Monday, October 22, 2018

Trump's Plan

Donald Trump is warning people who plan to vote Democratic. But he also is warning all of us when he tweets
Eleven hours later, Paul Krugman responded  "If Democrats don't at least take the House, God help us. But even if they do, we'll be facing a nightmarish political scene. Republicans will claim that the election was stolen, and deny the majority's legitimacy."

Journalist Carl Bernstein said Sunday that President Trump has discussed ways to challenge the results of the midterm elections if the GOP's grasp on power slips.

During an appearance on CNN, Bernstein said his sources relayed this information to him on Friday, warning that Trump has talked about a disruption campaign if the results are close but have the Democrats taking control of the House or Senate.

"I talked to people ... in touch with the White House on Friday who believe that, if the congressional midterms are very close and the Democrats were to win by five or seven seats, that Trump is already talking about how to throw legal challenges into the courts, sow confusion, declare a victory actually, and say that the election's been illegitimate," Bernstein said after being asked if Trump's challenge to fraudulent voters was a form of voter suppression.

"That is really under discussion in the White House," he added.

Really, this is the least President Trump can do to support his party's state-by-state efforts to suppress the vote of individuals likely to pull the Democratic lever(s) though, as Krugman  recognizes, it will go beyond mere claims of fraud.

In Ohio, voters are disenfranchised if after not voting in two consecutive elections, they fail to return a notice warning them they will be purged from the rolls.

In Florida, Governor Rick Scott has virtually eliminated the right to vote of felons who have served their sentence.  

Mindful that many residents of Native American Indian tribe reservations have only a P.O. box, North Dakota has implemented a law requiring voters to present identification with a current street address. 

Georgia Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp has purged voter rolls of nearly three-quarters of a million people, and absentee ballots are being rejected on the flimsiest of grounds, including a trivial difference between the voter registration form and government documents- or the signature on the absentee ballot.   

Dodge City, Kansas, most of whose residents are Latino, has moved its one polling site outside of town, more than a mile from the nearest bus stop.

These are on top of voting restrictions in numerous states, nearly all of them Republican-controlled, implemented before 2018. (Note inclusion of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. That didn't work out so well for Hillary Clinton.)

In an obscene display of bothsiderism, the mainstream media dutifully reported GOP claims of "mob rule" when Eric Holder said "when they go low, we kick them."   But he was speaking especially of voter suppression and gerrymandering, both reducing the impact of minority voters. Donald Trump has now told us what he and his minions have in mind if the GOP doesn't retain control of both chambers.  Democrats need to be ready, kick back, and not aim for the shin.

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Sunday, October 21, 2018

No Thank You, Saturday Night Live

Six days ago, Bill Carter, a media analyst for CNN, noted that the Saturday Night Live takedown of Brett Kavanaugh starring Mat Damon failed to prevent Kavanaugh's approval because of its audience. Most of the program's viewers are on the left and already opposed to Kavanaugh and

Nothing SNL does is going to break through the counter-media of Fox News, where the prevailing entertainment culture is considered prejudiced and exclusionary, and so, dismissible. The laughs are impossible to hear over the ongoing dissonance.

Point well-taken, though there are two additional reasons:despite a credible job by Damon, the skit wasn't particularly funny, and Senator Collins had her mind made up at the jump.

Implicit in Carter's analysis is an assumption that the Saturday Night classic is scrupulously left-wing, and hence pro-Democratic.

But notwithstanding the political preferences of the actors, SNL did not damage candidate Donald Trump's (political) health. Recently, The Hill reported

Former “Saturday Night Live” actor Taran Killam said the show’s creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels told the cast to tone down criticism of then-GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and find ways to “make him likable.”

Killam was included on an episode of the “I Was There Too” podcast released Tuesday to discuss what it was like on the “SNL” set before the 2016 presidential election.

The comedian, who played Trump on the show before his departure in August of 2016, said that Michaels was “so specific” about what the NBC cast could say about Trump.

He recalled Michaels telling the cast not to “vilify him.”

“He’s like any New York taxi driver ... He just says whatever it is he’s thinking,” Killam recalled Michaels saying. “You have to find a way in that makes him likable.”

Trump was brought in as a guest host for the show in 2015, before the Republican primaries.

“One of the things I do respect about Lorne is he is a very good host to his guests,” Killam said on the podcast....

“I don't necessarily put so much weight into [the idea of] Trump hosting ‘SNL’ helping him become president, but there's definitely something where it normalizes him and it makes it OK for him to be part of the conversation,” Killam told NPR in the interview.

(The video below is from one year ago, with emphasis not on making Trump likable but on giving him the opportunity to host one program.)

Back in September, 2006, when we hoped Saturday Night Live would help destroy Trump as it did Sarah Palin, Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri observed

Saturday Night Live’ will certainly matter from now until the election a great deal.

“It’s among the things I can’t control,” Palmieri said with a hearty laugh. “‘Saturday Night Live’ — among the things I can’t control.”

That turned out to be quite prescient because Lorne Michaels was the only one who could control Saturday Night Live. He did, and with his assistance we got President Donald J. Trump.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Made For Each Other

Blogger Spocko recognizes that the most ardent supporters at Trump rallies cannot be shamed because they have little sense of shame. However

the Trump advance team only puts real supporters behind him so now is the time to name them.

