Saturday, June 30, 2018

Not Crazy

Donald J. Trump is fully aware of what he is doing.

Oh, there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. Only this morning, at 5:37 a.m, Trump made up another whopper:

To which Malcolm Nance responded

Surely, he is wrong about MS-13.  Hannah Dreier, who has been "spending the year reporting on MS-13 members and their associates" while "combing through their text messages," talking to detectives and victims of the gang, writes

Trump's Justice Department says there are about 10,000 MS-13 members in the U.S., the same number as 10 years ago. There’s also nothing new about MS-13 alarmism. Back in 2005, Newsweek ran a cover story about the group, citing its 10,000 members, under the headline, “The most dangerous gang in America.”

On Long Island, the murder people cite most often when talking about MS-13’s brutality is the killing of a two-year-old and his mother back in 2010. But the gang’s history goes back much further than that; the FBI set up a Long Island task force to crack down on the gang in 2003. And MS-13 never invaded the U.S at all. It was founded in Los Angeles in the 1980s, and then mixed with California prison gang culture and was exported to El Salvador.

The group remains significantly smaller than the Crips, the Bloods and the Latin Kings; it’s also smaller than several gangs you’ve probably never heard of, like the Gangster Disciples in Chicago. Even the Center for Immigration Studies, which has been labeled an extremist group for its anti-immigrant ideology, can’t come up with more than an average of 35 murders per year attributed to MS-13—far fewer than that Chicago gang you didn’t know existed.

Nonetheless, he is not deranged or delusional.  Asked by CNBC's Maria Bartiromo whether he will ask prospective appointees to the Supreme Court seat to be vacated by Anthony Kennedy, Trump cagily replied 'well, that's a big one, probably not. They're all saying "don't, do that, you shouldn't do that' but I'm putting conservative people on."

Democrats- as they should- want to hang around Trump's neck his assurance as a candidate that he would appoint only anti-choice judges to the Supreme Court. Friday he suggested he won't- "probably not." But he's holding out hope to his anti-abortion rights supporters that he will ask. And more importantly, he gives them a figurative nod and wink, reassuring them he will be "putting conservative people on" meaning, as they correctly assume, opponents of reproductive freedom.

Ironically, Nance knows better than almost anyone that Trump is mendacious and unpatriotic, not sick or out-of-control.  His latest book is entitled "The Plot to Destroy Democracy: How Putin and His Spies Are Undermining America and Dismantling the West" and has spoken extensively of the President's effort to destroy the Trans-Atlantic Alliance. He tweeted Saturday
 When a guy sells out his country for financial considerations- especially if he gets away with it- the best description may begin with a "d."  However, that would not be "deranged" or "delusional," but simply "dangerous." Highly.

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Friday, June 29, 2018


I was going to praise Sarah Huckabee Sanders when I read
Up until the moment I began this post I was going to praise her.

And then I noticed something interesting which I had not noticed the, oh, seven or eight times I had read the tweet.

There is no pronoun.

Sanders remarks "strongly condemn the evil act of senseless violence in Annapolis, MD." She does not say who strongly condemns the violence. It might be you, your neighbor, some Republicans, most Independents, and virtually every single Democrat.

But is it Sanders who "strongly condemns" the violence? Is it President Trump? We don't know. Admittedly, Sanders adds "our prayers are with the victim" but as we've come to learn from mass shooting after mass shooting, "prayers" generally mean- as Mrs. Trump might put it- "I don't care, do u?"

The evidence indicates that neither Sanders nor her boss is likely to have been terribly exorcised by the murders at Capital Gazette (and exorcism might not be enough to rid Donald Trump of his evil). 

During a press briefing in June, 2017, Sanders stated

I think that we have gone to a place where, if the media can't be trusted to report the news, then that's a dangerous place for America,” Sanders said during an on-camera press briefing. And I think if that is the place certain outlets are going — particularly for the purpose of spiking ratings — and if that's coming directly from the top, I think that's even more scary.

Three months later, after ESPN's Jemele Hill tweeted"Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists," Sanders responded "I think that’s one of the more outrageous comments that anyone could make and certainly something that is a fireable offense by ESPN...” (Hill apologized; CNN caved. The Administration knows what it is doing.)

In merely one of his classics, last October President Trump at a rally in Phoenix referred to the press as "truly dishonest people" and  charged “It’s time to expose the crooked media deceptions, and to challenge the media for their role in fomenting divisions. And yes, by the way — and yes, by the way, they are trying to take away our history and our heritage. You see that.”

And it was less than three weeks ago that Trump, nearly as ignorant of quote marks as he is about the First Amendment, declared

It looked like war might "break out" because Trump had taken us to the brink of catastrophic war. Now North Korea is rapidlyupgrading a nuclear site. The President should be glad if the media is "fighting hard to downplay the deal." He might be while merely pretending otherwise.

Nearly every day (below, in Melbourne, Florida on 2/17), the guy Sarah H. Sanders flacks for attacks the press, often whipping his supporters into a frenzy of outrage against it.  Still, my thoughts and prayers are with President Trump in the hope he maintains his health. Unlike the thoughts and prayers of Republicans or thoughts of Mrs. Sanders, I am sincere. A President Pence awaits.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

And Now It's On To Finland

In an article published on June 5 in The American Interest, foreign policy hands Jeffrey Gedman and Joshua Muravchik quote a former German government official:

The ideological battle has been abandoned by the U.S., by Trump, the battle for human rights, freedom, the UN Charter, liberal democratic values. . . The Brits, the French, the Germans are alone; the U.S. is not there anymore. Trump is leaving this battlefield when he gives the impression that actually he admires these autocrats more than the mediocrity of democracy. . . In this ideological battle against autocrats, and [those] seduced by autocrats, we have the impression sometimes that Trump is on the other side.

