special Counsel a judicial review if removed- but there are Republican senators simply too intimidated to back their colleagues and Mueller.  Although somewhat spineless, Jeff Flake seems to be a little principled. But these other guys are damaging to the Republic and are truly wretched.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Something Missing In This Story

The "liberal media" is at it again.

We begin with the oft-conservative The Hill, which reports

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that the Senate would not take up legislation limiting President Trump's ability to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.

"I'm the one who decides what we take to the floor, that's my responsibility as the majority leader, and we will not be having this on the floor of the Senate," he told Fox News.

McConnell has an explanation, as The Hill adds

But McConnell has said for months that he does not believe legislation protecting Mueller is necessary. He told reporters last week that he had seen no need to pass such a bill. 

"That's not necessary. There's no indication that Mueller is going to be fired. I don't think the president's going to do that. And just a practical matter even if we passed it, why would he sign it?" McConnell said Tuesday on Fox News.

We move on to USA Today, which also notes that the Majority Leader stated “We'll not be having this on the floor of the Senate" and "there's no indication that Mueller's going to be fired."

Roll Call points out that McConnell maintained Mueller shouldn't be fired and won't be fired “so, this is a piece of legislation that’s not necessary in my judgement."

Surely, President Trump's "Fake News CNN," which is not only "FAKE" but a "loser," would be more thorough. Unfortunately, it also quotes McConnell as contending "I don't think he should fire Mueller and I don't think he's going to "so this is a piece of legislation that isn't necessary in my judgment."

In his effort to get The Washington Post to shut up, the President has gone after owner Jeff Bezos personally and the paper generally, claiming Amazon, also owned by Bezos, is profiting off the US Postal Service and government leaks. Yet, its coverage of McConnell's decision not to deter Trump from firing the Special Counsel is similar to the others, adding that McConnell stated “Just as a practical matter, even if we pass it, why would he sign it?”

The "paper of record" with "all the news that's fit to print," which President Grump calls "the failing New York Times," also fails, as does US edition of the liberal/progressive The Guardian.

Six respected news organizations and not one of them found it important even to mention a critical fact about the Senate Majority Leader.

Mitch McConnell is married to Elaine Chao. That's Elaine Chao, as in Secretary of the Department of Transportation Elaine Chao, as a cabinet member serving at the pleasure of President Donald J. Trump.

That may not be the primary reason McConnell refuses to put up the bill sponsored by conservative Republican Thom Tillis of North Carolina and centrist Democrat Chris Coons of Delaware.   The Majority Leader is not anxious to force Republican senators to cast a vote in the affirmative- which would put them at jeopardy with the GOP popular base- or in the negative, which would reveal them as members of Team Russia and would not well serve those senators up for re-election.

But except in the extremely remote possibility that Chao is looking for an exit strategy from Trump's cabinet, McConnell's decision has been affected by his wife's situation. Unless all these co-conspirators simultaneously dreamt that this is no factor, it still would be something worth mentioning who one of the three most powerful politicians in the country is married to.

It would be recognized as important to a coldly objective press. However,  the press itself and Democratic politicians portray it as objective while  the GOP slams it as as "liberal," largely because most reporters lean left.

Yet, most reporters, performing as professionally as they're able, will not allow their personal biases to determine their coverage. Perhaps yhey are affected by the preferences of their employers, most of which are corporations. Or they are intimidated by media-bashing Republican politicians and conservatives in the public. Maybe there is an element of groupthink. Whatever the mix of influences or motives, the mainstream media (let alone the powerful right-wing media) on balance skews Republican, as coverage of this issue exemplifies.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Boon, Not A Bug

No doubt up early for church, the President on Sunday tweeted "Unbelievably, James Comey states that Polls, where Crooked Hillary was leading, were a factor in the handling (stupidly) of the Clinton Email probe. In other words, he was making decisions based on the fact that he thought she was going to win, and he wanted a job. Slimeball!"

Dressing furiously so as not to be late for the pastor's opening announcements, Trump paused briefly to inform everyone "I never asked Comey for Personal Loyalty. I hardly even knew this guy. Just another of his many lies. His “memos” are self serving and FAKE!" and "Slippery James Comey, a man who always ends up badly and out of whack (he is not smart!), will go down as the WORST FBI Director in history, by far!"

The President would never chance missing worship were it not to warn Americans that the former head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is the worst FBI dirctor ever, a fake, and a slimeball.

There was no reason that this Lord's Day should have been any different from any other for a President who actually did chance to visit a church on Easter Sunday. This followed a series of tweets including  "Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. 'Caravans' coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!" On church grounds, he readied his heart for prayer by condemning immigrants and Democrats.

The President obviously is at his classiest on Sunday mornings, even though the Los Angeles Times later on Easter rudely suggested "The tone of the president's holiday tweets differed markedly from the sentiments of goodwill commonly expressed by previous U.S. chief executives on national or religious occasions."

The pettiness and the nastiness have affected upon the President's popularity.  On April 11, history professor Rodney Hessinger observed

The most recent Pew polls suggest that President Donald Trump hasn't just held his support amongst white evangelicals but actually has grown his support since the Stormy Daniels story took hold.

With his white evangelical support having dropped to 61 percent in December, Trump now enjoys 78 percent support, just a shade beneath the support he won from white evangelicals on Election Day.

Hessinger notes

Many commentators have puzzled about the seeming hypocrisy of those who would see adultery and womanizing as grave sins. And yet for those who know the history of evangelicalism in America, this should be no surprise at all.

In fact, there are good reasons why we should expect this result. The history and sexual politics of evangelicalism in America fit well with Donald Trump and his message.

Whatever the history and sexual politics of evangelicalism in the USA, Donald Trump can no longer be validly seen as enormously popular with the white Christian right despite his attitude, language, and behavior.

"Christian conservatives," NYT columnist Michelle Golberg notes, "may believe strongly in their own righteousness. But from the outside, it looks as if their movement was never really about morality at all."  Ironically, in the case of Trump, maybe it is about morality- except in reverse.