The people who let out their inner misogyny, bigotry, racism and sexism when supporting Trump's comments need to be named now when Trump appears to be winning. Because soon Trump and the views he expresses will experience a huge setback.  The excuse "we won, so it doesn't matter" will no longer provide an excuse.

We know that the excuse will be used. A similar one is popular nowadays among (the few) individuals who have had second thoughts about Trump now that he has misbehaved as President, conveniently claiming that they didn't like Trump but voted for him only because of "Hillary."   (In most cases, that is, in the true sense of the word, unbelievable.)

Moreover, Spocko realizes

Trump's goal is to link winning with his misogynist views. Because greed is his driving force, he also wants people who agree with his views on women, business, and truth to believe it will MAKE them money. (This is why he hid his father's constant influx of cash to shore up his massive business failures.)

He also wants people who agree with him.... to believe it will make them money.   It's no coincidence that President Trump's personal pastor is Paula White, queen of the prosperity gospel, who gave the invocation at Trump's inauguration.

That would be the Paula White who has been married thrice and declared bankruptcy once, under suspicious circumstances. Paula White, a heretic, con woman, hustler, and high school graduate who has been ordained by no one and is best 

known for her controversial strand of Christianity known as the prosperity gospel, advocates of which teach that living as a faithful Christian will result in not only eternal life but also abundance of material wealth on earth. White said in a 2007 televised event, “Anyone who tells you to deny yourself is from Satan.”

But such views are controversial among many Christians, particularly given the instruction by Jesus in Matthew’s gospel: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

"Paula White is a charlatan and recognized as a heretic by every orthodox Christian, of whatever tribe," tweeted Russell Moore, orthodox Christian and president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, in June of 2016.

Believe the right things and give to her empire, Paula White preaches, and God will recognize you as holy while material blessings flow to you.   On the cover of White's 2009 book "Dare to Dream," the future President wrote "read this, and you'll be ready for great success."   One of the greatest practitioners of the Prosperity Gospel hustle, Paula White taught Donald Trump welI, and he is working the con on his supporters, hidden but in plain sight.

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Friday, October 19, 2018

More Than Face Value

Earlier this month, CNN reported

"In their quest for power, the radical Democrats have turned into an angry mob," Trump said at a rally in Topeka, Kansas, on Saturday. "You saw that today with the screaming and the shouting, not from the 200 people or less -- you know what? Those people, they couldn't fit in the front row."

"You don't hand matches to an arsonist, and you don't give power to an angry left-wing mob," he added. "That's what they have become. The Democrats have become too extreme and too dangerous to govern. Republicans believe in the rule of law, not the rule of the mob."

Major Senate Republican snowflakes joined in the cry, with former presidential candidate Marco Rubio, Judiciary Committee member Orrin Hatch, Judiciary Committee chairperson Charles Grassley, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell themselves all decrying "mobs."

That was one or two days before a Trump rally in Iowa in which supporters chanted "lock her up" at the mention of Senator Dianne Feinstein's name. (Iowa is one of those states whose lovely voters, we're told, were smart enough to vote for Barack Obama and against Hillary Clinton.)

Then in Missoula, Montana Thursday evening, Trump declared

But (Representative) Greg (Gianforte) is great- and never wrestle him. You understand? Never. Any guy that can do a body-slam- he's my kind of guy.

I shouldn't say that because- there's nothing to be embarrassed about...

I had heard that he he body-slammed a reporter and he was way up. He was way up and I said "oh, that was the day of the election or two days before- and I said "oh, this is terrible, he is going to lose the election." And I said "wait a minute. I know Montana pretty well and it might help him." And it did.

The obvious (and accurate) takeaway is that President Trump is encouraging violent attacks upon the media, particularly revolting after the Saudis evidently murdered a journalist, a legal resident of the USA whom Trump criticized as not "a citizen of this country, for one thing."

But... wait. Trump did not deny that Gianforte had committed an illegal act nor justified the behavior. He stated that he believed Montanans would reject a body-slamming congressional candidate. Then, he acknowledged, they did not.

It was a subtle- admittedly, very subtle- dig at Montana voters.  The guy assaulted someone,Trump believed voters would reject the assailant, but voila! They don't, and he is elected.

This obviously isn't the most dangerous aspect of a statement meant to encourage violence, and particularly against reporters, by a man who has consistently condemned the press and encouraged violence. However, it is another example of how master magician Donald Trump criticizes or ridicules a group- Christian evangelicals and military veterans, most notably- who proceed to give him their undying support.  "My New Order" did not go unread.

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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Daring Us To See Through Him

He doesn't need "to try a bit more." Otherwise, Joe Scarborough nailed it when sidekick Willie Geist stated Thursday morning, "so Joe, it was pretty clear what the president said. He said if we win, it was me. If we lose, it wasn't.

The "Joe" in "Morning Joe" replied

It's in the transcript. I mean, he's not even trying anymore. Look at the Saudi bill- he tells his own people repeatedly during the campaign rallies "oh, I made hundred of millions of dollars from the Saudis. I got so rich off the Saudis." 

And then he talks to poor Jonathan Lemire- I feel so sorry for him because he didn't get any sleep last night watching the Red Sox. And then- it's in the transcript! And he thinks the next day he can say "fake news" and the people who support him are so stupid and so dumb and it's insulting to them that he thinks that they can't just read the transcript and see that he's lying through his teeth. He really- he really needs to try a bit more. At this point, it's just become embarrassing.