Sometimes? How things change in the space of less than four weeks, in this instance for the worse. It is not only an "impression" anymore.  Axios' Jonathan Swan reports

In one extraordinary riff during his meeting with the G7 heads of state earlier this month in Quebec, Trump told the other leaders: "NATO is as bad as NAFTA." An official read this quote to me from notes transcribed from the private meeting...

Trump made the comment after telling the G7 leaders that Crimea probably should belong to Russia because everyone there speaks Russian, the source added. Trump then went on his usual riff about Germany not paying its fair share of defense spending, said the Europeans weren't paying enough and that the U.S. is being ripped off.

Then Trump said of the NATO Summit on July 11-12 in Brussels: "It will be an interesting summit. NATO is as bad as NAFTA. It's much too costly for the U.S."

Trump has proven he must be taken seriously.  While campaigning in June of 2016, he stated "I'm the king of debt" and set out to prove it with a tax cut which is bringing an unprecedented level of debt.  He called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," a campaign pledge he's determined to make good on even as the Supreme Court (including the newly canonized Anthony Kennedy) refuses to believe him.  Best of all was his "Russia, if you're listening" moment.

And now that the President is due to meet with Vladimir Putin in July in Helsinki, a senior German government official has told Swan that he is

worried that Trump would repeat what he did at the G7 in Canada: provoke a fight with his closest allies and then lavish praise on a dictator as he did on Kim Jong-un in Singapore following the G7.

Other sources told me they're fretting about what other concessions Trump might make. They're hoping he doesn't make any spontaneous promises to Putin over Syria or sanctions.

European officials aren't sure about the exact timing of the Trump-Putin summit — or whether it will happen just before or after the NATO summit. Either way, they're worried about the contrast between a warm meeting with Putin and clashes with NATO allies over issues like defense spending.

Even before announcement of the Trump-Putin summit, and before Trump's most recent shot at NATO, Paul Hockenos observed the support of Putin and Trump loyalists for the authoritarian movements threatening democratic governments in Europe and recognized they 

are plotting the EU's demise, which serves their own political purposes.

For one, the stronger the national populist movements elsewhere in the world, the less their own campaigns look out of step, unreasonable, or radical. They shift the mainstream to the right.
But perhaps even more importantly, Putin and Trump wish these like-minded nativist forces in Europe well so that they'll paralyze the EU. They want their defiant, jingoistic arch-conservatism to sow discontent and confusion on the continent. They want them to weaken the EU, which Putin and Trump, in their zero-sum worldviews, see benefiting them. By breaking the EU, they are undermining the Europeans -- their opponents.

Indeed, by undercutting stability and multilateralism they can change the face of the postwar world order, sending it back to the years before and between the world wars, when Europe was a theater of constantly shifting alliances where might made right. The products were the most destructive wars of the 20th century.

And through it all, President Trump will be nominating another Supreme Court Justice, one culled from the names given by him by the Heritage Foundation and/or the Federalist society, and who may have the opportunity to decide whether Trump can be subpoenaed, indicted, or pardoned by himself. Good times- as long as you're the guy in charge in Moscow.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Reaping What They Sowed

He's now "a full-blown Trumper" in the words of Steve M., who directs us to an August 2016 article in the Huffington Post in which S.A. Goodman wrote

Jill Stein’s platform and value system correlate directly to the ideals Bernie Sanders championed in 2016. For Americans who refuse to abide by the political “extortion” of voting for Clinton because Trump is frightening (even though Bill Clinton likely urged Trump to run), Ajamu Baraka and Dr. Stein represent a viable option. Regardless of Bernie’s endorsement, a great many progressives around the country feel the Democratic Primary was rigged in favor of Hillary Clinton...

Ultimately, Trump’s major policies would never get passed Congress. Specifically, Trump’s border wall, widespread deportations, and immigrant ban won’t achieve the 60 votes needed to defeat a filibuster by Democrats...

Will Donald Trump’s major policies get 60 votes in the Senate? Will a border wall, mass deportations, or a ban on Muslim immigrants get any votes from Democratic Senators, or even the votes needed from every Republican Senator?

Of course not.

There’s a greater likelihood of Debbie Wasserman Shultz leaving her current job working for Hillary Clinton and joining Jill Stein on the campaign trail.

None of Donald Trump’s major policy objectives­, at least the ones that frighten progressives the most, will get passed the Senate, even if they possibly get through (and even this is a stretch) the House of Representatives....

Therefore, the scare tactic regarding Trump ruling the nation with an iron fist, deporting families at will and banning immigrants, is nothing more than cheap propaganda. Trump will not be able to impose his will upon the American people, and most of his major policy ideas can be blocked by either Congress or the Supreme Court.

Voting for Jill Stein won’t allow Trump to destroy the nation, because on war and Wall Street (the two biggest topics few people in the media have seriously addressed this election), Clinton and Trump have similar policies.

It's a safe bet that a President Hillary Clinton would not have put in charge of Elizabeth Warren's brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mick Mulvaney or anyone else who had promised to abolish the CFPB. Nor would she have signed the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, which (Vox explains) "raises the threshold at which banks are subject to certain federal oversight" and is but one means by which the GOP Congress is humping President Trump's effort to emasculate Dodd-Frank.

And oh, the Supreme Court, which Goodman assured voters horrified at the prospect of a Clinton presidency would block President Trump's "major policy ideas" that Congress would not.

Congress itself has proven itself to be a rubber stamp, of which Trump may have been thinking when he boasted that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in NYC and not lose any votes.