Donald Trump lacks regard for traditional Christian virtues as sexual morality, honesty, kindness, charity toward others, compassion, humility, personal responsibility. He openly exhibits contempt for Christian customs, such as communion, the virgin birth, and asking for forgiveness. For him, these are not barriers to popularity with his most enthusiastic constituency. They are an admission ticket.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Changing Circumstances

It's too early to handicap the 2016 presidential race. It's too early to predict the outcome of the general election or even the outcome of the primary race in the Democratic Party. (It's even too early to do so for the GOP nomination, though if a President Trump runs for re-election, the outcome is predetermined.)

It's too early in part because we don't know who, or how many candidates, will vie for the Democratic nomination.  Mentioned at one time or another have been Kamala Harris, Adam Schiff, and Eric Swallwell of California; John Hickenlooper of Colorado; Chris Murphy of Connecticut; Joseph Biden of Delaware; Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii; Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; Steve Bullock of Montana; Cory Booker of New Jersey; Andrew Cuomo and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York; Sherrod Brown and Tim Ryan of Ohio; Joaquin Castro of Texas; Bernie Sanders of Vermont; Terry McAuliffe and Tim Kaine of Virginia. Your mileage may vary.

Some of these guys and gals will decide against competing for the nomination but other politicans, not yet thought of, will do so. Additionally, there is the possibility of celebrities, most controversially Oprah Winfrey, and oddly including Michelle Obama. That a couple of months ago Steve Zuckerberg was floated- seriously- as a possible candidate demonstrates how a list can change in almost the blink of an eye.

And so it is with appropriate caution that Steve Mahtesian would consider in Politico Magazine the likelihood of Joe Biden, "the rare national Democrat who can connect with blue-collar constituencies that have long since left the fold," running for, and winning, the Democratic presidential nomination.

Yet, in "Joe Biden Is The Front-Runner. Uh-Oh," Mahtesian acknowledges that the former vice-president has had in his career conflicting views about financial reform, abortion, and criminal justice reform.  He concludes "as a septuagenarian white male, Biden is a highly unlikely prospect to lead that new coalition" of Democrats committed to a decidely liberal or progressive perspective on these issues.

That's accurate as far as it goes, including the immediately following and final remark "it's a testament to his talents that it's even subject to debate."

But hold on there- on the notions that he would be a longshot or that it's subject to debate.

If individuals change (as they do), events, the mood of the public, and rivals change even more.  That's demonstrated by an extremely informative, even insightful, article by Five Thirty Eight's David Wasserman dated February 12, 2016. Given Hillary Clinton's defeat in the 2016 general election and the most common explanation of it, the piece comes with what now appears to be an ironic, if not myopic, title. However, in the body of the article Wasserman explains

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that Hillary Clinton is relying on a coalition that looks almost the opposite of the one she assembled in 2008. Eight years ago, she prevailed among working-class whites while losing well-educated whites and African-Americans to Barack Obama. But her path to overcoming Bernie Sanders and winning the 2016 nomination now appears to rely on a marriage of upscale whites and African-Americans.

As in 2008, Clinton supporters are still likelier to be older voters, women and self-identified Democrats rather than independents. But in terms of class and race, Clinton’s support looks surprisingly similar to Obama’s. Maybe that shouldn’t be so shocking: Clinton has talked up her connections to Obama, bringing him up repeatedly during the debate Thursday night, and primary voters who preferred to “generally continue Obama’s policies” backed Clinton by 42 percentage points in Iowa and by 25 points in New Hampshire.

Eight years ago, in the run-up to New Hampshire, Obama seemed poised to simply run away with the nomination after Iowa gave him a convincing win and signaled the viability of his candidacy to African-American voters elsewhere. But Clinton’s stunning upset in New Hampshire revealed for the first time that she could count on working-class white Democrats, who loudly and clearly told Obama, “not so fast.”

This is a crucial bit of electoral history that is conveniently ignored because it doesn't fit into the narrative of the 2016 presidential election in which Hillary Clinton beat opponent Donald Trump among young people, racial/ethnic minorities, and affluent and educated voters while getting clobbered by the white working class (and the elderly).

Admittedly, that narrative is borne out in significant part by the vote breakdown nationally, as well as Clinton's stunning and ultimately decisive defeat in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, states traditionally won by Democrats and arguably dominated by the white working-class. Additionally, Clinton was defeated by Trump in the huge swing state of Ohio (another "working-class" state), won in November 2008 and November 2012 by the Democratic nominee, as well as in nearby Kentucky and West Virginia.

Ironically, in her New Hampshire contest with Barack Obama in 2008 (video below from primary night 4/08 in Pennsylvania)

her entire 7,589-vote victory was attributable to big margins in just five working-class Granite State towns: Manchester, Nashua, Rochester, Salem and Berlin. This pattern became a blueprint for Clinton’s later primary wins in working-class states like Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

In the 2016 primary campaign, Clinton generally beat Sanders among more affluent voters and especially the better educated, and among blacks. Similarly, among whites in the general election, she garnered more support than did Trump from blacks and hispanics and the more highly educated.

In those states which Obama won and Clinton lost in the month of November, several factors intervened, including Obama's superior campaign skills, the opposition each faced, and the issues highlighted during the campaigns. Further, the Party has increasingly responded to a constituency- which Obama himself emphasized- of ethnic and sexual minorities, the well-educated, secular individuals, urbanites, and women voluntarily single. These groups have noticed. So have the others.

Hillary Clinton found it far easier to capture the support of white working-class (and elderly) voters when she ran against Barack Hussein Obama than she did running against Donald Trump.  However Clinton has changed probably was the least significant factor in this shift. Additionally, times change; issues change; voters change.

Democratic Party activists generally are energized by the need to regulate the financial services industry, expand reproductive and other rights of women, and reform law enforcement and criminal justice.  Intuitively, therefore, it's likely that candidate Joseph R. Biden Jr. would face obstacles with the popular base while continuing to appeal to white working-class voters. But as Hillary Clinton would admit if subjected to truth serum:  don't bet on it.

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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Stealth Attack

It was widely believed that such tweets as the following from President Trump were exclusively about Amazon, or at least Jeff Bezos:

Guess again.  As the article begins, this New York Times article appears to be merely a frightening look at the autocratic rule Donald Trump has in mind for the USA if he survives his first term, runs for a second, and is re-elected.  Michael D. Shear of The New York Times reports

President Trump abruptly issued an executive order on Thursday demanding an evaluation of the Postal Service’s finances, asserting the power of his office weeks after accusing Amazon, the online retail giant, of not paying its fair share in postage.

