Friday, August 31, 2018

When "Will" Becomes "Should"

On their crossover Thursday night, Lawrence O'Donnell explained to Rachel Maddow

Let me try a theory about the President's lawyers and when this is going to end.- that all of their communication- whether it is on television or privately to the President.

But all of it is really for the evidence of one whenever they're speaking. So when they're saying these things on television, when John Dowd was giving the information that it was going to be over in a certain period of time, when Ty Cobb was saying, arguing the President to- you know- let's comply with these requests for documents because it will be over faster, that they all knew that these things don't even end in the kinds of timetable that they were talking about. 

But they knew if they ever told the President a realistic estimate of how long it might go that he might just fire everybody insight and get himself impeached on a much faster schedule.

Maddow understood. However, she then responded

I mean, but Chicken Little, all right? How many times can you do it before he starts to know that you're doing it?   It may placate him momentarily. You can persuade him to not do things he might otherwise do because you're telling him it's about to be over. For a while he kept proclaiming it's about to be over, remember? But when you tell him it's going to be Thanksgiving and then December and then January and then May and then September- I mean, presumably he remembers these things. He's going to stop being susceptible to this kind of suggestion, won't he?

Why should he stop being susceptible?

A CNN poll conducted August 9- August 12, 2018, revealed that most respondents believe the President should testify for the Special Counsel and that they disapprove of Trump’s handling of the investigation with and a plurality approving of Mueller’s handling of the matter. Moreover, most agreed the probe is a “serious matter that should be fully investigated.”

Yet,  66%- nearly two-thirds- believed “Mueller should try to complete his investigation before this November’s congressional elections.”

When Trump and Giuliani pretend that the investigation will end soon, it builds an expectation that it will end soon and with it, the belief that it should end soon. People are impatient; it’s a common human trait and when something is unpleasant and difficult to comprehend without a scorecard, voters become impatient. When the President suggests an investigation will end soon, they are more inclined to believe it will. When it does not, they will not blame the individual who sold them on the idea- he is on their side in hoping it will end soon.

And so it is with another tactic of Donald J. Trump to de-legitimize a legitimate and justified probe, one tactic in a strategy which only appears reckless.

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Thursday, August 30, 2018

@The Real Donald Trump

The article captures the essence of Donald Trump in a nutshell. Politico reports

The willingness of Republican senators to turn on Attorney General Jeff Sessions is the result of a furious lobbying campaign from President Donald Trump, who for the past 10 days has been venting his anger at Sessions to “any senator who will listen,” as one GOP Senate aide put it.

The President of the United States of America can fire the head of the Justice Department whenever he wishes.   But this is no ordinary president, who counts among his tweets criticizing or ridiculing the Attorney General:

He won't fire Sessions and wants his toadies in Congress to convince the Attorney General to resign, hopefully after the mid-term elections, so as not to jeopardize the GOP's Senate majority. 

Conveniently, Politico captures another of Trump's basic traits when it adds

Seized by paroxysms of anger, Trump has intermittently pushed to fire his attorney general since March 2017, when Sessions announced his recusal from the Russia investigation. If Sessions’ recusal was his original sin, Trump has come to resent him for other reasons, griping to aides and lawmakers that the attorney general doesn’t have the Ivy League pedigree the president prefers, that he can’t stand his Southern accent and that Sessions isn’t a capable defender of the president on television — in part because he “talks like he has marbles in his mouth,” the president has told aides.

Notwithstanding the bizarre implication that the President cannot get someone fired ("has intermittently pushed to fire his attorney general since March 2017"), we learn that Trump looks down upon Sessions because he didn't attend an Ivy League university, has a southern accent, and "talks like he has marbles in his mouth." Quite the populist, that man. Jonathan Chait recognizes that for all of Trump's

vaunted populism, he is filled with contempt for average people in general and his own supporters in particular.

Trump has touted the mindless loyalty of his base, and when he marveled that he would not lose any support if he shot somebody on Fifth Avenue, he was not complimenting the discernment of his supporters. He has tried to turn that into a positive — “I love the poorly educated!” — but the association with low socioeconomic strata has grated on him. Trump is the ultimate snob. He has no sense that working-class people may have equal latent talent that they have been denied the chance to develop. He considers wealthy and successful people a genetic aristocracy, frequently attributing his own success to good genes.

Attempting to explain his penchant for appointing plutocrats to his Cabinet, Trump has said, “I love all people, rich or poor, but in those particular positions I just don’t want a poor person. Does that make sense?” It makes sense if you assume a person’s wealth perfectly reflects their innate intelligence. Trump has repeatedly boasted about his Ivy League pedigree and that of his relatives, which he believes reflects well on his own genetic stock. He has fixated on the Ivy League pedigree of his Supreme Court appointments, even rejecting the credentials of the lower Ivys as too proletarian.

Chait understands that Trump views "working-class strivers" as "suckers," to whom he gives "a lifestyle they can enjoy vicariously."