The President's travel ban was upheld on Tuesday by the Court because it wasn't directed against Muslims, though Trump once boasted he was "calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," fashioned a ban against only Muslim-majority nations, then added two non-Muslim nations in what he said was an extension of the earlier ban. The New York
Times reports

The restrictions on Venezuelans apply only to a narrow category of government officials deemed responsible for failing to cooperate with the Department of Homeland Security in identifying visa seekers who are security risks.

While the restrictions on North Koreans apply to all, there are hardly any who are allowed by their government to come to the United States.

The travel ban was upheld by a 5-4 decision, with Justice Gorsuch obviously in the majority. So, too, did Gorsuch join the majority in its expected 5-4 (Janus v. AFSCME) vote overturning agency fees public-sector unions have been able to charge their members in return for representing them. It was a victory for free riders, who now will choose not to join their union, thereby encouraging others to do the same, and undermining the bargaining power of workers.

Stagnating wages have been a huge problem in the USA ever since, oh, 1981, when President Reagan broke the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Union.  Workers join immigrants as casualties of the Trump Court.

But that wasn't all.  By yet another 5-4 opinion including Justice Gorsuch, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the California Reproductive Freedom, Accountability,Comprehensive Care, and Transparency Act (FACT Act), which required medical facilities (such as Crisis Pregnancy Centers) to post information advising pregnant women where they "might obtain help, including financial help, with comprehensive family planning services, prenatal care, and abortion."

This may have far-reaching, devastating effects beyond reproductive freedom. Information mandated by the Act, according to the majority,  is "content based" and thus requires strict scrutiny to comport with the First Amendment. However, as Justice Breyer explained for the minority

This constitutional approach threatens to create serious problems. Because much, perhaps most, human behavior takes place through speech and because much, perhaps most, law regulates that speech in terms of its content, the majority’s approach at the least threatens considerable litigation over the constitutional validity of much, perhaps most, government regulation. Virtually every disclosure law could be considered “content based,” for virtually every disclosure law requires individuals “to speak a particular message"....

Thus, the majority’s view, if taken literally, could radically change prior law, perhaps placing much securities law or consumer protection law at constitutional risk, depending on how broadly its exceptions are interpreted. 

Radical escalation of signature strikes in the Middle East, undermining the Trans-Atlantic alliance, Wall Street deregulation, ripping children from their parents at the border, and other policies are all doing their damage. And on one day there were three decisions handed down by the US Supreme Court made possible only by a Justice nominated by President Trump.

"Come home, America" was once the rallying cry of the late George McGovern. Individuals who voted for Jill Stein or sat out the presidential race can come home in November, install a Democratic Congress (or at least, House), and start to undo some of the damage they chose not to prevent.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Maxine Waters Didn't Start The Fire

It's hard to determine which is worse: the statement of Representative Maxine Waters or one of the responses to it. Waters infamously remarked

Let's make sure we show up wherever we have to show up. And if you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they're not welcome anymore, anywhere. We've got to get the children connected to their parents.

Actually, it's not difficult at all. An appropriately restrained Nancy Pelosi contended "In the crucial months ahead, we must strive to make America beautiful again. Trump's daily lack of civility has provoked responses that are predictable but unacceptable."

Slightly more negatively, Chuck Schumer charged "If you disagree with a politician, organize your fellow citizens to action and vote them out of office, but no one should call for the harassment of political opponents. That’s not right. That’s not American...”

Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education for most of President Obama's tenure, at least was humble when he acknowledged his statement was only "my personal opinion":

What is happening is completely unrelated to discriminating against an individual because of an inherited characteristic- race- or against someone born as a man or a woman and comes to realize it's not who he or she is. Still, Duncan seems to realize that bias against blacks and transgendered individuals is a part of our history, and far worse than requiring someone to go elsewhere for her Chanterelle & Scape Risotto. Not so aware, David Axelrod responded to Waters with

"Folks on the left" is another shot against progressives by the Democratic establishment. Worse, insertion of the adverb "now" was no accident. It is Axelrod- unlike Duncan- reinforcing the GOP meme that now that some Democrats are uncivil, we have (suddenly) become divided. 

Axelrod, Senator Barack Obama's chief campaign strategist in 2008 and 2012, evidently needs to remember the following (compiled in September, 2016 by CNN's Gregory Krieg):

 1. "Why doesn't he show his birth certificate? There's something on that birth certificate that he          doesn't like."
- March 23, 2011, on "The View"

2. "He's spent millions of dollars trying to get away from this issue. Millions of dollars in legal fees trying to get away from this issue. And I'll tell you what, I brought it up, just routinely, and all of a sudden a lot facts are emerging and I'm starting to wonder myself whether or not he was born in this country."
- March 28, 2011, on Fox News

3. "He doesn't have a birth certificate, or if he does, there's something on that certificate that is very bad for him. Now, somebody told me -- and I have no idea if this is bad for him or not, but perhaps it would be -- that where it says 'religion,' it might have 'Muslim.' And if you're a Muslim, you don't change your religion, by the way."
- March 30, 2011, on The Laura Ingraham Show

4. "I have people that have been studying [Obama's birth certificate] and they cannot believe what they're finding ... I would like to have him show his birth certificate, and can I be honest with you, I hope he can. Because if he can't, if he can't, if he wasn't born in this country, which is a real possibility ... then he has pulled one of the great cons in the history of politics."
- April 7, 2011, on NBC's "Today" show

5. "His grandmother in Kenya said, 'Oh, no, he was born in Kenya and I was there and I witnessed the birth.' She's on tape. I think that tape's going to be produced fairly soon. Somebody is coming out with a book in two weeks, it will be very interesting."
- April 7, 2011, on MSNBC's "Morning Joe"

Donald Trump never would have become President Donald Trump, would never have even sniffed the GOP presidential nomination, were it not for his campaign to convince voters that Barack H. Obama was not born in this country.  It's analogous to Obama's opposition to the upcoming Iraq War, inasmuch as the Illinois senator would never have been considered for his party's presidential nomination had he never given this impressive speech. 