In the executive order, issued just before 9 p.m., Mr. Trump created a task force to examine the service’s “unsustainable financial path” and directed the new panel to “conduct a thorough evaluation of the operations and finances of the U.S.P.S.”

The president does not mention Amazon in the order, but it is clear that he intends for the panel to substantiate his repeated claim that the financial arrangement between the Postal Service and Amazon, its biggest shipper of packages, is a money loser.

In December, Mr. Trump railed against the service on Twitter for being “dumber and poorer” by losing billions of dollars and not “charging MUCH MORE” to Amazon and other shippers. His Twitter attacks date back as far as 2013, when he scoffed at the service for planning to eliminate Saturday mail delivery — “our poor, poor Country,” he wrote — and raising the cost of stamps.

Postal Service experts and even Mr. Trump’s own advisers have privately urged him to back off the accusations, noting that the huge number of packages shipped by Amazon is actually helping to keep the Postal Service financially solvent.

While the service has consistently reported net losses for a decade, much of its financial woes are the result of a prolonged decline in the volume of marketing mail and first-class mail. The service makes money on packages, and Amazon is the service’s biggest single shipper of packages.

But the president has refused to believe those arguments, insisting in a tweet as recently as March 31 that “the U.S. Post Office will lose $1.50 on average for each package it delivers for Amazon.”

“That amounts to Billions of Dollars,” he continued.

Mr. Trump’s repeated attacks on Amazon have focused in part on the company’s billionaire owner, Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post. People close to Mr. Trump have said the president’s tirades against the retailer often come after The Post has published negative articles about him.

President Trump has continued his vendetta against the federal law enforcement agency- the FBI- and against the nation's intelligence agencies. However, he will turn on a dime if re-elected.  No personal or political enemy of the President of the United States of America will be off-limits as a re-elected, unrestrained President marshals the power of the federal government to establish one-man rule.

Trump rails against Jeff Bezos because he owns one of the two greatest daily newspapers in America. But it is more than a hint of what would come in a second term. In a cunning sleight of hand, the President is using his grudge against the free press to divert attention from yet another effort at privatization.  Shear continues

In the order, the president calls on the task force to examine various parts of the Postal Service’s business, including ones that appear to directly involve large parts of Amazon’s business.

That includes the “expansion and pricing” of the package delivery market and the service’s role in competing with other, private delivery companies. The task force should look at the decline in mail volume and the implications for the service, Mr. Trump said.

The order also calls for the task force to look at the service’s “universal service obligation,” which requires the service to deliver to everyone in the United States, given changes in technology and e-commerce.

Some parts of the order appear to hint at further privatization of the Postal Service, indicating that members of the task force should examine “the U.S.P.S. role in the U.S. economy and in rural areas, communities, and small towns.”

Like a Vietnamese village in the war US forces conducted there- or Medicare or Social Security, which Republicans have longed to cut in order to "preserve," "save," or "restructure" for "future generations"- the Postal Service must be destroyed so as to keep it. We learn

In the order, Mr. Trump said that the longstanding financial problems at the Postal Service demand some kind of action.

“A number of factors, including the steep decline in First-Class Mail volume, coupled with legal mandates that compel the U.S.P.S. to incur substantial and inflexible costs, have resulted in a structural deficit,” Mr. Trump says in the order. “The U.S.P.S. is on an unsustainable financial path and must be restructured to prevent a taxpayer-funded bailout.”

At the moment, arguably our best hope at maintaining relatively inexpensive first-class mail service is the incompetence of this Administration, for

It is unclear how quickly the task force will be assembled, or when its review might result in changes at the Postal Service that could directly affect Amazon and other shippers.

Early last week, the FBI executed a search warrant upon the home, office, and hotel room of Michael D. "Thug" Cohen, Donald Trump's "fixer." When news broke that the President had ordered a bombing raid on Syria, speculation arose that he had implemented a "wag the dog" strategy by launching the (limited) war to distract attention from the Special Counsel's investigation into his campaign's conspiracy with Russia and related matters.

That may have played a role, though with revelations coming fast and furious, almost any major action by this President could be viewed as a distraction. This includes Donald Trump's preliminary moves against The Washington Post and the U.S. Postal Service, both of which in a second Trump Administration would have a devastating impact upon the country he despises.

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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Don't Let The Door Hit You On The Way Out.

In "The Tragedy of Paul Ryan," published on April 11 in Politico Magazine, Tim Alberta notes "Paul Ryan came to Congress as a Jack Kemp conservative and will depart as a Donald Trump Republican."

Once Donald Trump won the presidency, Alberta maintains, Ryan wanted to return as Speaker so he could

have a chance to pursue the legislation of his dreams: repealing Obamacare, rewriting the tax code, reforming entitlement programs and rebuilding the military. But it would be possible only if he partnered with the very man whose offenses were so manifest that Ryan disinvited him from his own Wisconsin congressional district a month before the election.

The Affordable Care Act, although weakened, will not be repealed during this Congress. (Alternatively, though it will not be repealed, Obamacare is a shell of its former self.) Congress has passed a bill which President Trump pushed for "rebuilding" the military, because spending more on the military than the next seven or eight nations combined was, Ryan seems to have believed, dangerously insufficient.

The corporate tax scam passed by the GOP Congress in the last few days of 2017, whose specifics baffled accountants and the public alike, likely will result in significant cuts to Medicare, will explode the debt beyond Ronald Reagan's wildest wet dream, and will shove money upward at a furious rate. Further, as an economist who worked under President Obama noted, "it leaves low- and middle-income workers with even fewer resources to invest in their children, and increases the number of Americans without health insurance.”

Paul Ryan has done his job- as he planned it- very well, and almost all Americans insufficiently financially advantaged to be a major donor to Paul Ryan will be the worst off for it.