Donald Trump doesn't have to step up, because it worked so well for him that he became President. During the primary campaign, he spoke of "my little wine and my little cracker." He never has asked God for forgiveness, he boasted, and once referred to "Second Corinthians," which any Sunday School student could tell him is wrong.

Asked whether he preferred the Old or New Testament, he replied "probably equal" instead of "neither more than the other, they're both the word of God" or "the old Testament conceals, the New Testament reveals" God's greatness, or glory, or love for mankind. It's simple, biblically sound, and relatively inoffensive.

He refused to admit to a favorite Biblical passage, instead of saying merely "John 3:16" (for God so loved the world....), which every football fan over the age of 30 has at least once seen on a banner at a game.

He didn't even try- yet was elected President. Avoiding a sexually-transmitted disease in the 1990s, he bragged was "like Vietnam, sort of. It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave solider." Trivializing combat, he would have been expected to offend veterans in a nation with people telling soldiers and veterans "thank you for your service." Yet, he defeated Hillary Clinton by 2 to 1 among veterans. His remark, never retracted or even clarified, might have offended Christians also, but evidently many admire Trump, who knew what he wanted what he wanted from women, and got it. A winner.

Donald Trump's supporters aren't especially stupid or dumb, though many lack self-respect. But as Scarborough suggested, Trump believes they are stupid or dumb, once having declared "I love the poorly educated." 

And so President Trump does not have "to try a bit more" to appear honest.  Few of his supporters value honesty or integrity, and he can go on brazenly lying, boasting, or offending people, all the while amazed that they haven't caught on to him.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Public Relations Coup In The Making

Stop it. Stop it right now.

The Washington Post's Kristian Coates Ulrichsen starts strong with "The unexplained disappearance and presumed killing of Jamal Khashoggi brings attention to the security crackdown in Saudi Arabia since Mohammed bin Salman (“MBS”) became crown prince in June 2017. "

But then she refers to "The ruling circle around MBS"  and the "roundup of dozens of influential business executives and ruling-family members by MBS."  She notes "Khashoggi’s presence in Washington represented a credible counter to the image presented by MBS."  However, "The entourage around the prince invested heavily in burnishing MBS’s credentials with the Trump White House as it took office"

We learn about both "the war in Yemen and the blockade of Qatar, both associated closely with MBS," as well as "the time of mounting questioning of MBS’s approach to domestic and international policymaking." Ulrichsen speaks of the slow "buildup of opposition to MBS’s many other mistimed ventures" and "the pressure on Saudi Arabia and MBS, in particular."

Further, "the White House’s closeness to MBS has been controversial as the crown prince has made one mistake after another and has delivered little result" while "King Salman bin Abdul Aziz overrode MBS," sympathetic to the Israeli cause.

That would be eight(8) references to "MBS." Distressingly, however, Ulrichsen is not alone. David Ignatius' piece in The Washington Post entitled "MBS's rampaging anger will not silencequestions about Jamal Khashoggi" included one reference to "Mohammed bin Salman" and 15 to "MBS." There are two reference to "Mohammed bin Salman" and nine(9)-beyond the headline- to "MBS" in the Columbia Journalism Review's "Reexamining coverage of MBS after Khashoggi's disappearance."

There is even Malcolm Nance(!), who tweeted
Continually referring to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia as "MBS" can soften his image and turn him into an appealing fellow.

The most popular set of initials in the USA is arguably "LBJ," usaually a reference not to the 36th President but to inarguably the greatest player in the NBA, arguably the best player of his generation, and probably one of the three greatest hoopsters ever.

LeBron James is referred to as "LBJ" because he is, well, LeBron James. He neither ordered, nor acquiesced in, the murder of a Saudi journalist and legal resident of the United States. He does not preside over an Islamist dictatorship, nor has he unleashed a powerful bombing campaign slaughtering Yemeni civilians (video from 4/18).

Allowing LeBron James to become"LBJ" has done little damage other than possibly skewing results of the tired talk-radio question "who was better- LeBron James or Michael Jordan? (the correct answer: "Wilt Chamberlain").  But reshaping the image of a mass murderer by changing Mohammed bin Salman into MBS may do so.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Crooked Baby

In a battle- rather, a minor skirmish among apparent allies- there are slightly competing explanations for President Trump's cave-in to the Saudis over the apparent murder of Jamal Khashoggi:

I think we must add the adjective "Saudi-enriched"

— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) October 14, 2018

The law of parsimony, or at least Will Bunch, suggests that Abramson is correct. Bunch links us to an article he wrote five months ago in which he explained

Trump stunned his own foreign policy team— including then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis — when he tweeted that Qatar is a sponsor of terrorism and seemingly endorsed an economic and political blockage of the tiny, oil-rich nation organized and led by two powerful neighbors, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, or UAE.

A few months later, people who suspect the worst about Trump and his minions learned a possible motive that was almost too cynical to comprehend. Not long before Team Trump switched gears on Qatar, key officials from the emirate had met with Charles Kushner — father of Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared, who's in charge of Trump's Middle East portfolio — to discuss a massive Qatar-funded bailout of 666 Fifth Ave., the debt-laden Manhattan skyscraper that was threatening to sink the Kushner family real estate empire. But the Qataris rejected the deal — just weeks before the policy about-face. Whatever actually happened, the appearance was simply awful.