Axelrod's worship of his former boss knows no bounds. When Axelrod maintains "now we're divided by red plates & blue plates, he suggests that in the Age of Obama we were contentedly sitting in a circle and singing "Kumbaya." And, yes, we noticed the hashtag- "sad"- popularized by Donald J. Trump himself, likely employed here without sarcasm.

We don't even have to go back to 2011.  The morning after Red Hen restaurant turned Sarah Sanders and her party away, she tweeted about the incident in a relatively restrained (albeit probably illegal) manner. Encouraged by the President to lead Monday's news conference with a statement, Sanders unremarkably stated "Healthy debate on ideas and political philosophy is important, but the calls for harassment and push for any Trump supporter to avoid the public is unacceptable."

However, in between, President Trump stirred the pot with

Criticism of critics of Truimp, combined with nostalgia for the America which Axelrod imagines existed oh, say, 17 months ago, does not mollify Republicans.  One GOP snowflake, Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, has introduced a resolution to censure Representative Waters and has proposed she apologize to the President, release a public statement denouncing harassment and violence, and resign. 

No good can come from Maxine Waters' remarks, especially because if the GOP retains control of both houses of Congress after November, game over.  However, even before the restaurant confrontation and the ensuing fallout, it was clear Republicans will not be soothed or placated. They will not compromise. It is now Donald Trump's party. They will accept only total victory. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

Recollection Deficiency

Are out memories really that bad?

In a Politico article entitled "Has the Left Lost Its Cool," Marc Caputo and Daniel Lippman begin

Two senior Trump administration officials were heckled at restaurants. A third was denied service. Florida GOP Attorney General Pam Bondi required a police escort away from a movie about Mister Rogers after activists yelled at her in Tampa — where two other Republican lawmakers say they were also politically harassed last week, one of them with her kids in tow.

The Sarah Huckabee Sanders incident at Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia on Friday night has received the most attention. However, also on Friday night, Florida attorney general Pam Bondi was approached at a movie theater and

According to Bondi, she and a friend were confronted at least four times — while buying tickets, entering the theater, standing in line at the concession stand and then on their way out — and that activists were aggressive in each instance, with one yelling so loudly at her that he spit in her hair, either intentionally or because he meant to expectorate on her. She said they also taunted her friend as “blue eyes” and asked him in a threatening manner if he was going to protect her as if they wanted to fight.

The activists tell a different story.

“Pam Bondi’s version of events is inaccurate and don’t reflect what happened,” said Tim Heberlein, Tampa Bay’s regional director for the progressive group Organize Florida. He said he and a handful of fellow activists coincidentally ran into Bondi at the movie.

Heberlein said the videos the group released don’t comport with Bondi’s version of events. Bondi says the reason for that is that the activists only released the videos that showed what happened as they were leaving the movie, when Tampa Police were there and everyone was on their best behavior.

Maybe there is something in the water or air in Pennsylvania, which voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and where former Representative Paul Kanjorski- a Democrat- told the Politico authors

the increasingly confrontational politics is counterproductive. In 2010, before he lost his seat to Republican Lou Barletta, Kanjorski cut back on holding town halls, which he used to enjoy, because it just became “cannon fodder” for opponents.

Nowadays, he said, he worries about the signal sent when the president’s spokeswoman is denied service at a restaurant or when the Florida attorney general is chased away from a movie.

“I don’t know why they picked on the attorney general from Florida. I don’t like her or her political positions but she has a right to travel and be around without being harassed,” he said. “We’re limiting real conversation and discussion in this country and it’s a problem.”

"I don't know why they picked on the attorney general from Florida," he says. You might- unlike either Kanjorski or Caputo/Lippman- recall from Trump's "look how corrupt I am, everybody" files:

 * Late August 2013: Bondi reached out to Trump, seeking financial support for her 2014 re-election campaign in Florida.

* Sept. 13, 2013: Bondi’s AG office acknowledged that it was investigating fraud allegations against “Trump University.”

* Sept. 17, 2013: Trump’s charitable foundation, which is legally prohibited from donating to political campaigns, cut a $25,000 check for a group supporting Bondi’s campaign. (The foundation later paid a fine to the IRS for the illegal donation.)

* Oct. 15, 2013: Bondi’s office reversed course and said it wasn’t pursuing allegations made against “Trump University.”

* March 2014: Trump offered Bondi’s re-election campaign a generous deal while renting out his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

 Now the president has extended a new benefit to Bondi: a role on a high-profile federal commission, which happens to be nearly finished with its work.

Were the shoe on the other foot, Donald Trump would remark "some have called that pay-for-play," and it's a reasonable explanation for picking Bondi out of the lineup of Trump co-conspirators. 

Maxine Waters probably did more for the Trumpists than the Resistance when she recommended "If you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere..." 

Still, the call from the right (if not from the mainstream media) is a little rich, not only because it elected a President who has chosen incivility and hatred as standard operating procedure but also because the preponderance of his Party has fallen in right behind him.  We may not remember Pam Bondi being bought off by Donald Trump. But it was only last week- albeit prior to the Bondi and Sanders events- that an evangelical preacher, former GOP presidential aspirant, and father of Mrs. Sanders brought to the public his increasingly popular interpretation of Christian values:

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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Hoisted By Her Own Petard

Under the category "things I wish I had tweeted":

Employees of Red Hen restaurant in southwestern Virginia had called owner Stephanie Wilkinson to report that President Trump's press secretary and her party were dining under a reservation made in the name of Sanders' husband. After arriving, Wilkinson polled her employees, some of them gay, then spoke to Mrs. Sanders, who was politely ejected.  Early the next morning, Sarah Sanders broke federal law with

Sarah Sanders earns her pay ardently defending a President who had made over 3,000 "false or misleading claims" as of May 1.  A nasty piece of work, she is a good match for a boss who has made clear his contempt for Democrats, Republicans, ethnic minorities, women, veterans, and gays (and practically everyone else not named "Trump.")