The day before Alberta's article was published, Mieke Eoyang argued that Ryan, now that he is free from any concern about backlash from the ultra-right among his colleagues and in the GOP base, has a chance to redeem himself. She explains

Under House rules, the speaker may, at any time, remove any member of a select committee at his or her discretion. In the past, members have been stripped of their committee assignments for causing problems for the leadership. Thus, unlike other committees, where the caucus or a steering committee has a say in the committee leadership, HPSCI is effectively under Ryan’s thumb. So he owns Nunes’ shameful handling of the Russia probe, and his hijinks on behalf of the White House.

One year ago, chairperson of the House Select Committee on Intelligence Devin

Nunes dashed off to the White House in the middle the night and the next day, called two bizarre news conferences during which he accused President Barack Obama’s team of improperly “unmasking” the identities of Trump associates. 

Having debased himself in this shameless display of obeisance to Donald Trump, Nunes announced that he was recusing himself from the committee's oversight of the Russia investigation. However, he did no such thing, and in January demanded the Justice Department give, Eeyong reminds us, "highly sensitive documents related to ongoing criminal investigations to congressional investigators."

Ryan backed Nunes, as he did when the committee the following month recklessly- against the objection of the FBI and the DOJ- released (on a party-line vote) its partisan memorandum accusing the FBI of misconduct in its handling of the application for a warrant for Carter Page.

Shortly thereafter, Nunes leaked text messages of vice-chairperson of the Senate Intelligence Committee Mark Warner. This past week

he threatened to hold in contempt and begin impeachment proceedings (against) Rosenstein and Wray if they did not provide other documents that are part of the government’s case against people charged in the Mueller investigation. This isn’t oversight—it’s a bald-faced attack on America’s law enforcement institutions that runs contrary to the GOP’s long-standing respect for the rule of law.

If it wasn't yet obvious what Nunes was up to, later that day he told Laura Ingraham "We're not going to just hold in contempt, we will have a plan to hold in contempt and to impeach." He was not referring to Donald Trump.

Eoyang wants Speaker Ryan to replace Nunes with Representative Conaway (next-senior Republican on the committee) or someone else credible, encourage the committee head to appoint respected career professionals as staff, and significantly tone down the rhetoric.

But of course he won't do that. He won't do that because Paul Ryan has been as interested in containing President Trump as he has had in the issue of poverty, a short-lived, boutique cause for him. He remains, as Charlie Pierce has periodically called him, "the biggest fake in American politics."

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Soothing Thought

It was understandable that a mere day after the 2016 election Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine and chairperson of the Network of Spiritual Progressives would write

The left needs to stop ignoring people’s inner pain and fear. The racism, sexism and xenophobia used by Mr. Trump to advance his candidacy does not reveal an inherent malice in the majority of Americans. If the left could abandon all this shaming, it could rebuild its political base by helping Americans see that much of people’s suffering is rooted in the hidden injuries of class and in the spiritual crisis that the global competitive marketplace generates.

That was before we knew better. Still, even today- Tuesday, April 10, 2018- we have individuals nominally left of center chastising the left for alleged close-mindedness. Pundit and author Sally Kohn, though saying avid Trump critics "should (not) give up your core beliefs," warns them

If you want to make things better, stop hating Trump voters. After all, don’t you want them to change? Don’t you want them to abandon their loyalty to Trump, see how destructive he is and vote for a progressive candidate in two or 10 or 20 years? Too much is made of “sides” in politics today, but nonetheless, don’t you want “their side” to come join “our side”?...

....please know that a lot of Trump supporters think you’re the hateful, close-minded monsters. So just like you feel justified hating them because they hate you, they feel justified hating you because you hate them. And so we end up on this ugly merry-go-round of hate. Which only stops when one side decides to end it. 

Lerner referred to "the left," "Democrats," and "liberals" and Kohn to "fellow progressives." But one of the things they have in common is neither names names. No Democratic and/or liberal politiciian is cited and they by no means implicate themselves, their family members or relatives, friends, or even neighbors. It's easier and safer that way.

Kohn argues- sympathetically- "part of the frustration many Trump supporters have expressed is that they feel marginalized and disdained in the wake of greater social progress and inclusion."

That's putting a smiley face on it.  Last week, Tom Jacobs of Pacific Standard found

a new scholarly analysis suggests Trump's instinct that racial prejudice drove him to victory is spot on.

"The 2016 campaign witnessed a dramatic polarization in the vote choices of whites based on (their level of) education," writes a research team led by political scientist Brian Schaffner of the University of Massachusetts–Amherst. "Very little of this gap can be explained by the economic difficulties faced by less-educated whites. Rather, most of the divide appears to be associated with sexism, and denialism of racism."

In the journal Political Science Quarterly, Schaffner and his colleagues note that a significant split between the preferences of highly educated and less-educated white voters is a relatively new phenomenon.

"In 2000, a small but notable gap began to emerge, with non-college-educated whites providing more support for the Republican presidential nominee," they write. "This gap remained relatively small, ranging from five to seven points in the elections held from 2000 to 2012."

"In 2016, however, the gap in vote preferences between college-educated and non-college-educated whites widened considerably to 18 points," they add. "College-educated whites were more supportive of [Hillary] Clinton than they had been of [Barack] Obama in 2012, while whites without a college degree moved even more dramatically toward Trump."

Economic discontent, ethical questions pertaining to Hillary Clinton, and an anti-establishment spirit responding to Trump's "drain the swamp" slogan are among the reasons cited by the learned class to explain the outcome of the presidential election. By contrast, Jacobs explains of Schaffner's findings

Why this occurred has been debated ever since, with one side emphasizing these voters' economic woes, and the other focusing on their fears of a changing society. To try to determine which was more important, the researchers looked at data from two large, nationally representative surveys administered online by YouGov: a pre-election poll of 2,000 American adults taken in late October of 2016, and a survey of 2,830 who were interviewed just before and just after the vote.

Schaffner and his colleagues focused on their responses to seven statements that reflect their attitudes about race and gender. Participants indicated their level of agreement or disagreement with each.

They included "Women are too easily offended;" "Women seek to gain power by getting control over men;" "White people in the U.S. have certain advantages because of the color of their skin;" and "Racial problems in the US. are rare, isolated situations."