While the latest reporting of Trump's attitude toward Jeff Sessions is clearly evocative of his elitism, the signs that Donald Trump is a class-A elitist were evident before he was elected, even before his campaign began.

Not so, though, his cowardice. Understandably, tens of millions of Americans were suckered into believing that the star of The Apprentice was a tough character, able to get what he wanted out of people, and getting rid of them if they wouldn't bend to his will. 

However, as much as Donald J. Trump looks down upon anyone who isn't very wealthy or educated at the most prestigious schools, his skill at convincing people that he can easily pronounce " you're fired" remains his biggest con, and possibly the greatest con of anyone ever elected President of the USA.


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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

A Wise Decision

Much to his credit, John McCain avoided one final humiliation. According to Raw Story

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has reportedly not been invited to attend the memorial for her one-time running mate, the late John McCain.

MSNBC booking director Jesse Rodriguez tweeted Wednesday that NBC White House correspondent Kelly O’Donnell learned that Palin was not invited to McCain’s memorial.

Senator McCain, who had spent twenty-one years in the Armed Forces, selected Governor Palin as his running mate because of her reputation as a "maverick." On the second day of the convention, four days after she was tapped, we read in The New York Times 

“She is an aggressive reformer who isn’t afraid to break glass, to bring change to Wasilla and later to the state of Alaska,” said Taylor Griffin, a spokesman for the McCain campaign, who declined to address specific aspects of Ms. Palin’s tenure as mayor. “Washington needs some of that.”

Palin was not only a maverick, but one who sympathized with the Alaskan secession movement. On the last day of the convention, a skeptical Rosa Brooks wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times in which she maintained "It's untrue that Palin has no foreign policy experience, anyway. In fact, she appears to have seriously flirted with the idea of trying to turn Alaska into a foreign country. How many vice presidential candidates can put that on their resumes?"

Not only can no other vice presidential candidate put that on his or her resume, very few can be said to have been instrumental, inadvertently or otherwise, in redirecting the theme of a presidential campaign.  She changed the direction and thus perception of the McCain campaign. If you're like most people, you don't remember

You will notice the "McCain" signs held aloft, the message "paid for by John McCain 2008," and most obviously, the tagline "John McCain, The American President Americans Have Been Waiting For."

The commercial was shown prior to the Senator's actual nomination and selection of a running mate. At that approximate time, the commercial disappeared, and Senator Obama probably breathed a sigh of relief.

Palin was from outside the continental United States, as was at birth the presidential candidate of the opposing party, which contributed to the perception that the latter was not born in the USA. John McCain, who had spent five+ years in captivity- a portion of it after he was given the opportunity to be released- decided to downplay his military service. To do so otherwise might have struck a discordant note in a McCain-Palin ticket.

Early last year, The Washington Post's Philip Bump reported

According to a 2010 study from researchers at Stanford University, noted by Brendan Nyhan, Palin's presence on the 2008 Republican presidential ticket cost John McCain 1.6 percentage points. In an election in which 131 million people voted, that's 2.1 million votes that McCain should have gotten but didn't.

There is no way to determine whether the Republican candidate would have been elected President if he had bypassed Palin, for, say, Joe Lieberman (his personal favorite) or former Pennsylvania governor and Vietnam veteran Tom Ridge.  The Stanford study argued "Since Obama actually won 53% of the popular vote, it suggests that Palin’s campaign performance did not necessarily change the election outcome, but was certainly large enough to be substantively meaningful."

However, that analysis is strikingly imperfect, given that a presidential election is determined not by popular vote but by electoral vote, as we learned in 2000- and were disturbingly reminded in 2016. We don't know where Palin cost McCain the votes but it's likely it was predominantly among "wavering Republicans, independents, and moderate Republicans," according to a Newsweek column cited by Bump.

Although it's very unlikely that Palin herself cost the GOP the presidential election, it's not at all unlikely that McCain would have won had he gone a different direction, which he probably would have with a different running mate. Instead of campaigning as a maverick trying to block the route to the  Oval Office of the first black nominee of a major political party, he might have run as "the American President Americans have been waiting for." 

Eight years later,  who unlike John McCain had no claim on patriotism, military service or service to the nation, the driving force behind the birther movement was elected President of the USA. 

It''s vitally important for one's health to pick parents well. And it's critical in politics to pick your opponents well. For Barack Obama- who wisely changed his image by having Joe Biden run with him- it was McCain and Palin. 

John McCain was not prone to making excuses, but choosing not to invite his 2008 running mate to his future funeral may have been subtle acknowledgement that she played a major role in depriving him of the biggest prize of them all.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Send Tom Brokaw A Copy Of The Constitution

Jack Shafer laments

I'm almost certain that a samizdat chapter of the Associated Press Stylebook exists that prohibits journalists from writing anything praiseful about Republicans—except when one dies or if the Republican’s name is John McCain.

Sen. McCain, who died this week, went to his grave festooned with a bundle of the most radiant tributes from the reporters who covered him. Taking to Twitter, the airwaves and print, journalists choked back tears to gush about how much the man meant to them.