It also seems not to have been the full story. This weekend, the New York Times published a stunning report about a plan floated by a longtime emissary for the Saudis and the UAE in early August 2016, when Trump had just grabbed the GOP nomination but faced an uphill campaign against Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump Jr., aide Stephen Miller and Erik Prince, founder of the notorious mercenary outfit once know as Blackwater, listened intently as the emissary offered Team Trump millions of dollars in assistance, including a covert social-media campaign, to help Trump win that would be run by a former Israeli spy who specializes in psychological warfare, or psywar.

And then there is this:
Well, o.k. However, in the interview conducted on Thursday (broadcast on Sunday) by CBS' Lesley Stahl, the President was asked why he says he "fell in love" with Kim Jong-un, Trump replied. "Sure. I know all these things. I mean- I'm not a baby."

Asked what his "biggest surprise" has been as president, Trump responded. "Okay. So I always used to say the toughest people are Manhattan real estate guys and blah, blah. Now I say they're babies."  To a follow-up question, he remarked "They're babies, the political people."Asked whether like his wife he distrusts some people in the White House, Trump replied "I think I'm guarded anyway. But I'm not saying I trust everybody in the White House. I'm not a baby. It's a tough business."

I'm not a baby... Now i say they're babies.... They're babies, the political people.... I'm not a baby.

If Donald J. Trump is not a baby, he is something very close.  Though holding few if any cards in any confrontation, Riyadh threatened to retaliate against the USA if it responds to Khashoggi's murder.  The President, going beyond the Kingdom's suggestion that it may have been a kidnapping attempt that got out of hand, then suggested the possibility of "rogue killers."

A bully, Trump is a guy who is easily rolled. And that makes it difficult, despite the considerable evidence that Donald Trump is selling out to the Saudis for his family's financial gain, to discount an additional motivation. He is a baby who is letting pipsqueaks threaten the USA. This is not only an extremely greedy individual, but one who asserted "you're fired" enough that it was long before the realization sank in that the baby himself very easily intimidated.

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Monday, October 15, 2018

Civility Politics

Let us now praise the ever-hopeful and idealistic Michelle Obama.

While campaigning for a Virginia state House candidate, former Attorney General Eric Holder said

They have used the power that they have gotten for all the wrong things. They want to keep themselves in power. They want to cater to the special interests. It is time for us as Democrats to be as tough as they are, to be as dedicated as they are, to be as committed as they are.

Michelle always says- Michelle Obama, I love her, you know she and my wife, like really tight, which really scares me and Barack but Michelle says "when they go low, we go high." No, no.

When they go low, we kick them. That's what, that's what this new Democratic Party is about. We're proud of hell to be Democrats. We're willing to fight for the ideals of the Democratic Party. We;re proud our our history, we're proud of our present and we're proud of the future that we can create for this country and we're not in this just to make a statement. We're in this to win, alright?

To her credit, Michelle Obama responded. To her discredit, she was wrong when she stated

Fear is not — it's not a proper motivator. Hope wins out. And if you think about how you want your kids to be raised, how you want them to think about life & their opportunities, do you want them afraid of their neighbors?”

Hope worked for Senator Obama in the fall of 2008. By the fall of 2012, the bloom was off the rose, Obama's margin over the GOP opponent declined, and only Chief Justice John Roberts' vote to uphold the the President's Affordable Care Act saved the nation from Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. In July of 2016, 62%-70% of Americans were "dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time."

Still, President Obama- as is his style- went high and, running for a third Obama term, Hillary Clinton did, also, Unfortunately, her (ultimately winning) opponent did not:

“One of the candidates, as you recall, was predicting that the election was going to be ‘rigged’ in some way,” said Jeh Johnson, the former secretary, referring to President Trump’s unsubstantiated accusation before Election Day. “We were concerned that by making the statement we might, in and of itself, be challenging the integrity of the election process itself.”

Mr. Johnson’s testimony, before the House Intelligence Committee, provided a fresh insight into how the Obama administration tried to balance politically explosive information with the public’s need to know.

Ian Bremmer recalls

The U.S. government under Obama knew what the Russians were doing. Obama was warned repeatedly by Eastern European governments that Russia was meddling in their own elections. And while Latvian elections don’t exactly rank high on the list of an American president’s priorities, the White House could have guessed what the Russians were gearing up to do — and should have sent them a forceful message to knock it off. Obama apparently issued a direct warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin when they met in person in September 2016, but it came too late and had little effect.

So give Michelle Obama some credit. It's not all of us who can convince themselves that the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, and the Easter bunny exist, and that the American people are yearning for happy talk from politicians.  With any luck, however, she will convince few other Democrats and Eric Holder's clear notion of reality will prevail.

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Sunday, October 14, 2018

A Nation Of People

Since the Obama Administration, a few voices on the right lamented the apparent erosion of the concept of the USA as a nation of laws and not of men.

The Hoover Institution was exorcised because the Justice Department did not always choose to enforce in court a law the Administration found unconstitutional. The conservative Washington Examiner denounced regulators and "bureaucrats" in the Obama Administration for regulation of the environment and financial services sector. More recently, a writer on the right-of -center website website American Greatness criticized the effort to block President Trump's travel ban(s) as an illegal encroachment upon the power of the Executive Branch. 