In addition, participants indicated which presidential candidate they planned to vote for (or, in the follow-up survey, voted for), and answered one of two questions about their personal finances. Those in the first survey were directly asked "How satisfied are you with your overall economic situation?", while those in the second indicated whether their household income had increased, decreased, or stayed about the same over the past four years.

The results would surprise Lerner, Kohn, and others who do not want to face reality:

"While the economic variables in our models were significantly associated with vote choice, those effects were dwarfed by the relationship between hostile sexism and denial of racism and voting for Trump," the researchers report. "Moving from one end of the sexism scale to the other was associated with more than a 30-point increase in support for Trump among the average likely voter. The relationship for the denial-of-racism scale was nearly identical. Moving from the highest levels of acknowledgement and empathy for racism to the lowest level was associated with about a 30-point increase in support for Trump."

These findings held true even after the researchers took into account two additional factors that have been linked to Trump support: populism (determined by responses to statements such as "The system is stacked against people like me") and authoritarianism (as measured by attitudes about child-rearing).

If only we'd just listen to each other (or at least the left to the right), Lerner and Kohn imply. More realistically, Jamelle Bouie on the day after the election observed

Americans are stubbornly, congenitally optimistic. And the millions who backed Trump see something in his visage. Something that gives them hope. Here’s what I see. I see a man who empowered white nationalists and won. I see a man who demanded the removal of nonwhite immigrants and won. I see a man who pledged war crimes against foreign enemies and won. I see a man who empowers the likes of Rudy Giuliani and others who see blacks as potential criminals to control, not citizens to respect.

Understanding how other people think is never a bad thing, and economic discontent did indeed play a role in defeat of the party defending (in more ways than one) the presidency. It is comforting to believe that we, the American people, have few if any prejudices, and that the election of Barack Obama eight years earlier proved it.  But no good can come from ignoring facts, facts which should have been evident in the victory of the Make America Great Again candidate (video from 11/17/16), who laid bare his contempt for ethnic minorities, women, and the country itself.

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This blog will return on Saturday, April 14, 2018, when hopefully you will, also.

We'll Find Out If The Door Swings Both Ways

It is now April, 2018, and hence the right (or left) time to return to a period 48 months ago, and then 24 months ago, to two events recalled by Steve M. Four years ago we read from the Washington Times' Cheryl K. Chumley

Former CEO Brendan Eich, who’s been with Mozilla since its creation and actually helped found the company’s charitable offshoot foundation in 1998, announced this week he’s stepping down from the role over a flap generated by a $1,000 donation he made to a California campaign that sought to ban same-sex marriage in the state.

Mr. Eich made the donation five years ago, but his promotion to CEO brought the issue to the forefront once again. And the ensuing outcry from the gay rights crowd and certain Mozilla employees on social media ultimately pushed him to abandon the leadership post.

But now conservatives are striking back.

Mr. Shapiro has started a movement — complete with petition — to get as many Internet users as possible to “uninstall or cease using Mozilla,” he wrote on his website,, replacing his traditional news content with simply the call-to-arms, Raw Story reported.

“Pardon this interruption of your TruthRevolt experience,” the message continued. “Mozilla recently forced its CEO, Brendan Eich, to resign over his personal support for traditional marriage. The firing followed a vicious smear campaign against Eich by dating website OKCupid, in which OKCupid blocked Mozilla users from visiting their website.”

Two years later there was this, from a blog post by Chumley:

A petition to boycott Target over its transgender bathroom policy has generated huge interest ...

Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and of the Christian international relief organization Samaritan's Purse, struck back hard on Facebook at Target over its recently implemented transgender policy, saying men who use women's bathrooms is a danger to the most vulnerable in society.

"I agree with the American Family Association – this policy encourages sexual predators and puts women and children in danger," Graham wrote. "A man shouldn't be able to enter the women's restroom or dressing room because he says he 'feels like a woman today.' That's ridiculous."

And now two years later still, Laura Ingraham criticized young pro-gun safety activist David Hogg, who called for a boycott of her program and took an unexpected vacation after companies took Hogg up on his challenge. The Huffington Post reports that Ingraham returned Monday night and at the end of her program

said she would launch a new segment called “Defending the First” meant to promote free speech and counter a “dangerous epidemic” she said was being sponsored by liberals.

“The left will brook no dissent, and they will militarily police the borders of their stale orthodoxy,” Ingraham said. “We will expose the enemies of the First Amendment while showcasing those brave voices for making a difference.”

Bill Maher (video below) notes "you shouldn't be doing this by teams, you should be doing it by principle." If Laura Ingraham truly is joining Maher, Salman Rushdie and others in promoting the values of free expression and liberal democracy, she ought to be welcomed. But she would then have to condemn efforts by the right- as well as the left- to shut down speech, popular and unpopular.  It's extremely unlikely she will- but if I'm surprised, I'll join the few others who will defend her.

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Monday, April 09, 2018

Business Model

Someone is "standing up" to mainland China. It could be former New York State Attorney General and governor Eliot Spitzer or even neoconservative Max Boot as they spoke (beginning at 7:29 of video below) on Friday evening's overtime segment of Real Time:

Spitzer: Another one that's important- the tariffs. Democrats should stand u;p and say "you know what, it's time we stood up against China"-we should do it as a global coalition not as one-off deal. Somebody needs to stand up. China was gaming the system.

Boot: Wait a second. I don't think Democras ought to be supporting Trump trying to start a trade war with China. This is not going to work out well.

Spitzer: We need to stand up to China on trade.

Boot: Yea, but not this way.

Spitzer: Again, I said not this way but we need to stand up. It's time somebody said that.

But could it be President Trump, who himself announced tariffs against the mainland, who is standing up to" China?

It could be- but apparently is not, even though as Think Progress reports

The steel and aluminum industries in China will soon be slapped with tariffs up to $50 billion by President Donald Trump. On Thursday, after China announced their intentions to retaliate against the United States with $50 billion in tariffs of their own against U.S. goods, Trump warned that his administration would respond with another set of tariffs, this time targeting $100 billion worth of Chinese goods.

Exempt from the proposed tariffs against China, however, is the clothing manufacturing industry.

U.S. officials say they used an algorithm to determine which goods to exclude from new tariffs. According to the Washington Post, the list was drafted to achieve “the lowest consumer impact,” ensuring goods like clothing and toys were excluded so as not to raise the cost on domestic consumer goods.