Although offering many examples, probably the sappiest and worse was when

Sunday on MSNBC, anchor Kasie Hunt had to be restrained from throwing herself on his funeral pyre as she addressed him directly. “Sen. McCain, after a decade of trying to keep up with you in those marble hallways, I know the place that you so loved is going to be a lesser place without you,” Hunt said. “My hope for this Congress and this country is that remembering and honoring your life and legacy, sir, will inspire the best among us to serve as you did. Godspeed.”

But almost all of these instances are harmless, encomiums most easily analyzed by a skilled behavioral psychologist.

Not so the tweet from Tom Brokaw, who remarked
Tom Brokaw was anchorperson and managing editor of NBC Nightly News from 1982 to 2004 and has an estimated net worth of $70 million. Still, he needs to be introduced to Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which reads "[t]he President shall be Commander in Chief 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."

McCain served in the Armed Forces from 1959 to 1981. His commanders in chief included Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan. Though Brokaw argues that by President Trump's role as commander in chief, Trump is "duty bound to honor sen mccain," Donald Trump never was John McCain's commander-in-chief. During Trump's reign, John McCain was Senator John McCain.

Donald Trump is not "duty bound to honor" Senator McCain. It is not one of the functions the Constitution mandates of a President. Rather, he is expected as a matter of decency to recognize appropriately McCain's death, which he has failed to do.

Were we to accept the notion of the president as commander in chief of citizens, our First Amendment rights would be severely abridged. If President Trump had been the Commander in Chief of a civilian such as John McCain, he is Commander in Chief of all of us. And if he is your commander in chief, you are duty bound to obey him and refrain from criticizing him. Just ask General Stanley McChrystal.

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Gun Nut And The Supreme Court Seat

The good news coming out of the weekend is that President Trump, on the occasion of the death of Senator John McCain, tweeted out condolences to the family without honoring the deceased. To have praised McCain would have been hypocritical on Trump's part and although foolish consistency may bethe hobgoblin of little minds, we'd all be a lot better off if a little mind were the President's biggest problem.

More concerning, albeit no more surprising, was the President's failure to respond to the murder of two young men at the Madden game show tournament in Jacksonville, Florida.  After a couple of ridiculous tweets on Sunday morning, Trump on Tuesday morning tweeted praise of arguably the greatest football player in American history, Jim Brown, probably a multiple domestic abuse offender.

As of mid-Monday afternoon, however, there still has been nothing from the White House on the Jacksonville crime.That would be a serious failure were it merely because Trump cannot easily exploit the incident because the alleged gunman is a white man born in the USA.

It probably is something much more. The President may or may not be owned by Vladimir Putin. But we know whom he is owned by. A hint came on May 4, 2018 with "These are real patriots, they really are, and they don't get the kind of adulation. But really, they do and we know that."

He might have been speaking about executives of fossil fuel, drug, banks, or private prison companies. However, "Your Second Amendment rights are under siege, but they will never, ever be under siege as long as I'm your president" clears it up. An editorial in June in The Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News noted Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh

wrote a dissenting opinion in 2011 that said he would strike down a ban in Washington, D.C. on some assault weapons as well as a requirement that firearms be registered.

The 2-1 majority upheld the assault ban and some of the registration rules. Both judges in the majority were Republican appointees, underscoring how Kavanaugh's dissenting views on guns are to the right of his conservative colleagues.

The two judges in the majority said the D.C. laws were consistent with the Supreme Court's landmark 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller that said the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to possess firearms in the home for lawful purposes, including self-defense.

The 5-4 ruling was written by then-Justice Antonin Scalia and joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who Kavanaugh would replace. While that ruling was a radical departure from previous interpretations of the Second Amendment, Scalia added that gun rights are "not unlimited" and that certain restrictions are permissible, including bans on "dangerous and unusual weapons."

Given Kavanaugh's dissenting view, it would appear he favors expanding gun rights beyond Scalia's Heller opinion.

 Kavanaugh's support for weapons of mass shootings won't be enough to lose him even one additional vote, of course. The GOP is opposed to gun safety legislation, and that generally includes "moderate" Susan Collins and especially Lisa Murkowski. The media understandably focuses on the latest bright, shiny object, and the Democratic Party is less committed to gun control than, say, preventing ICE raids and restrictions on LGBTQIA rights.

With the death of John McCain, who had not been present at the Capitol for awhile, the GOP will pick up an additional senator, who will serve until at least January, 2021, once one is appointed by the Governor Doug Ducey. 

Fifty votes in the Senate will then be even easier for the Repub Party to pick up for Trump's Supreme Court nominee. So no matter how extreme Brett Kavanaugh is on issues, his ideology will not wrest away one GOP vote.  If a dramatic indictment is handed down by the Special Counsel before the vote, there is a chance that Trump's popularity will plummet sufficiently to increase public opposition for confirmation of a Justice who would give the President an unqualified pass for his behavior.