Whatever the merits of these arguments, there was relatively little danger (and more likely, benefit) in letting the Defense of Marriage Act die, defending the American people against environmental degradation or Wall Street excesses, or ensuring that individuals were not barred from the USA because of their religion.

Not so this, however. Will Bunch explains

on Aug. 6, when Rosie O'Donnell and some other Broadway performers Amtraked their way down to the White House gates for a rousing night of anti-Trump show tunes. O'Donnell, longtime bĂȘte noire of the 45th president, led the troupe in "America the Beautiful" and told the assembled mass to "stand up against treason, and stop fascism before it takes over the United States."

The very next day, Aug. 7, the Trump administration's National Park Service promulgated rules that threaten protests like the nightly White House demonstrations — as well as any other would-be spontaneous large D.C. protests. The rules would restrict gatherings that now take place on a 25-foot-wide sidewalk in front of the White House to just a 5-foot sliver, severely limiting crowds. The NPS also threatens to hit political protesters on the National Mall with large security and cleanup fees that historically have been waived for such gatherings, and it wants to make it easier to reject a spontaneous protest of the type that might occur, say, if Trump fires special counsel Robert Mueller.

Nation of laws, indeed. This rule contradicts the First Amendment- but only the spirit, not the letter, of the law. The law- in this case the United States Constitution- seems like it will be little impediment to shutting down a protest called if the President ramps up obstruction of justice to the nth degree.

Moreover, there probably would be no investigation of possible conspiracy of the Trump campaign with the Russian government had President Trump not committed an uncharacteristic tactical error.  Recall that 

In  May 2017, Trump fired Comey, and said a day later that Russia was on his mind when he made the decision. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was overseeing the Russia probe a the time because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any investigations involving the Trump campaign. (Sessions' recusal decision came amid public pressure over his failure to disclose that he met with the Russian ambassador during the Trump campaign.)

Six days later, on May 17, 2017, Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel.

In ways not anticipated, and now not admitted. by the right, the bromide that the USA is "a nation of laws, not of men," turns out to be a crock. This is a nation of men (or people), not of laws- and at present, both the Executive and Legislative branches of the federal government are under control of men to whom you should not entrust an ice cream parlor, let alone the US government.

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Saturday, October 13, 2018

A Problem Not Going Away

There is a lot to unpack here- so as Chris Cuomo would say, "let's get after it."

On Friday night's Real Time, Bill Maher (beginning at 17:14 of the videobelow) hearkened back to his ABC program "Politically Incorrect" and argued

Political correctness- I believed it would destroy us then and I believe that now. I think people vote not so much on policy anymore. I don't think they follow it closely. I think they vote on who's strong. They know Trump's an idiot but he looks strong- and political correctness, weak. 80% in this new Atlantic story that published this poll, 80% of Americans see political correctness as a problem and I think it's our problem.

I don't know why more mainstream liberals don't denounce the political correctness that they must know in private conversations is insane.

While Maher contends that individuals don't vote on policy anymore, they actually do- indirectly. The political parties are a proxy for ideology, and voting on a partisan basis is routine.

Nonetheless, Maher realizes that voters recognize considerable political correctness, are drawn to candidates who appear "strong," and that Democrats appear weak as they pander to political correctness. (Trump: "President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today..")

Maher states (most) "mainstream liberals don't denounce the political correctness that they must know in private conversations is insane." However, it is not only "mainstream liberals" who avoid criticizing political correctness. It is also the far left of the party- and the centrists in the party. (An elected official must secure and maintain his/her base.)

There are several reasons for this. One is a failure- even by the uniquely politically incorrect and bold Maher himself- to acknowledge the role that discomfort with minorities plays in revulsion at political correctness.. (This is not Maher's motivation, but few people exorcised by "political correctness' give $1,000,000 donations to Democratic causes.)

Those minorities, depending upon the individual and the circumstance, may include blacks, Latinos, immigrants, gays, and women.  Opposition to these groups helped prompt Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy," and has only increased through the decades.  With the decline of organized labor, these demographic groups have become the cornerstone of the Democratic Party, which has engendered opposition from other Americans.

Few people on the right or in the mainstream media will admit it, of course. It is so gauche to acknowledge not only bigotry but even discomfort with the aspiration of ethnic, gender, or sexual minorities. (Even Trump won't admit that he resents any minorities.) But it is there, nonetheless, often exploited by the GOP subtly, and by Donald Trump, crudely.

It is additionally difficult to combat the perception of being "politically correct" because it has become a catchall among many conservatives for what they oppose, and what they oppose is the Democratic Party and the left which dominates it, not the Republican Party. It typically goes unnoticed that Republicans also are politically correct, in the Trump era convinced they are victims, as Rebecca Traister points out (starting at 18:40). The Trump Administration itself is far fromimmune:

President Donald Trump’s aides are urging him to replace departing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley with another woman, hoping the move would help shore up support among female voters before the midterms, three people familiar with the matter told POLITICO.

Trump aides are fleshing out a list of women as possible candidates with experience in the foreign policy arena after top pick Dina Powell, a Goldman Sachs executive and Trump administration alumna, withdrew her name from contention, citing her desire to remain close to her young children, according to two people familiar with Powell’s decision.