When in doubt these days, always say "algorithm."  Most of us don't know what it is but it sounds very, very wise. Trump's move also was wise- given his priorities- because

Exempting clothing from the tariffs provides a big break to American clothing companies that hold trademarks in China. One of those clothing companies belongs to the First Daughter of the United States, Ivanka Trump.

A recent report by the Huffington Post found that the president’s daughter and closest adviser rakes in a total of $1.5 million a year from the Trump Organization while still working at the White House.

It may coincidental that clothing is excluded from the tariffs in the same manner that it is coincidental that "Ivanka dined with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Trump family’s resort in West Palm Beach on the same day China approved three new trademarks for Ivanka’s company."

Eliot Spitzer and Max Boot recognize that mainland China's free ride must come to an end. However, with Donald Trump as president, all policies emanating from the White House first will be vetted for their impact on the Trump family fortune.

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Sunday, April 08, 2018

Silence Is Not Golden.

Admittedly, it was pretty silly when last month Joe Biden, condemning Donald Trump for his remarks about women, declared "if we were in high school, I'd take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him... Any guy that talked that way was usually the fattest, ugliest S.O.B. in the room."

He was, though, more mature when two months earlier he had tweeted "It’s not how a president should speak. It’s not how a president should behave. Most of all, it’s not what a president should believe. We’re better than this."

In February, Rob Porter- who couldn't obtain a security clearance from the FBI- was allowed to remain in his highly sensitive position before being fired.  Biden observed "controlled chaos" in the administration and remarked "I'm having enormous difficulty understanding how this White House functions."

He's at least naming names. But Joe Biden no longer is the second banana to the leader of the free world, and the responsibility for calling out the current President of the United States of America should not fall upon him.

Earlier today, Sunday, we learned

Doctors and rescue workers in Syria said at least 42 people were killed in an apparent chemical attack on a rebel-held town of Douma, in eastern Ghouta, located near the capital of Damascus. Rescue workers said they found families suffocated in their homes and shelters and videos spread online showing purported victims of the attack. “The attack was near bomb shelters and so it spread quickly in them,” a paramedic who helped treat a group of victims said. “The gas was concentrated and in a place where people thought they were safe.

President Trump took to Twitter, blaming Syria itself, Iran, and- finally- Vladimir Putin, although it is not clear what "President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price..." means, nor even what Trump meant by it. (Assad will pay a big price? Supporting a genocidal tyrant is a big price to pay for geopolitical influence? Something else?)

He did, however, blame someone else- the former president, Barack H. Obama:

We should not assume, without asking, precisely what Trump is saying or what he believes his predecessor should have done.  When Obama, as the last president fluent in English, declared a "red line," he implied he would take decisive action if Damascus went beyond a certain point. If Obama had in fact taken action, he would not have crossed the red line; it was already crossed by Assad. However, Trump's tweet suggests he believed the then-President himself should have acted- "crossed his stated Red Line In The Sand"- without provocation.

Responding to Sunday's attack, Kathy Gilsinanin in The Atlantic argues that the 2014 chemical weapons deal struck by Obama Secretary of State John Kerry failed to prevent attacks such as the one Sunday because it did not include chlorine gas, which has civilian uses, and did not include "everything."

Gilsinan acknowledges that the agreement did force Damascus to declare 1300 tons of nuclear weapons, which were then destroyed. Moreover, "if all this added up to something short of disarmament, Trump's strike on regime targets following last April's sarin attack haven't achieved it either."

President Trump wants us to disregard the reality that Barack Obama left the office of the presidency over thirteen months ago.

Republican members of Congress have reacted to the outrages of the Trump Administration by remaining silent, raising their heads out of the sand only to support, nearly or completely unanimously, President Trump's legislative initiatives which have strengthened his hand.

And now there is this: former president Barack Obama remains silent.  A lovely tradition has persisted wherein no former president criticizes an incumbent President, although the extent of that tradition is exaggerated.  It is, of course, a small, exclusive, and privileged club. But Donald J. Trump is no ordinary President, and no ordinary human being. As a candidate, he practically birthed birtherism, and rode his conspiracy theory to the presidency; and as President, he has gone so far as to denounce former President Obama on foreign soil.

At six-foot-one, it is time for Barack Obama to stand up tall and defend his record. He should do so for his country and for his party. But most of all, he could show a little self-respect.

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Saturday, April 07, 2018

Go Big Or Go Home

In one of the (many) articles I wish I had written, Politico Magazine's Bill Scher argues

... if Mueller believes that Trump needs to be held accountable for any violation of law, he cannot expect Congress to do the accounting. There is only one mechanism that has any chance of working, and it is not impeachment. It's indictment.

He recognizes "impeachment is a dead end because the congressinal jury pool is tainted," now that the Special Counsel "has been systematically demonized for weeks by Trump and his allies." Further, if Democrats won every 2018 Senate race, they would still control only 58 seats, leaving them nine short of the 67 they would need to convict the President in the Senate. Thus

the more serious discussion to have is about indictment. Democrats and progressive activists need not get over their skis and call for an indictment before Mueller finishes his work, as he may welll declare that Trump has not committed any crimes.

On the assumption, however, that the Special Counsel will conclude that Donald Trump has committed one or more crimes, Scher summarizes the arguments for and against the notion that a incumbent President can be indicted.

Many pundits, lawyers or otherwise, hang their hat on the the 1973, and the 2000 concurring, memo from the Office of Legal Counsel arguing indictment of a sitting President would "interfere with the President's ability to carry out his constitutionally assigned functions and thus would be inconsistent with the constitutional structure."   However, one former head of the OLC maintains that a President can be indicted while in office and be tried after he/she leaves office.  And both the Watergate special counsel investigating President Nixon and a memo received by independent prosecutor Ken Starr argued that a sitting President can be prosecuted.

In that memorandum, law professor Richard Rotunda maintained "No federal  statutes recognize, or purport to recognize, any Presidential immunity from criminal indictment. Indeed, Congress has done quite the opposite: it has created an Independent Counsel statute for the express purpose of investigating alleged criminal activities of the President."  While the independent counsel has been replaced with a special counsel, Congress still has conspicuously chosen not to enact a statue "creating some sort of temporary immunity."