Yet no one should be denied service simply because a business owner or professional, citing conscience, is offended. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration doesn't agree and in January we learned

Health care workers who want to refuse to treat patients because of religious or moral beliefs will have a new defender in the Trump administration.

The top civil rights official at the Department of Health and Human Services is creating the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom to protect doctors, nurses and other health care workers who refuse to take part in procedures like abortion or treat certain people because of moral or religious objections.

"Never forget that religious freedom is a primary freedom, that it is a civil right that deserves enforcement and respect," said Roger Severino, the director of HHS's Office for Civil Rights, at a ceremony to announce the new division.

The establishment of the division reverses an Obama-era policy that barred health care workers from refusing to treat transgender individuals or people who have had or are seeking abortions.

That Obama rule was challenged in court by the Franciscan Alliance, a Christian health care organization in Texas, and a judge in 2016 blocked enforcement as the case played out in court.

The new division appears to be primarily aimed at preventing health care workers from participating in abortion services that go against their religious beliefs. The division cites a 2011 federal regulation guiding the enforcement of conscience protections that mentions abortion more than 30 times.

There is an obvious term for that: discrimination

What goes around, comes around. When a bakery owner who identified as Christian alleged his religion supports the right to discriminate, Sanders supported him, though without identifying any New or Old Testament verse.  The owners claimed providing service to a gay couple affronted their conscience; so, too, did serving President Trump's press secretary affront the conscience of the employees of Red Hen restaurant. The dangerous "freedom of conscience" door swings both ways.

Mrs. Sanders has been given a perfect opportunity to profess a change of heart or mind, explaining that she now recognizes that a business or a professional is obligated to serve its paying customers, whether a gay couple, a woman seeking an abortion, or an individual dining out on a Friday night.

She will not, of course, because she is Sarah Huckabee Sanders and she works for Donald J. Trump. And therein lays the problem.

Not What Leadership Looks Like

You got that right, Osita.

Writing in Slate, Osita Nwanevu has former President Barack Obama pegged. He writes

As Obama no doubt expected himself, Donald Trump has not fostered unity, a sense of inclusion, or respect for American institutions and the rule of law in post-“scrimmage” action. He has been true to the American way of life only in his revival of strains of racism, xenophobia, sexism, and open corruption that many assumed, before his rise, would not return to our national politics.

And that's why it's particularly disappointing- albeit not surprising- that the former President's statement on Facebook Wednesday about World Refugee Day was one medium-sized meaningless platitude. "Part of what makes us human," Obama wrote, is "our ability to imagine ourselves in the shoes of others." He came up terribly small in a time of great moral crisis.

Nwanevu cites Gizmodo Media's John Cook's tweet "I think that when the history of this presidency is written, Barack Obama's strategic and willful silence in the face of a national crisis will be seen as a shameful error, "  "This statement," Nwanevu realizes, " could have been made in reference to any number of events since Trump's inauguration that the former president has avoided commenting on publicly."

Noting "defenders of Obama's reticence generally argue that he richly deserves a long respite from his time spent at the front lines of national politics," Nwanevu explains

They’re wrong. The medically trained person is obligated to run to the collapsed man in the street. It doesn’t matter how rough their day has been, or how much abuse they have endured in their career. They have an ethical responsibility to help in any way they can—to, at the very least, see and say what might be done by others, if not themselves. They cannot simply walk by. Barack Obama is the most gifted political orator in at least a generation, a man who commands the respect and instant attention of half the country. He cannot opt out entirely of a public life that he chose, not at a moment in our history that so obviously demands political leadership and moral clarity.

Nwanevu recalls that the morning after the presidential election, President Obama released a statement reading in part

everybody is sad when their side loses an election, but the day after we have to remember that we're actually all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage. We're not Democrats first. We're not Republicans first. We are Americans first. We're patriots first.

That was shades of Senator Obama's keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention in which Democrats were enthralled by "We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America." That was eleven years before candidate Donald Trump: remarked that tortured prisoner-of-war John McCain was no hero; twelve years before candidate Trump urged Russia to conduct cyber-espionage against hispolitical opponent and stated that Vladimir Putin "has been a leader farmore than our President has been;" thirteen years before President Trump gave confidential information to Russian officials in the Oval Office; and twelve years before Trump started turning the White House into a vehicle for personal and family profit, while lying to the American public nearly daily.

It has been fourteen years since Barack Obama brought the crowd to its feet with soaring rhetoric which most of us assumed expressed the Senator's hope, a vision of what he thought the nation could be.  We didn't realize at the time that he believed it was a portrait of America and that he would, after eight years as President, still believe it.

Maybe he doesn't; it's hard to believe anyone could be that naive. Still, Nwanevu observes

Barack Obama is personally committed to the realization of the civic American dream—an America where all are united by a common interest in the well-being of all, despite our differences. He believes that this dream can be realized without bitter political conflict. It cannot. He believes that the Republican Party can be shamed by the indignation its actions arouse in Democrats and the majority of the public into changing. It will not.