Failing that, there is only one possibility. Brett Kavanaugh certainly knows how to work a cigar, a phone, and a bathroom into a memo, and it's probably not only for academic interest.

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Sunday, August 26, 2018

Off-Key, Strategically

The concept of "race" is controversial and elusive. For instance, Wikipedia explains "Arabs belong to the Semitic branch of the Caucasian race, mostly Mediterranean race.. The Arabid race is a term for a morphological subtype of the Caucasoid race, as used in physical anthropology."

In the context of American politics, then, "Arab" may be considered a race, even though that is arguably anthropologically inexact.

John McCain never became President because he was unable to navigate the currents of race in the USA..  That does not reflect badly on his character or personality, or even his politics (his selection of Sarah Palin in 2008 notwithstanding). Note that Donald J. Trump was far more adept in this regard, and as a consequence (albeit aided by the FBI and the Kremlin) managed to get elected president.

Charles Pierce reminded us on Sunday, the day after Senator McCain died at age 81 of brain cancer, that during the South Carolina presidential primary in 2000

There were whisper campaigns about the daughter his family had adopted from Bangladesh—the oldest and most poisonous card in the deck, especially in the home office of American sedition. There were whisper campaigns over the telephone conversations from some of America's most famous TV preachers—especially the odious Pat Robertson. There were dozens of loaded "push polls." The entire Atwater-Rove arsenal was turned on him. Rumors were spread about McCain's captivity, his mental stability, and his wife, but it kept coming back to his daughter, Bridget, who was dark enough for the bigots. Then, McCain made a critical gaffe. He remarked that the Confederate flag, which still flew near the state capitol in Columbia, was "a symbol of racism and slavery." And he lost.

That was the pivotal primary in the GOP nominating process, and McCain was defeated by someone less bold but better able to appeal to the demons existing throughout society, but especially in the Republican Party.

It was McCain's turn in 2008 and partly as a result, he secured the Republican nomination, but then lost the general election in no small measure for the same reason he had lost eight years earlier to George W. Bush in South Carolina. We may be getting sick of repeatedly seeing the following clip this weekend, but we have spent a decade giving it insufficient attention:

Stammering, the infamous woman in red maintains "I've got to ask you a question. I can't trust Obama. I, I have read about him and he's not, he's not.... he's an Arab. He is not- no?"

The mainstream media has long properly given McCain credit for having shown decency and courage in the face of apparent bigotry. However, the media refuses to acknowledge the role of the response in the candidate's defeat, largely because it contrasts with the comforting meme that the country put aside its racial division by electing its first black President.

"More than anything else, by 2006," Pierce writes, "John McCain wanted to be president more than anyone else I've ever seen." If so. two years later the GOP nominee exhibited exceptional ineptness by failing to manipulate the racial tension by which he was victimized to in 2000,

Barack Obama understood.  In 2004 he stirred emotions at the Democratic convention and the country beyond by claiming "There is not a liberal America and a conservative America—there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America—there's the United States of America."

Most of us bought it, bought it because we wanted to buy it. Four years later, Obama was elected President on a wave of disgust at the previous, Republican administration and on excitement in the Democratic electorate for historic change. Additionally, he benefited from a naive, misguided hope among many other voters that his election would put the "race" issue behind us, prove they themselves were not racist, and that America no longer was racist, or maybe never was.

He defeated Senator McCain despite the warning of the man, speaking before the woman in red, that "we're scared of an Obama presidency."  McCain did not heed the warning, and fell to the candidate who had built his reputation in an extraordinary speech with the oft-admired "there is not a black America and a white America." 

A little under eight years later, as the 2016 nominating campaign wound down, Gallup recorded its highest-ever number of Americans "very worried" about race relations in America. In retrospect, that was a tailor-made situation for Donald Trump. In the manner in which Obama caught a wave by (however artificially) calming fears, Trump did the same by exploiting fears, and especially demagogically.

John McCain was a victim in February of 2000 of similar racial bias. Eight plus years later, he refused to exploit those fears, which continued to build and landed us Donald Trump in 2016.   If he had caught that wave in either of his campaigns, the obituary of John S. McCain probably would include "elected President."  It may be to his everlasting credit that it does not.

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Saturday, August 25, 2018

Not So Crazy

When retired Navy admiral William H. McRaven, who oversaw the raid which killed Osama bin Laden, wrote the following op-ed in The Washington Post, he appeared to be courageous. In its entirety, it read

Dear Mr. President:

Former CIA director John Brennan, whose security clearance you revoked on Wednesday, is one of the finest public servants I have ever known. Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him.

Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.

Like most Americans, I had hoped that when you became president, you would rise to the occasion and become the leader this great nation needs.

A good leader tries to embody the best qualities of his or her organization. A good leader sets the example for others to follow. A good leader always puts the welfare of others before himself or herself.

Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities. Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.

If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken. The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be.