Nor is there a need to do so.  The notion that prosecution of a sitting President would render the nation rudderless flies in the face of reality- and of Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, which relegates to the Vice President (emphasis mine) the "powers and duties" of the President if the latter  unable to do so because he resigns, dies, or is unable to discharge those functions. Rotunda explains

Because·of this (i.e., 25th) Amendment, the temporary disability of the President does not incapacitate an entire branch of government because the Constitution itself recognizes the problems and deals with it in a structural way, not by creating an immunity but by providing for a temporary replacement. In addition, the indictment of the President does-not incapacitate either the President or entire Executive Branch. Aaron Burr was quite able to function as a Vice President although indicted. Indictment does not incapacitate the indicted individual. In the unlikely event that the defense of a civil case (e.g., Jones v. Clinton) or the defense of a criminal case would prevent the President from performing his duties, the Executive Branch does not simply shut down. The Twenty Fifth Amendment, § 3, provides a procedure for the Executive Branch to continue to function "[w]henever the President transmits . .. his written declaration that is unable to discharge the powel'S and duties of his office .... " This procedure is clearly not limited to cases of illness. 

One should also note that it is easy to make a claim that the Executive Branch will simply "shut down," but that claim is difficult to accept.

The only other constitutional duty of the Vice President is to preside over the Senate, which any dimwit can do. Nonetheless, the McCain-Palin ticket of 2008 was harmed by the widespread belief that the vice-presidential candidate was unqualified and unable to perform the duties of the President..

That has not been a common handicap to a presidential ticket, and Trump-Pence was no exception because- however awful a president he would be- Mike Pence is qualified for the office.  The notion that somehow the USA would be a hopeless basket case if President Trump is preoccupied with matters other than the presidency is laughable on its face.

No doubt Robert Mueller know, as Rotunda emphasizes,  that "the Constitution does not create an absolute Monarch above the law" and that "in this country, the US Supreme Court has repeatedly reaffirmed the state that no one is above the law." If he is the stelllar public servant and patriot he is reputed to be, Mueller understands that confidence in civil institutions is at stake, The American people need to be assured (or convinced) that the powerful recognize that everyone is equal under the law and that this is a nation of laws and not of men.

Robertt Mueller will not be eager to look over his long career, including this long investigation, and conclude that all has gone to naught as Congress does little or nothing.  Therefore- as Bill Scher believes-

If by the end of the investigation, Meller concludes Trump has a (sic) committed a serious crime, he should recognize that he has only two real choices: Indict or go home.

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Friday, April 06, 2018

When Fear Goes Both Ways

Ten months ago, the New York Times' Amanda Hess wrote "talk of 'snowflakes'" is "tough-guy posturing" which

revives the idea of a culturewide wussification that must be fought with a return to aggression, physicality and ego. This is what the insult argues for — a rough-and-tumble world in which raw power reigns and nobody ever asks for help or complains of ill treatment. This pose isn’t merely aesthetic: There are those who truly believe that set free from etiquette, care and cooperation, they would prevail over others. The alt-right has even picked up the word “anti-fragile” and whipped it into a political strategy — embracing chaos and conflict because they think they’re better suited to thrive in those conditions than weaker people are.

However, she recognizes,  "making an entire alternate masculine identity is a lot of work. It’s always much easier to just call other people wimps and snowflakes — and hope they’ll be intimidated enough to melt away."

Identification of the term (to a lesser extent, the concept) with the alt-right should not preclude suspicion that this tendency has infected Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg now that he has, Politico reports, announced

the magazine was “parting ways” with newly hired conservative writer Kevin Williamson after fresh evidence emerged that he had endorsed hanging women who get abortions.

Goldberg had initially defended hiring Williamson from National Review despite complaints about his previous writing, some of which critics said was racially insensitive or offensive to transgender people. Much of the criticism involved a 2014 tweet that suggested women who had abortions “should face capital punishment, namely hanging.”

On Wednesday, the liberal research group Media Matters unearthed a podcast in which Williamson expressed the same position.

“The language he used in this podcast — and in my conversations with [Williamson] in recent days — made it clear that the original tweet did, in fact, represent his carefully considered view,” Goldberg told staff in a Thursday memo.....

“We remain committed to grappling with complex moral issues in our journalism. Some of our colleagues are pro-life, and some are pro-choice; we have pro-death-penalty and anti-death-penalty writers; we have liberals and conservatives,” Goldberg wrote. “We obviously understood that Kevin himself is pro-life when we asked him to write for us. This is not about Kevin’s views on abortion.”

Williamson had in 2014 in both a tweet and a podcast suggested hanging as punishment for murder and

“The tweet was not merely an impulsive, decontextualized, heat-of-the-moment post, as Kevin had explained it,” Goldberg continued. “Furthermore, the language used in the podcast was callous and violent. This runs contrary to The Atlantic’s tradition of respectful, well-reasoned debate, and to the values of our workplace.

Many conservatives and most libertarians (being libertarians) will misinterpret Goldberg's decision,. Pro-life libertarian (also, pacifistic army, meat-eating vegetarians) Katherine Mangu-Ward imagines "The Atlantic is essentially declaring that it cannot stomach real, mainstream conservatism as it actually exists in 21st century America."  Jim Geraghty, columnist at Williamson's former and probably future employer, claims at National Review "Goldberg completely underestimated the level of liberal rage about the presence of an outspoken conservative in its pages."

However, The Atlantic is not required to fulfill a quota for conservatives, which conservatives and libertarians would be expected to understand. thus, the decision would be more justifiable if  Williamson actually was dismissed because of his perspective on abortion. However, the Daily Beast suggested otherwise:

The top editor emphasized that Williamson’s firing was not a result of his being anti-abortion—a common position for deeply religious Americans of all political stripes—but because of how his especially violent belief conflicts with the “values of our workplace."

 One understated twitterer noted 

It appears Goldberg's concern that Kevin Williamson's abortion opinions would offend female staffers significantly motivated the firing. Possibly in a "workplace harassment" sense, which seems, uh, worrisome.