The number of males being considered to replace Mrs. Haley: zero (0).

That will not be cited as an example of political correctness for a few reasons, however. In the public's mind, only Democrats and liberals can be "politically correct."  Further, the Administration is limiting its search to women not because of ideology or commitment to pluralism, but because of political expedience. In a bizarre twist, that probably makes the "no men need apply" approach less vulnerable to charges of p.c.

Moreover, there is no one to call the GOP out on it. Republicans won't do so because they won't seriously question anything Trump. Democrats won't do it because it would cause friction with their base.

And so Maher is correct: it a problem and it is the Democratic Party's problem. And it is a problem with a solution presently beyond our grasp.

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Friday, October 12, 2018

Hitmen Denounced

I come to praise Jorge Mario Bergoglio, not to bury him. (That will come later.)

In September, 2014, then-National Review columnist  Kevin Williamson tweeted "yes, I believe that the law should treat abortion like any other homicide" and "I have hanging more in mind" for women who undergo the procedure. In April 2018  a podcast from that period came to light, in which Williamson referred to the Twitter exchange by asserting "And someone challenged me on my views on abortion, saying, “If you really thought it was a crime you would support things like life in prison, no parole, for treating it as a homicide.” And I do support that, in fact, as I wrote, what I had in mind was hanging."

Williamson was fired from The Atlantic but he evidently has a very influential ally.  In his weekly address to the assembled throng in St. Peter's Square, on October 10 Pope Francis stated

Today’s catechesis is dedicated to the Fifth Commandment: You shall not kill. The fifth Commandment is do not kill. We are now in the second part of the Decalogue, which concerns relations with one’s neighbour. And this Commandment, with its concise and categorical formulation, stands as a wall of defense of the basic value in human relations. And what is the basic value in human relations? The value of life.[1]Therefore, do not kill....

A contradictory approach also permits the suppression of human life in the maternal womb in the name of safeguarding other rights. But how can an act that suppresses innocent and defenseless budding human life be therapeutic, civil or simply human? I ask you: it is right to do away with a human life to solve a problem? Is it right to hire a hitman to solve a problem? One cannot do this, it is not right to do away with a human being, albeit small, to solve a problem. It is like hiring a hitman to solve a problem.

Is it right to hire a hitman to solve a problem?.... It is like hiring a hitman to solve a problem.

By that, the Pope has rendered his judgement: consummating an abortion, the woman who is, or was, pregnant has hired a hitman to do the job.

The implication of this is clear. The woman is- as a hitman typically is in a contract killing- at least as guilty as the individual who actually has performed the act. If abortion is prohibited (an eventuality made more likely by the ascension of Bart O'Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court), the woman would be- in Pope Francis' reasoning- subject to severe punishment.

The obvious solution, of course, is not to put additional restrictions on a woman's reproductive freedom.  It will not be avoided, however, and the upcoming, intensified assault on reproductive freedom will test the courage of conservative legislators, who doubtless recognize that holding a woman responsible for an illegal abortion ("murder") is politically perilous. We'll then be able to determine if they are outraged by the act of abortion or instead by the fear that extending to women freedom in this realm would enable them to exercise greater economic and political power.

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Thursday, October 11, 2018

APB Issued For Barack H. Obama

If you just landed here from Mars- or from North Korea, where information about planet Earth is equally available- you would assume that President Trump is resolving innumerable problems left him by President Obama. In his campaign event- uh, er, appearance- with Nikki Haley on Tuesday, we learned that as of January 19, 2017

- Iran "looked like a real problem. It was a question of when they would take over the Middle East."

- The federal government was hostage to a "ridiculous deal that they made" with Iran.

-  The USA had with North Korea "a deal that — it was something that was — it was a devastating — potentially devastating problem. And now, the relationships are very good."

-  The world was not respecting the USA, yet now now "the world is really respecting the United States again, much more so they have — than they have in many, many decades. We are respected again, that I can tell you. Very much respected again."

- The USA had no friends in the United Nations but now "votes that we would normally get no votes, we’re getting very strong votes now."

- The federal government was unable to get hostages back but now "we got our hostages back. And I didn’t pay $1.8 billion, like the previous administration. We got — I paid nothing."

In Trump's telling, the Obama Administration paid $1.8 billion to Iran and didn't get hostages back, had brought America to the brink of a major war with North Korea, was getting routed in the United Nations, and was little respected across the globe.

The United States of America was a basket case when Donald Trump was inaugurated on January 20, 2017, in the President's telling.  President Obama's foreign policy was a failure on Iran, China, North Korea, and in the United Nations.  War- maybe worse- was averted only because President Obama gave way to President Trump nearly two years ago, and America is sailing again.

That is fiction, of course. However, it is the narrative of a master communicator and actor (not in that order) occupying the White House. And the narrative is likely to take hold in the absence of an effective rebuttal.

Former Secretary of State Kerry, amidst criticism from the GOP, is speaking, boldly.  However, former President Obama has been relatively (though not totally) quiet, and has been completely so since Trump slammed him in the event held with Ambassador Haley. 

This does not prove that President Obama's foreign policy was the abject failure that President Trump paints it as (video from 10/17).  Nevertheless, if the individual most responsible for the nation's foreign policy from 2001 through 2008 does not poke holes in Donald Trump's argument, it's only fair that independent-minded people (and someone in from Mars) would come to believe that it was a disaster.