In retrospect, McRaven was very courageous.  On Friday evening's Real Time, Bill Maher stated (beginning at 5:29 of the video below) to Brennan (who had been booked prior to the recent controversy)

He said about General Clapper- is he a general? (Brennan: "yes, he was, is") that they got to him. Like you could get to a guy like that. He's not on our side. He's not on our side. You're a traitor if you're attacking our generals and admirals and people who are keeping us safe. It's not that much more complicated to me.

The President may not be able to get to James Clapper, and clearly not to Brennan. However, that doesn't mean he can't get his message across. Brennan responded to Maher with "And I'm proud to stand with Bill McRaven and Jim Clapper and Mike Hayden and all those others, the ones who are speaking out."

It turns out that General Hayden is continuing to speak out- but not quite as General Brennan would hope. The Hill reports that appearing on an interview that aired Friday on Hill.TV

“I think impeachment would be a bad idea," Hayden, who frequently criticizes the president, told Hill.TV's Buck Sexton and Krystal Ball on Thursday.

"If President Trump is somehow forced to leave office before the end of his first term, one-third of America will believe it was a soft coup conducted by people, well frankly like everybody here at the table would be their view," he continued.

“I think the only way we move beyond this in any way that’s healthy for our democracy is we vote," he said.

The issue of impeachment took center stage this week after Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen told a judge on Tuesday that he broke campaign finance laws at the direction of "a candidate for federal office," alleging coordination with then-candidate Trump.

Hayden is one of the intelligence officials who signed the initial letter denouncing the President's decision to withdraw Brennan's security clearance and most of his remarks were critical of the President. However, when he publicly denigrates the possibility of impeaching Trump before the end of the President's term- whatever the Mueller report may say- it's a reminder that there usually is method to what (only) appears to be Donald Trump's madness.

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Friday, August 24, 2018

A Golf Game To Remember

That must have been some golf game. On July 27, South Carolina senator Jeff Sessions declared "if Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay."

However, nine days later things began to change Roll Call reports that following a golf game with the President on August 5

He shot 76, I shot 80. But we teamed up for the first time, and we won,” (Republican senator Lindsey) Graham said. “He made a 30-footer on 17, and I have money in my pocket today I did not have before, so I am not tired of winning yet. It feels really good.”

One week later, the senior South Carolina senator advocated on Fox News Sunday a probe into the Mueller probe, which he claimed is "corrupt to the core."  Later that morning, St. Louisian, Trump critic and Eurasian Studies scholar Sara Kendzior responded to Graham's about-face on Trump (let alone on the notion of impeachment of a President), remarking

There are a few things we should remember. One, the RNC was hacked; no one knows what happened to those emails. Two, Lindsey Graham personally was hacked and nobody knows who has those emails and what they're doing with them. Three- the RNC is complicit politically, complicit financially, complicit politically in what the Trump campaign has done in terms of illicit interactions with Russia.

That was August 12, eleven days before Graham- a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has oversight over the Department of Justice- would go further than he did on Fox News on August 12. On Thursday, August 23 he warned

The President's entitled to having an attorney general he has faith in, somebody that is qualified for the job and I think there will come a time sooner rather than later where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice. Clearly, Attorney General Sessions doesn't have the confidence of the President.

To review:July 27, "holy hell to pay if Jeff Sessions is fired"; August 5, plays golf with Donald Trump and "it feels really good"; August 12, "These [FBI] investigations against Trump were corrupt to the core"; August 23, "a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice" will be needed.

The prescient Kendzior, who spoke before the second most senior member of the Judiciary on 8/23Committee urged the dismissal of AG Sessions, is following the money. She commented

We have tracked all of those financial ties and there’s pretty good chance that either voluntarily or involuntarily Senator Graham has gotten mixed up in the situation and cannot be an objective observer.

Kendzior knows a lot more about this sort of thing than almost any of us, and money is a powerful motivator. But so is sex, and Occam's Razor suggests that probably is at least as great a factor in the sudden marriage between President Trump and Senator Graham.

Among members of the elite, deals frequently get made on the golf course. On that recent Sunday, Donald Trump probably gave Graham a nod and a wink (not his style) or more likely, used a megaphone.   The President may have reminded Graham about those financial ties - or about the lingering rumor that Graham, representing a Bible Belt state, is gay.

Hailing from one of the most conservative states in the country, Graham has, unconvincingly, denied the rumor. Nonetheless, there is no assumption or understanding he is gay.  As any mob boss could attest, this is when blackmail is most effective. If nearly no one is likely to believe the charge- as would be the case were someone to claim that Trump is gay- blackmail would be ineffective. If an individual is out of the closet- in terms of sexuality or anything else- blackmail would be an ineffective.

Lindsey Graham's sexuality exists in that netherworld, a sort of political purgatory- speculated, but unproven. Graham contended in December 2016 that the Russians "hacked into my email account," and compromising information about either sexual preference or financial entanglement may have been found. Somewhere on the back nine, President Trump is likely to have reminded Graham of either or both of those two great motivators of human conduct: sex and money.