The Republican Party should be destroyed. It should go the way of the Whigs. With any luck, historians will record that after a madness took hold within the GOP from the mid-1970s through the first part of the 21st century, the American people, led by the Democratic Party, rallied to put it down forever—as it became clear that beyond its attempts to undermine the right to vote, its work to immiserate the already struggling and enrich the already wealthy, its unwillingness to address open public violence, its willingness to countenance the sexual abuse of women and children, and its frustration of efforts to address an ecological crisis that poses an existential threat to civilization itself, the Republican Party would additionally, by openly embracing racial and religious persecution, march the country toward fascism if left unchecked.

The Democratic Party should be working to erode the power of the Republican Party at least as successfully as the Republican Party has eroded its power. This would require both a long-term electoral vision and ambitious structural reforms, some of which Democrats can pass as soon as they next hold Congress and the presidency. But making the case for this is beyond the capacities of a man who sees heightened political rhetoric and political conflict itself as nothing more than cheap emotional catharsis.

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Friday, June 22, 2018

Over-Promoting Economics

Prominent amidst the innumerable explanations for Donald Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton was the widespread notion of the primacy of economic discontent.  One was advanced by a Myriam Renaud of the Martin Marty Center for the Public Understanding of Religion, named after a great Lutheran theologian.  Renaud did not tackle the Trump vote as a whole but did give careful thought to the motivation of a critical bloc, the Christian evangelical voter. In January 2017 she noted

Why bother to try to understand the motivations of white evangelical voters? Because, according to Pew surveys, they make up 26% of the American electorate, giving them significant political clout. (That percentage has held since 2008.) Of course, white evangelicals do not constitute a single voting bloc. They cover the spectrum of political affiliations. But the fact that more than four out of five placed their trust in Trump deserves attention.

She argued

Actual financial struggles, along with the memory of better things, may explain why more white evangelicals voted for the Republican candidate than in previous elections. It may also explain why worries about the economy took precedence over distaste for Trump as a person. Surveys showed that many white evangelicals objected to Trump’s sexism, racism, anti-Muslim-ism, anti-immigrant-ism, and other ugly-isms. Barna Group found that 49% of white evangelicals felt that Trump lacked a strong moral character. Only 15% saw him as “authentically Christian.”

Still, Trump successfully tapped into their economic anxiety—justified or not—with his slogan: “Make American Great Again.” Hillary Clinton, with her insistence that America was already great, probably appeared horribly out of touch. Trump, in contrast, agreed with the new poor that the nation’s economy was in trouble. He promised seemingly quick fixes like eliminating trade agreements that appeared to favor foreign companies over American ones, forcing U.S.-based companies to keep jobs stateside instead of shipping them overseas, and reducing competition for jobs with a tough stance toward illegal immigrants. In his first press conference as President-elect last week, Trump pledged to be “the greatest jobs producer that God ever created.”

Renaud saw in many non-evangelical Trump supporters similar motivation as in his evangelical fans.  She writes that six years since the economic recovery from the Great Recession began

the U.S. Census Bureau reported that incomes in the middle range—when adjusted for inflation—were still 1.6% below the previous 2007 peak of $57,423 per household. Also problematic, these incomes remained 2.4% lower than the high reached during the late 1990s. Most of the registered income gains have bypassed middle-income workers, like the average white evangelical Trump voter, and gone to those at the top of the income ladder. Seen in the broad context of the past few decades, the average wage earner has failed to get ahead. Though more people are back at work, the New York Times’s Binyamin Applebaum wrote, “many of them are still struggling to maintain their standard of living.”

Patricia Cohen, also writing for the New York Times, echoed these grim assessments. Despite recent good news about the economy, she said, “tens of millions of Americans understandably feel that the recovery has passed them by.” Many without skills are stuck with low-paying jobs plagued by irregular and unreliable schedules and by little or no security or benefits. Others, laid off from the well-compensated manufacturing jobs that left the U.S. for other countries, have had to accept lower-wage positions, if they found work at all.

Economic insecurity played its role- but one which has been significantly overplayed. 

Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump because she was pummeled in what Thomas B. Edsall, in an op-ed in The New York Times last October, recognized as "sparsely populated areas of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania"  (three Midwestern and one similar state). He observed "what Democrats missed was the profound political impact recent immigration trends were having on the more rural parts of the once homogeneous Midwest- that the region had unexpectedly become a flash point in the nation's partisan immigration wars."

Edsall, with the benefit of greater hindsight than Renaud, quotes director of the Michigan Economic Center John C. Austin, who found

The "rural” voters here are some farmers, but more likely, as in the hinterlands outside Flint, Monroe, Toledo, Erie, or Janesville, Wisconsin, they are mostly white, working class blue collar workers or retirees, many, sadly, who fled their small cities to escape blacks. They are anxious about the economic prospects for their future, their aging communities (the kids have fled), making folks mad. And now all these immigrants come and are changing the society!! Just as Macomb County, where working class white voters fled Detroit in advance of blacks, now sees nearby communities like Hamtramck becoming (in their view) a Bangladeshi bazaar — and they don’t like that. And they are easily fanned to blame those folks.

Edsall explains

... as recently as 2000, many of the key Midwestern counties that moved from blue to red in 2016 had very few minority residents. Since then, their immigrant populations began to increase at a rapid rate well above the national average. Second, at the same time that immigrants are moving in, younger native-born residents are leaving in droves to seek employment elsewhere, while the remaining white population is aging and is often hostile to change. It is the perfect formula for cultural conflict, and Trump proved to be the perfect candidate to exploit it. Finally, these changes are taking place in a region that Austin points out is home to “15 of the nation’s 25 major metro areas with the sharpest black-white segregation,” making it even more unreceptive to nonwhites than other sections of the country....

At the same time, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and, to a lesser extent, Pennsylvania, have each experienced a net out-migration of native-born residents. The effect of this exodus is twofold.