That's probably not good for President Obama's legacy. However, it is definitely very good for Donald Trump and the Republican Party he now owns.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Nurturing Nikki Haley

Michael Wolff would have been right- if only he had left out the word "private."

In a piece favorable to our UN ambassador, in January Politico's Eliana Johnson wrote

Nikki Haley became a trusted member of Donald Trump’s inner circle over the past year, but she's recently refamiliarized herself with a downside of professional success: rumors of an affair, this time with the president of the United States.

Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations calls the chatter “highly offensive” and “disgusting,” the result of what happens far too often to strong women.

The online speculation was instigated by “Fire and Fury” author Michael Wolff, who dropped hints on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” last week when he said he was “absolutely sure” Trump is having an affair — just not sure enough to write about it in his book. Wolff went on to say that discriminating readers would be able to determine the president's paramour by giving his book a close reading: “Now that I've told you, when you hit that paragraph, you're gonna say, 'Bingo.'”

Readers quickly homed in on a single sentence in the runaway best-seller, which has been criticized for everything from sloppy copy editing to gross factual inaccuracies. Wolff writes, “The president had been spending a notable amount of private time with Haley on Air Force One and was seen to be grooming her for a national political future.”

Believing both Hope Hicks and Kirstjen Nielsen were more plausible, I never believed that Wolff was referring to Haley. Nor did the author ever confirm that the paragraph Johnson cited was the one he was referring to.

But it's unnecessary to read between the lines to recognize that everyone and his uncle believe that the President was intentionally or at least inadvertently "grooming her for a national political future."

In just one of the bouquets thrown Haley's way in Tuesday's announcement that the UN Ambassador would be leaving her post, President Trump stated

I can speak for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — he thinks the world of Nikki. And so we’re all — we’re all happy for you, in one way, but we hate to — you’ll — hopefully, you’ll be coming back at some point.

But I just wanted to let you know — so at the end of the year, Nikki will be leaving. And we’ll be in constant touch, I know that. Whenever you have any ideas, you’re going to call me —

Lauded as having "been fantastic," Haley returned the favor, pledging to campaign in 2020 for the president who

proved that — whether it was with the chemical weapons in Syria; whether it’s with NATO — saying that other countries have to pay their share; I mean, whether it’s the trade deals, which has been amazing. They get that the President means business, and they follow through with that.


And I do want to say that it’s not just the President I want to thank. The family in general — the First Lady has been nothing but very, very kind to me.

I can’t say enough good things about Jared and Ivanka. Jared is such a hidden genius that no one understands. I mean, to re-do the NAFTA deal the way he did. What I’ve done working with him on the Middle East Peace Plan — it is so unbelievably well done.

Moreover, everyone seems to agree that she will have to be resisted being crowned President of the USA once Trump leaves the scene. Reuters' Ginger Gibson breathlessly captures the prevailing mood as she exults

Those who know Haley from her days as a popular governor of South Carolina believe she is in an enviable position.

“What she’s done as U.N, ambassador has not only raised her own profile, which was already high, but she also raised the profile of the job and she’s left some big shoes to fill,” said Rob Godfrey, a former political aide in South Carolina.

Haley has received high marks for her U.N. job performance. An April poll by Quinnipiac University found that 63 percent of voters approved of Haley, including 55 percent of Democrats....

Haley, who had scant experience in diplomacy before taking the U.N. job, now emerges as a dream candidate, one who figured out how to work with the voluble Trump without upstaging him, but would also buck her boss on issues that mattered to her.

Were she Catholic and male, she'd have to resist being elected Pope.Foreign policy expert Peter Feaver gushes

Instead, if we must look for political positioning instead of merely celebrating that someone answered the call to national service and then served honorably and ably, consider this: As governor of South Carolina, Haley more than checked the box of executive experience and political campaign chops. As ambassador to the United Nations, she more than checked the box of foreign-policy experience. What she lacks for an arduous run for president in 2024 is the kind of independent wealth that many successful party nominees have enjoyed. She now has plenty of time to check that box, too.

William Kristol has even suggested naively that Haley has 2020 potential, tweeting" Macron resigned from Cabinet in 2016. Elected president a year later. Will be two years for Nikki." (Kristol paved the way for an Obama victory in 2008 by pushing Sarah Palin on John McCain. He likes public officials who quit mid-term.)

Michael Wolff probably should have stated "we should not be assuming it is Haley who has had an affair with Donald Trump." Still, it appears he understood what few others did at the time, now that Nikki Haley has been allowed to leave on her own terms with praise and plaudits beyond what the President would offer anyone not named Trump and under age 45.

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Submitting to Authoritarianism

On October 3, Politico Magazine published by Matthew Miller a brilliant, nearly unique diagnosis and prognosis. The former Director of the Office of Public Affairs at the State Department wrote

As the FBI prepares to conclude its review of the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, it seems clear that its investigation has been cursory at best. According to NBC News, more than 40 potential sources have yet to be contacted by the FBI, including Kavanaugh’s original accuser, Christine Blasey Ford. A number of people with information relevant to the investigation have complained that even after calling the bureau’s field offices or national tip line in good faith, the bureau has not followed up with them.