Were Donald Trump to fire Jeff Sessions as Attorney General (presumably after the mid-terms), the Special Counsel's investigation would become highly imperiled. Democrats must find out if and why Lindsey Graham is being blackmailed, and must not keep it to themselves. The stakes are much too high to do otherwise.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Checking Team Russia

On Tuesday morning before the Manafort verdict and the Cohen guilty plea, Carl Reiner tweeted

After Manafort and Cohen went down (at least for now), Charlie Pierce wrote

This is a mortal blow to the administration*, which may stagger around for a year or so before it falls over and crushes people, but there is no way I can see that this gets any better for the president* or the people around him. The president* and his fixer paid off Stormy Daniels, and also paid off a tabloid media company, in order to bury stories about the president*'s wandering Donald, and did so in direct violation of even those campaign finance laws that Anthony Kennedy left in place.

Pierce has proclaimed the First Law of Economics as "Fck The Deficit. People Got No Jobs. People Got No Money."  And although people have jobs now, they may be working two at a time and inflation is rising so real wages are not. A corollary to Pierce's Rule of Economics could be "no one cares about the deficit (except some congressional Democrats)."

However, there is another law of American politics which roughly states "no one cares about campaign finance violations." Consequently, the reliably cynical (and realistic) Steve M argues

I think ordinary Americans are simply too cynical about campaign finance -- and rightly so -- to get worked up over this. What's the admission here? That Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 to remain silent during the 2016 campaign. But another news story yesterday told us that Sheldon and Miriam Adelson gave $25 million last month to the Senate Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC. Would you blame people who don't follow politics closely if they don't understand why a six-figure de facto campaign contribution is a felony but an eight-figure gift is just fine? I think most Americans believe that the problem is that American politics is awash in money, not that a gift directly to a candidate ought to be under strict dollar limits while super PAC money can flow much more freely.

As SM understands,  people will take notice if Cohen starts to spill his guts, which is likely to occur at some point.  Nonetheless, he's overly pessimistic when contending

If Democrats take the House, they might believe this is enough for an impeachment, though I think they know better. I believe any impeachment will be an exercise in futility unless public opinion changes dramatically and persuades Senate Republicans that they should vote to convict.

Democrats are unlikely to gain control of the House of Representatives unless they win the national popular vote for the chamber by something north of eight percentage points.  As Steve Bannon predicts, the midterms will likely be "a referendum on the Trump presidency." With the economy perceived by Republicans, the mainstream media, and even conceded (unnecessarily) by some Democrats as strong, a Democratic takeover will not occur unless public opinion about the Russia probe does change significantly.

If that occurs and Democratic losses in the Senate are held to a minimum, the stakes in the Special Counsel probe are heightened. If Mueller issues a damning report or the investigation is severely curtailed or ended by President Trump, the reaction is likely to make the latter wish he had never heard of the presidency.

Of course, Donald Trump may be called to account even if Michael Cohen doesn't sing or the Democrats gain control over the House of Representatives. Still the majority in both chambers, the GOP could decide to put country over party. Just kidding.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Workers Rights Abridged

Less than five weeks ago, a blogger on the American Civil Liberties Union website applauded Mark Zuckerberg for refusing to censor all offensive speech on Facebook. Vera Eidelman wisely argued

There is no question that giving the government the power to separate truth from fiction and to censor speech on that basis would be dangerous. If you need confirmation, look no further than President Trump’s preposterous co-optation of the term “fake news.” A private company may not do much better, even if it’s not technically bound by the First Amendment to refrain from censorship.

 Less than four weeks later, we read in "Law and Crime" blog

An Iowa woman who was fired from her factory job for saying she hates “fucking Mexicans” is claiming she should be able to collect unemployment benefits because her remark shouldn’t be considered misconduct that would disqualify her. The reason? She says it was normal for people to say things like that at work since President Donald Trump was elected.

An administrative law judge had agreed with that reasoning, saying that Angela Diers shouldn’t have been singled out if other people were also making comments about hating foreigners and black people.

If management wishes all workers to be treated with respect, it must enforce respectful treatment amongst co-workers and supervisors, and apply those expectations consistently throughout the chain of command,” ALJ Beth Scheetz said in her ruling.

If you agree that’s a fairly basic concept and is something management owes its employees, you’re quite reasonable- but in this case wrong because

The state’s Employment Appeals Board didn’t buy that, though, and overruled the decision, saying Diers could not collect unemployment, the Des Moines Register reported.

“It was 7 o’clock in the morning, or 6:30 in the morning, and here’s Lindsey, dancing and singing Mexican,” Diers reportedly said at a hearing. “It’s, like, ‘What are you doing?’ And then she said something about Cinco de Mayo. And that’s when I said I hated Mexicans.”

The reaction?

“She just kind of looked at me,” Diers said. “I go, ‘’’Im sorry, Lindsey, if you don’t like what I said, but I’m not a Mexican fan.'”

Diers was fired a few days later, but didn’t see what the big deal was.

“There has been talk on the floor: Some people don’t like blacks, certain people don’t like Mexicans, certain people don’t like foreigners. We talk, and then we just move on.”