First, the people leaving tend to be younger and more open-minded, willing to risk moving to a faster growing section of the country. Second, those left behind tend to be older, more closed-minded and more set in their ways.

A demographer at the Brookings Institute informed Edsall

These "left-behind" populations tend to be older and more backward rather than future oriented- less likely to embrace the nation's new diversity and the emerging global economy. This was surely the case among 2016 voters in rural parts of swing states that helped to elect Trump as president.

It's a complicated argument, one which avoids the temptation of romanticizing the Trump vote as a response to economic discontent. Communities disproportionately centered in the Midwest experienced a decline in young people and an increase in diversity, threatening the security of the older population which remained. Less complicated:

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Thursday, June 21, 2018


Shermichael Singleton, a black, somewhat anti-Trump Republican strategist:

As Singleton learned- to his dismay- on the June 8 edition of Bill Maher's Real Time, a lot of Americans have a negative view of American workers, urban and rural.

As this video indicates, Singleton was fighting a losing battle with the audience and Bill Maher.  In an exchange which lasted from 39:15 to 42:50, Linda Chavez began

I'm sorry we are at a 50-year low in terms of illegal  immigration in the country. We are losing more Mexicans. We have fewer Mexicans today coming in than are leaving. We do a wonderful job of assimilation.

This conversation took place before the recent influx of immigrants and refugees trying to enter the nation through our southern border from central America and the controversy ensuing over the Trump Administration to separate parents and children. It is understandable, therefore, that Sanchez would remark that there are fewer Mexicans entering than exiting.

Understandable- but disingenuous. The primary reason for the net outflow is that there is a lag caused by the recovery from the Great Recession, which is what deterred so many Mexicans from migrating.

But Sanchez's claim (given that she's referring to immigrants rather than refugees) that "we do a wonderful job of assimilation" is fatuous. Many immigrants are not assimilating- and for precisely the reason she gives- they've come here to work- for welcoming them.

Sanchez is no fan of diversity. After a comment from Fareed Zakaria, she remarks

Part of the problem that the Democrats have- you use the word "assimilation," I've been using that word for thirty years and I will tell you it's a dirty word in the Democratic Party. They don't want to talk about assimilation; they'd rather talk about multiculturalism.

After a little pushback from Singleton, Sanchez continues

And we need immigrants. We need more legal immigrants. We need more immigrants in the United States. We have a tremendous labor shortage right now. And it's not just the STEM workers. It's people who work in poultry processing plants, people who clean toilets and buildings, people who take care of other people.

It is true that the USA is approaching full employment, in part because many individuals have dropped out of the job market. Some jobs are available- jobs in the gig economy are increasingly low-skilled, wages are not growing, and benefits are declining. Unions are being undermined by GOP governments and judges and the quality of jobs has declined. The concept of a "labor shortage" is greatly misunderstood. There is a shortage of jobs with a livable wage.

After Singleton asked "but can we not prioritize jobs for our own people?'" Sanchez responded "No, because our people don't want those jobs. Trust me. They don't want those jobs."

We know Donald Trump is lying when he says "trust me." Sanchez isn't lying; she's merely misguided. She contends

I'm sorry. If I'm an employer I don't necessarily want to hire somebody who has been on disability, who hasn't worked in the last, you know, 15 months. I would rather have somebody who comes here, who sees the bottom rungs of the ladder as a stepping-stone and wants to...

Darn those employees who get injured on the job! Who wants them, anyway?

I understand the resentment of people- workers- who at some point in their working life get something for nothing. It is, of course, not something for nothing- they've paid into it; they've worked; and now they're in need. And Linda Chavez assumes they're now lazy.

But Chavez likes the worker who "sees the bottom rungs of the ladder as a stepping-stone and wants to" work his or her way up. They are unusual these days because most workers realize that upward mobility is not what it once was or what they were taught that it is. If you can get people to believe that advancement is likely, you can get them to work for meager wages and benefits. Those are the workers Linda Chavez craves.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018


The late, great Phil Ochs, who met a tragic and untimely end, once wrote "and now it can be told, I'm a quarter of a century old."

 And now it can be told: Hillary Clinton is a sucker.

At Keene College in New Hampshire in 1996, First Lady Clinton defended the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1994, signed by her husband, by stating

They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘superpredators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.

At a fundraiser in April, 2016, Mrs. Clinton was interrupted by gay black activist Ashley Williams, who brought out a banner reading "we have to bring them to heel" and confronted Clinton to "explain for the record" why she "called black youth 'superpredators.'" The candidate offered to address it but Williams left before she had a chance. Afterward, Mrs. Clinton told Jonathan Capehart

In that speech, I was talking about the impact violent crime and vicious drug cartels were having on communities across the country and the particular danger they posed to children and families.  Looking back, I shouldn’t have used those words, and I wouldn’t use them today.

My life’s work has been about lifting up children and young people who’ve been let down by the system or by society.  Kids who never got the chance they deserved.  And unfortunately today, there are way too many of those kids, especially in African-American communities.  We haven’t done right by them.  We need to.  We need to end the school to prison pipeline and replace it with a cradle-to-college pipeline.

As an advocate, as First Lady, as Senator, I was a champion for children.  And my campaign for president is about breaking down the barriers that stand in the way of all kids, so every one of them can live up to their God-given potential.

Looking back, I shouldn't have used those words, and I wouldn't use them today. Not only would she not use those words in these times, Clinton conceded, but she went a step further. She apologized, stating "I shouldn't have used those words." She acknowledged being wrong.