Miller explained that

the FBI possesses a number of tools to shape its outcome if it feels it is being unfairly restricted. For example, the bureau could formally notify the White House in writing that it believes further witness interviews are necessary to obtain a complete picture—an act of bureaucratic pressure that would be difficult to ignore, especially if Wray shared that conclusion with key senators. It could compile every allegation and lead it has obtained through its tip line and field offices in its final report, even those the bureau has been blocked from investigating. Finally, it could do what it does best when it feels unfairly jammed by other government agencies: leak aggressively to the media.

It was clear, as Miller wrote, that the FBI would be doing nothing of the sort but "Democrats have largely failed to criticize the FBI for its role in the investigation, and have at times gone out of their way to praise its professionalism."

Offering a few suggestions, Miller argues "It’s time for Democrats to realize that the rules have changed" and that Democrats need "to fight fire with fire.... putting federal law enforcement on notice that both parties are watching its decisions."

A State Department veteran, Miller is too diplomatic to state bluntly that the FBI director has been placed squarely in President Donald Trump's pocket.

And it may not be only the FBI.  All eight of Bart O'Kavanaugh's new colleagues were present when on Monday evening President Trump staged a magnificent photo-op, swearing-in to the Supreme Court a judge who already had been sworn in.

They heard the President lie: "And with that, I must state that you, sir, under historic scrutiny, were proven innocent. Thank you. You were.”  (No Trump appearance, planned or impromptu, is complete with at least one lie.)

Visually tossing aside the concept of separation of powers, Justices Steven Breyer, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor,  and leftist icon "RBG" all appeared at a political rally disguised as a legitimate observance. 

Surely understanding the difference between a trial and a congressional hearing, they heard the President state  “What happened to the Kavanaugh family violates every notion of fairness, decency and due process. Our country, a man or woman must always be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”

They surely recall that Donald Trump called for the execution of five teenagers upon their arrest in New York City in 1989- and that they eventually were determined to be innocent, prompting Trump to attack the judicial system. They understood the significance that the accused were all black or hispanic, and that- as subsequent years have confirmed- Trump did, too.

As Supreme Court Justices, the eight jurists are immune to condemnation, tweets, or threats from President Trump- or anyone. But for some reason they were there, adding legitimacy to Donald Trump's ongoing presidential campaign for 2020.

But they were there, however reluctantly, just as the FBI submitted to the political interests of President Trump, whether willingly or intimidated.

The co-opting of American institutions is dangerous enough in this term.  It suggests, moreover, that a defeat of Donald Trump in November, 2020 might not mean that he will not still be President Trump on January 21, 2021.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Supporting President Trump

Q.: What do all these headlines have in common?

CNN: Trump apologizes to Kavanaugh for sexual misconduct allegations during confirmation;
TIME: President Trump apologizes to Kavanaugh, says judge was 'proven innocent';
NBC News: Trump apologizes to Kavnaguh on 'behalf of ournation,' says judge 'roven innocent';
Fox News: President Trump apologizes to Brett Kavanaugh and his family at cremonial swearing-in as Supreme Court Justice;
Bloomberg: Trump apologizes to Kavanaugh and declares him 'proven innocent';
Politico:  Trump uses swearing-in ceremony to apologize to Kavanaugh;
Associated Press: Trump apologizes to Brett Kavanaugh 'on behalf of our nation' during ceremonial TV event;
New York Times (AP article): Trump apologizes to Kavanaugh during swearing-in ceremony.

A.: They all state that President Trump apologized to Brett Kavanaugh.... and they're all inaccurate.

(O.K., "Tiger Beat on the Potomac," Politico, doesn't count.)

Let Merriam-Webster explain that an "Apology usually applies to an expression of regret for a mistake or wrong with implied admission of guilt or fault and with or without reference to mitigating or extenuating circumstances."

President Trump did not admit guilt or fault. He couldn't have because he certainly was not responsible for the nominee having been criticized- or as he puts it, "tortured."  Kavanaugh was tortured by Democratic senators, over whom he has little control and no responsibility.

Donald Trump has apologized only once, and that was for the words on the Access Hollywood tape, an admission of a mistake he has since retracted at least twice by suggesting at least twice that the tape was "fake" or "doctored."

No one would deny that an apology is a good thing, and Trump benefits by headlines characterizing an attack on Democrats as an "apology." But an individual can apologize only for what he is directly, or at least in large measure, responsible. (That would include a minor child or possibly an employee for whom one is largely accountable.)  If your immediate neighbor slugs his neighbor on the other side, you can express regret to the second neighbor but you cannot apologize on behalf of the other, for you are not responsible for his behavior.

Members of the media probably are unaware that they are running interference for President Trump. They usually provide some context in the body of an article, invariably read predominantly by partisans, individuals who already have formed opinions of the President. Many, perhaps most, people read only the headline and even when they go further, may remember only the headline.

Reporters and editors may not like the President and if they have any sense- given Trump's continuing attack upon them- do not. However, headlines, as well as the photo-ops the President stages, give a favorable impression of him. 

It is, presumably, inadvertent. Nevertheless, the media has consistently promoted the Trump presidency, allowing themselves to be manipulated by a President whose frequent rallies demonstrate that every day is a campaign for him.

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Trump's Plan

Donald Trump is warning people who plan to vote Democratic. But he also is warning all of us when he tweets All levels of governme...