It was 40 years ago that neo-Nazis self-identifying as the "National Socialist Party of America" filed for a permit to march in Skokie, a suburb of Chicago in which resided thousands of Holocaust survivors. Denied a permit, the Nazis- defended by the ACLU- filed suit and the ban was overturned in the US Supreme Court, though by that time the group had made different plans.

The ACLU lost much of its membership because of its decision to represent the National Socialists. However- and even though the venue was selected in order to incite violence- the ACLU always has prided itself on defending the free-speech rights of very unpopular organization- then and presently. (The views on the video below are of the speaker only, and don't necessarily represent the views of management etc.)

And now in Iowa an employee has made a biased remark against a group defined by its national background, and which has been the subject of tremendous political controversy. "Mexicans" were so, even before candidate Donald Trump labeled them as criminals and rapists, although he has incited a wealth of bigoted comments since that time. People recognize that.

Angela Diers not only lost her job but her right to unemployment compensation. Speech "about the issues of the day," notes the ACLU website, "often happens in the workplace, so employee speech and privacy must be protected."

The good news, therefore, is that we can expect the American Civil Liberties Union, which supports the right to free speech of all manner of reprehensible characters, to enter the dispute on the side of a worker who is being denied a right to free expression and to earn a living.. The bad news is that if we do expect that, we will be gravely disappointed.

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Less than five weeks ago, a blogger on the American Civil Liberties Union website applauded Mark Zuckerberg for refusing to censor all offensive speech on Facebook. Vera Eidelman wisely argued

There is no question that giving the government the power to separate truth from fiction and to censor speech on that basis would be dangerous. If you need confirmation, look no further than President Trump’s preposterous co-optation of the term “fake news.” A private company may not do much better, even if it’s not technically bound by the First Amendment to refrain from censorship. 

Less than four weeks later, we read in the Des Moines Register

An Iowa woman fired for disparaging Mexicans at work cannot collect unemployment despite her testimony that other employees also made derogatory comments about "blacks and foreigners" since Donald Trump became president.
Angela Diers filed for unemployment after she lost her job at Dexter Laundry, a Fairfield manufacturer of commercial washers and dryers, for telling a co-worker that she hated "f---ing Mexicans."
Iowa's Employment Appeals Board ruled that Diers' statements clearly met the definition of misconduct and disqualified her from collecting unemployment benefits. The board reversed Administrative Law Judge Beth Scheetz, who said Diers deserved unemployment benefits.
Scheetz had ruled that "since President Trump’s election, it was common for workers" at the plant to talk of hating African Americans and foreigners. The company couldn't single out Diers for misconduct, the judge had ruled.
Diers said she would appeal the board's decision to deny her benefits, which would move the case to district court.

The reporter explained
The unemployment case stems from an incident that took place the morning of May 4 at the Fairfield plant.
Diers, a production worker, saw a co-worker dancing and singing Mexican songs in celebration of the coming Cinco de Mayo holiday. In response, and in front of several other employees, Diers made the comment that she hated “f---ing Mexicans.”
At her unemployment hearing, Diers testified, “It was 7 o’clock in the morning, or 6:30 in the morning, and here’s Lindsey, dancing and singing Mexican … It’s, like, ‘What are you doing?’ And then she said something about Cinco de Mayo. And that’s when I said I hated Mexicans.”
Diers testified that her co-worker said nothing in response.

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Monday, August 20, 2018


On Sunday, Philadelphia journalist Will Bunch described two deadly incidents with a common thread,  domestic violence.

On Friday morning, the recently estranged husband of a Philadelphia city employee shot and killed his wife. Last November, a man "clad in all black and brandishing an assault-style weapon opened fire" in a Baptist Church and killed 26 persons.  The latter incident "had followed years of horrific abuse and assaults on women, children and even a dog that didn’t stop after the Air Force had court-martialed the man for repeatedly kicking, punching and choking his first wife and even fracturing the skull of his 2-year-old stepson."

Noting that in an average month fifty women are shot dead by an "intimate partner" and that it is a particular problem in Philadelphia, Bunch blames "toxic masculinity," whose underlying cause is "a poisonous mix of a craving for male supremacy, an inability to properly channel emotions and an inevitable turn toward violence when things are not working out — is so deeply rooted it almost becomes background noise."

I'd instead blame primarily America's love affair with guns, but the difference between that and toxic masculinity may be a distinction without a difference. 

As he probably expected, Bunch got a lot of angry responses to his piece, revealing
I'll chance "making an ass out of you and me" by assuming that these are not supporters of, say, KirstenGillibrand or Hillary Clinton. In a leap of faith, It's a safe bet that most of these critics are at least somewhat partial to Donald J. Trump.

This is the guy who only recently learned that the White House counsel has been talking extensively to the Special Counsel. The President

was unsettled by the notion that he didn't know everything McGahn said to the special counsel during their interviews, the sources said. And while he had approved the cooperation, Trump did not know the conversations stretched for 30 hours or that his legal team didn't conduct a full debriefing with McGahn after the fact.