And she was wrong, because human beings shouldn't be compared to animals- "superpredators." She shouldn't have done used the term, even though the individuals she was referring to were violent gang members. Viewed in context, she had remarked in 1996

But we also have to have an organized effort against gangs. Just as in a previous generation we had an organized effort against the mob, we need to take these people on. They are often connected to big drug cartels. They are not just gangs of kids anymore- they are often the kind of kids that are called "superpredators." No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about how they ended  up that way but first we have to bring them to heel. and the President has asked the FBI to launch a concerted effort against gangs everywhere. They are often connected to big cartels- they are not just gangs of kids anymore.

In April, 2015 Hillary Clinton gave a speech commending "law enforcement leaders who are calling for a renewed focus on working with communities to prevent crime, rather than measuring success just by the number of arrests or convictions." She attacked "mass incarceration" and advocated community policing, as well as "reduced prison terms for some drug crimes."


In a stunning upset, Mrs. Clinton was defeated in the presidential race by the guy who proclaimed "We must maintain law and order at the highest level or we will cease to have a country, 100 percent. We will cease to have a country. I am the law and order candidate.”

In late May, the President commented “We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in—and we’re stopping a lot of them—but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals.”

We see what he is doing on the southern border to the "animals," including the women bringing their young children. He cites nonexistent law: "Tell them to start thinking about the people devastated by Crime coming from illegal immigration. Change the laws!" He's still the "law and order candidate."

Trump spokespersons claimed he was referring solely to MS-13 members. Despite his history, some people bought it, giving him the benefit of the doubt Hillary Clinton never had. However, on Tuesday of this week:

The Atlantic's David A. Graham responds

Trump left himself no such plausible deniability in Tuesday’s tweet. The infestation he refers to isn’t simply illegal immigrants per se, though he mentions the gang as well. Nor is this merely the pious language of enforcing the law, though Trump uses that elsewhere.

 “Infest” is the essential, and new, word here. (Also popping up in the tweets is the older coded word “thugs.”) It drives full-throttle toward the dehumanization of immigrants, setting aside legality in favor of a division between a human us and a less-human them. What are infestations? They are takeovers by vermin, rodents, insects. The word is almost exclusively used in this context. What does one do with an infestation? Why, one exterminates it, of course.

Even without the context of Trump's other racially-tinged remarks, it was obvious to anyone who lived through or knew the 1960s and 1970s what Donald Trump meant when he bragged about being "the law and order candidate."

President Trump means to quash the "animals" and the insects. But Hillary Clinton, reacting to the surge of street crime in the late 1980s and 1990s, had the temerity to refer to gang members as "super predators."  That was a mistake.  The election later that year indicated it also was a mistake to admit it was a mistake.

"We need to put each candidate under this scrutiny,” Ashley Williams said during the primary campaign. I suspect it was precisely Hillary Rodham's willingness to adjust and accommodate that no other candidate, not even Donald Trump as President, that she was singled out for one improper remark. She has been, it turns out, a sucker.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Sacred Cows

On Tuesday, President Trump maintained his "the bestdefense is a good offense" politics:

Keep in mind- as Trump or his Ghost Tweeter would put it- that the President herein does not defend his policy, instead blaming it on Congress and Democrats.

Keep it in mind, especially, upon reading the CNN Politics headline "Every living first lady has spoken out against familyseparation."

There are two problems with the headline.  The more obvious is that Mrs. Trump not only did not criticize the President's policy, she reinforced one of the media's continuing themes: both sides do it. She "hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together..." She also wants a "country that follows all laws," which is one of the Administration's (misleading) talking points, and "a country that governs with heart," which the President himself has periodically advocated.

Far better were the statements of Mrs. Carter and Mrs. Bush. Mrs. Carter stated in part "the practice and policy today of removing children from their parents’ care at our border with Mexico is disgraceful and a shame to our country." Mrs. Bush wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post in which she observed "this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart. "

These two were the most eloquent and courageous responses of the five to a bad and very unpopular policy imposed by President Trump and Attorney General Sessions and carried out by Homeland Security secretary Nielsen. Then we come to the wives, one of them a presidential candidate, of the two most recent Democratic presidents.

Michelle Obama struck a bipartisan note, favorably retweeting a portion of Bush's article and added "Sometimes truth transcends party."  President Trump's policy was enacted in May, 2018 and differs substantially and significantly from the one imposed by Mrs. Obama's husband, who was condemned by Mr. Trump as "one of the worst Presidents ever," who "co-founded ISIS." As recently as late last year, Donald Trump doubted that Barack Obama was born in the USA. But "sometimes truth transcends party."

And "crooked Hillary," whom candidate Trump vowed would be incarcerated were he to become President, stated "what is happening to families at the border is horrific."

Like Mrs. Trump, Mrs. Bush, and Mrs.Carter, Mrs. Clinton and Mrs. Obama assiduously avoided mention of the name of the individual- Donald J. Trump- who is responsible for what appears to be, and what they (save possibly Melania) believe, is a ghastly policy.  It's understandable in the case of Melania (who should have remained silent), Republican Laura, and Rosalynn, who was First Lady over 37 years ago and, truth be told, is 90 years old. (I would say age is the elephant in the room but that would be partisan.)

None of the women uttered the words "Donald Trump," but otherwise give credit to Laura Bush and Rosalynn Carter. Melania Trump's remarks, which were not demanded by the media, politicians, or the public, were at best neutral. Given who they are, Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton were no more impressive.

The bar is set low for former First Ladies, as CNN's headline demonstrates Two of them cleared it: two of them did not. The unimpressive remarks of those two might go a bit in explaining the current state of the Democratic Party.

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On a Positive Note, It's What He Believes

During the War of 1812, Master Commandant Oliver Perry wrote to Major General William Henry Harrison " we have met the enemy and they ...