If there is any indication that any woman has been harrassed by Williamson in his professional career, Goldberg's presumed concern would be well-placed. Evidently, however, there is none, for none has emerged.

Williamson did not expect to be in on the hanging even if abortion is prohibited, execution is deemed the maximum penalty, one or more of the women illegally has an abortion, and he became aware of it.

If Williamson was dismissed because his presence on the staff merely would have discomfited the women, Goldberg is exhibiting what Hess recognizes in the many ultra-conservatives who are "hypersensitive to dissent or complication."  Exquisitely sensitive, he would be displaying attributes of a snowflake.

He also would be short-sighted. There is a reason that, in social and in conventional media, there has been nary a word of support among his supporters for Williamson's openness to execution.

It is a viewpoint that is embarrassing to pro-forced birth advocates, who do not want to be associated with any penalty, however slight, for what it nonetheless considers "murder."  Support for their position depends on maintaining the fiction that doctors scour the landscape for emotionally fragile women whom they can coerce into forking over money to them so that they may destroy human life.

The pro-life crowd considers women to be a delicate, emotionally weak form of the species.  If Kevin Williamson has been dismissed because of the fears of women who were his professional colleagues, the right has been given more cause for its troglodytic prejudices.

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Thursday, April 05, 2018

When "Murder" Is Not Even A Misedemeanor

National Review columnist Kevin Williamson, recently hired by The Atlantic, has taken a nearly unique view on an enduring public policy question, stating that he is partial to the notion of hanging women who have illegal abortions.  Media Matters For America found a National Review podcast from 2014 in which he was co-host and remarked

And someone challenged me on my views on abortion, saying, “If you really thought it was a crime you would support things like life in prison, no parole, for treating it as a homicide.” And I do support that, in fact, as I wrote, what I had in mind was hanging.

My broader point here is, of course, that I am a -- as you know I’m kind of squishy on capital punishment in general -- but that I’m absolutely willing to see abortion treated like a regular homicide under the criminal code, sure.

This has caused quite a bit of consternation, such as from a disapproving Media Matters, which nevertheless concedes "Notably, although Williamson did hedge saying that he was 'kind of squishy on capital punishment in general' he was 'absolutely willing to see abortion treated like regular homicide under the criminal code.'” Steve M, himself, acknowledging Williamson admitted it would "be 150 years before this happens," snarked "but whenever society has the gallows ready, he's there for it. No walkback."

And of course those who oppose abortion rights, who have the most to lose if this reasoning takes hold, are opposed.  Charles W. Cooke, Williamson's co-host on the podcast, argued

Before we get on to the disagreement between us on this issue, it's worth saying that the presumption that you cannot believe something to be murder unless you agree with whatever response to that crime your interlocutor is proposing is ridiculous. [Williamson replies, "Sure."] The reality is that you can simultaneously believe that a crime is murder and that the person should be hanged or that the person should be put in prison for ten years or that the person should be not put in prison at all but rehabilitated by their family or that the person should go to a mental institution or that the person should be sent to Australia or exiled onto an island just off civilization's coast. You can believe all of these things.

Cooke does not have to believe in whatever his interlocutor is recommending as punishment for an illegal abortion in order for him to believe it is "murder."

First off, there is disingenuousness in referring- as Cooke does later in the video below- to abortion as "murder." It is killing but not murder until it is prohibited, and were that its status, pro-life advocates understandably would not be exorcised about it.

Lexicon aside, however, Cooke does not have to believe in whatever is  recommended as punishment for the procedure in order for him to believe it is killing.  He does not have to support execution for each and every woman who successfully pursues an illegal abortion. But consider his suggestion that a person who commits what he considers "murder" could

be put in prison for ten yeas or that the person should be not put in prison at all but rehabilitated by their family or that the person should go to a mental institution or that the person should be ent to Australia or exiled onto an island just off civilizations's coast.

He said that. The state's response to a woman who seeks, pays for, and obtains a "murder" can possibly be.... rehabilitated by their family.

This is not a slap on the wrist. This is less than a slap on the wrist and not even a penalty for what Cooke believes is- and under his scenario, the law would consider- a murder. Surely, even if capital punishment were the maximum penalty for obtaining an abortion, it rarely if ever would be applied.  In 2017 there were 23 executions in the entire nation. It is unlikely, then, that there would be even one execution in any one year. If there were, it would suggest that abortion- with execution even remotely possible- remained extremely common, implying a public acceptance of the procedure which would justify removing the ban.

By far the most commonly stated reason, as it is for Cooke, for supporting forced-birth laws is the belief that abortion is the taking of a human life. One does not, or at least should not, automatically deny prosecutors by law the option of pursuing the death penalty for the wanton, premeditated taking of a life.  If an ardent foe (as Cooke is) of abortion legalization wishes to take that punishment off the table, he cannot logically believe abortion is killing.

Alternatively, the pro-life person may believe that murder can be punished by, oh, releasing the murderer to her family. Yet, this is never suggested as the punishment for the doctor who performs the abortion as requested, for he or she must be treated as a dastardly criminal.

When in 2016 Donald Trump told Chris Matthews "there must be some form of punishment" for women who get an abortion if it is banned, he backtracked within hours with not one, but two, statements, perhaps to leave no doubt that he really didn't believe a murderer should be penalized.  He argued in the latter instance that not only should the health practitioner be punished but even that "the woman is the victim in this case."

He had to reassure conservatives that he was in on the game. In on the game that they must simultaneously pretend that abortion  takes a human life and that the primary culprit is not the perpetrator, but the victim.

Delivered in March, 2016, the statements came not during the general election campaign, in which voters are nearly even split on the issue of abortion, but during the primary election campaign, in which voters (overwhelmingly Republican) are presumed anti-abortion. Trump did not have to appeal at that time to voters of all ideological stripes; he had to reassure conservatives, who completely dominate GOP primaries.

Considering a woman the victim when she makes a carefully considered decision obviously denies her agency, presuming that she is an easily manipulated child rather than a thinking, responsible adult.  But that is a small price to pay, the calculation goes, for maintaining an intellectual incoherence endearing to opponents of abortion rights.

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More Than Ted Cruz

It's obscured, arguably concealed, yet potentially extremely important. TIME annually publishes a list of the 100 most influentia...