Trump remained agitated for the rest of the weekend, the people said, believing the revelation made him look weak. Between conversations with his lawyers and a round of golf with Sen. Rand Paul, Trump lashed out on Twitter, decrying the suggestion he was caught off guard.

And so we recall learning in January that the previous June

After receiving the president’s order to fire Mr. Mueller, the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, refused to ask the Justice Department to dismiss the special counsel, saying he would quit instead, the people said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a continuing investigation.

Mr. McGahn disagreed with the president’s case and told senior White House officials that firing Mr. Mueller would have a catastrophic effect on Mr. Trump’s presidency. Mr. McGahn also told White House officials that Mr. Trump would not follow through on the dismissal on his own. The president then backed off.

Mr. McGahn also told White House officials that Mr. Trump would not follow through on the dismissal on his own. The president then backed off.

Of course he did.  Unless it's on a "reality" (irony duly understood) television program, Donald Trump can't fire anyone. In December 2017 Chief of Staff John Kelly was authorized to dismiss Omarosa Manigault Newman but when he did so, Trump cowardly  told OMN "Nobody even told me about it. You know, they run a big operation but I didn't know it. I didn't know that. Damn it, I don't love you leaving at all."

Trump and wife Ivanka wanted Kelly gone in February, but Trump couldn't bring himself to do it.  The President was fed up with Kelly again in April, but Kelly can't fire Kelly. Face to face, Trump practically genuflects before everyone. (See Putin, V.)

"Eunuch?" "Neutered?" "Pink hat wearer?"  It takes a special kind of person to accuse a journalist of being a wuss when more than two years ago Bill Maher already had Donald Trump figured out:

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Sunday, August 19, 2018

If Trump And Cuomo Were Wrong, There Is Only One Choice Left

The options do not include (d), "none of the above," or "all of the above."

Chronologically as argued: a) Donald Trump; (b) Hillary Clinton; and (c) Andrew Cuomo.  The correct answer must be a, b, or c.

We can eliminate from consideration candidate Donald Trump's "make America great again" because, notwithstanding the view of  Mr. Trump and of most of his supporters, the USA was not great but became a train wreck once the black guy was elected. Since being elected, Trump has, by fits and spurts, begun transitioning into"keep America great" but only because he is now President.

We come now to Andrew Cuomo, who as suggested by David Sirota (herehere and here) deserves little defense or support and no encouragement to run for President. Nonetheless, it was interesting when he stated

We have not reached greatness. We will reach greatness when every American is fully engaged.  We will reach greatness when discrimination and stereotyping of women, 51% of our population, is gone, and every woman's full potential is realized and unleashed and every woman is making her full contribution.

So Andrew Cuomo, fueled by consideration of the wide scope of American history, contends (until he backtracked) that the USA never has been great. He is attacked by a guy who became President with a slogan, "Make America Great Again," in which "again" shouts "it isn't anymore.". The media, regularly slammed for allegedly being anti-Trump, then turns a blind eye to rank hypocrisy.

Friday evening on Real Time, Bill Maher, Charlie Sykes, and Jennifer Granholm noted that Cuomo had been politically foolish (discussion beginning at 25:42 of the video below). Axios' Jonathan Swan, who undoubtedly would agree, added

I was covering the Democratic convention in 2016. I remember they had all these stands selling merchandise. They had these t-shirts that had Hillary Clinton that said "America is already great." I thought "who the hell is going to vote for that?"

There are only three choices: Donald Trump's notion of 2015 and 2016 that the USA is a hellhole; Andrew Cuomo's perspective that the nation cannot be considered great because of enduring discrimination against minorities; and Hillary Clinton's view that despite these contradictions, the USA has been a great country.

Evidently, not enough people in Pennsylvania, Michigan, or Wisconsin viewed this as a great country to get Mrs. Clinton across the finish line. However, that is what presidential elections are all about (other than voter suppression, Russian subterfuge on behalf of the other candidate, and the FBI throwing its weight behind that same candidate).

Donald Trump increasingly will proclaim that he has made America great again. Andrew Cuomo pointed to our national tradition of bigotry and tradition. The limb he stepped upon was then sawed off behind him. The remaining option is (b), and for that Hillary Clinton should be given at least a little credit.

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Saturday, August 18, 2018


Not a correction but something which was inexplicably omitted from the 8/17/18 post "Theological Predisposition." Two paragraphs read:

That would have a major impact. However, rooting out sexual abuse by priests would require two additional steps, one which probably ultimately will be taken by the Church and the other which will not.

Obviously, allowing women to become priests would reduce the sexual perversion (with no quote marks necessary). At some point, that is likely to occur.

They obviously should have read

... would require three additional steps, two of which probably ultimately will be taken by the Church and the other which will not.

Obviously, allowing women to become priests and all priests to be married....

I regret not including the celibacy portion, one clearly relevant to the topic.

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This  is a reasonable question. If going to a predominantly Jewish neighborhood to harass and intimidate Jewish people at a synagogue is no...