Monday, December 31, 2018

Bequeath Not


Matthew Yglesias realizes

The action at the border these days, in terms of immigration, is about asylum seekers, whole family units who arrive and either cross at legal ports of entry or else deliberately present themselves to Border Patrol after crossing illegally.

That's part of the reason the Administration is focused instead on the wall, whatever they're trying to pass it off as today. The New York Times' Haberman reports

The concrete border wall that President Trump has repeatedly called for as a signature campaign promise is not actually a wall and has not been since “early on in the administration,” the outgoing White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, said in an interview published Sunday.

The comments further muddy the administration’s position as Mr. Trump demands that Democrats provide $5 billion in funding for a wall on the border with Mexico, an impasse that has led to a partial government shutdown after the president abruptly pulled out of a compromise deal to keep the government funded through February. They were also notable given Mr. Trump’s insistence for most of his term that the border would have a wall, not the “steel slat barrier” he has pivoted toward in the past few weeks.

“To be honest, it’s not a wall,” Mr. Kelly told The Los Angeles Times.





Alarmed that the base might hear that and recognize the scam, President Trump on Monday morning tweeted

Whatever Trump means by people dying- he's not referring to children dying while in CBP custody- giving this President any money for a wall is bad policy and probably worse strategy. But Trump's quick response is a sure sign both that he wants a concrete wall badly, and that he is losing.

So the short-term strategy for congressional Democrats must be to deny Trump any money for a wall. Claiming victory is always his goal, the oxygen that gives him life. "And some of you are friends and you're going to call," candidate Trump boasted at a campaign rally, "and you're going to say, 'Mr. President, please, we can't take it anymore, we can't win anymore like this, Mr. President, you're driving us crazy, you're winning too much."

Once the government is re-opened, as Yglesias points out, attention should turn to  long-term issues, primarily "internal enforcement, asylum law, the treatment of long-settled unauthorized migrants, and future flows of legal immigration."

Good luck with that. Internal enforcement involves ICE, which the left generally doesn't like much and the right places miles behind CBPP as its government agency of choice.  Processing asylum claims will require personnel and money but increasing the number of government employees is not high on the wish list of Republicans.  While visa overstays outnumber individuals illegally crossing the border(s), and most Democrats are on principle against throwing law-abiding individuals out of the country, and most Republicans don't have the stomach for it.  While the Trump Administration would like to cut the quota for illegal immigrants, Democrats are a hard sell.

However, running a massive government in a global economy requires difficult choices, ones far beyond demanding that "Dreamers" get a fair shake.

After Democrats smashed Republicans in the mid-terms, Jamelle Bouie argued

when faced with Trump’s demand for $5 billion in funding for his border wall with Mexico, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer offered the $1.6 billion that Democrats had previously agreed on. This may not constitute support for “the wall” itself, but it does miss how the landscape has changed. The president’s immigration policies are unpopular. Schumer had political space to make a lower bid, or no bid at all. But he doesn’t seem to grasp the extent of his party’s political advantage or understand the value of opposition. He seems stuck in a past where voters rewarded compromise and bipartisanship, unable to see how this doesn’t apply to the Democrats’ relationship with Donald Trump.

President Trump's immigration policies probably are as not unpopular as Bouie believes. However, as he would understand, the best way to make those policies, and Trump himself, popular would be to give him what he wants. And that is to deliver to him any amount of money for what he could credibly claim is a "wall."



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Saturday, December 29, 2018

OK, Better, And No More


Sirota and Grunwald:



Barack Obama has remained very popular with Democratic voters while Donald Trump's job approval is at 89% among GOP voters. Allegiance to a president (incumbent or former) may be sparked by him being one of yours rather than one of theirs, which can lead to a failure to understand that your own guy wasn't all he is (or was) cracked up to be. This has helped propel the Beto O'Rourke boomlet, Sirota explaining

In an era of growing economic inequality, O’Rourke has split with the majority of his party to vote for Republican initiatives to weaken Wall Street regulations and accelerate bank mergers – and he once voted for a Republican bill that Democratic legislators said was designed to block the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s from combatting racially discriminatory lending. He also voted for a key part of Donald Trump’s so-called deportation force.

Meanwhile, despite the imminent climate catastrophe facing our planet, O’Rourke has often taken the side of carbon polluters. He has repeatedly voted to help the fossil fuel industry increase its exports. He even helped the GOP defeat a Democratic measure designed to limit the possibility of offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Sirota realizes

Replicating an Obama presidency would be better than what we have now. But it would still be a tragedy. That’s because the fundamental premise of Obamaism - and its predecessor, Clintonism – is that there is always a policy that can at once serve the people and the powerful. And recent history has showed that is both false and dangerous.

The fantastical mythology of a satisfactory “third way” between the corporate class and the rest of us posits that the Democratic party’s insurance industry backers can be enriched and healthcare policy can still be humane; its Wall Street sponsors can eviscerate industries and workers can still earn enough to survive; and its fossil fuel donors can keep pumping out carbon and the ecosystem can still sustain human life.

It's a little strange, and disconcerting to Sirota, that Democratic voters will not acknowledge that President Obama was a gift to plutocrats. Eight days before the close of the last presidential term, populist critic Matt Stoller noted the concentration of economic power during the Obama Administration and the "roughly 9 milion foreclosures" which it "enabled and encouraged." Further, the Adminsitration

let big-bank executives off the hook for their roles in the crisis. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) referred criminal cases to the Justice Department and was ignored. Whistleblowers from the government and from large banks noted a lack of appetite among prosecutors. In 2012, then-Attorney General Eric Holder ordered prosecutors not to go after mega-bank HSBC for money laundering. Using prosecutorial discretion to not take bank executives to task, while legal, was neither moral nor politically wise; in a 2013 poll, more than half of Americans still said they wanted the bankers behind the crisis punished. But the Obama administration failed to act, and this pattern seems to be continuing. No one, for instance, from Wells Fargo has been indicted for mass fraud in opening fake accounts.

President Trump was dealt a bad card on foreign policy, also. Pyongyang may be intensifying its nuclear weapons program, which continued unabated while Barack Obama was in the White House. President Trump recently has been vociferously criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike for his rash actions toward Syria, yet Barack Obama was criticized even by former Secretary of State John Kerry for the "red line" Obama proclaimed, but was too timid to enforce.

U.S. airstrikes supporting Syrian forces in Yemen have increased dramatically under President Trump, as has the federal government's support for the murderers in Riyadh, but the direction of policy was set by President Obama.

President Trump has made a bad situation worse nearly everywhere, which has obscured an awareness that we were snookered by the last President.

Barack Obama probably wasn't the bad president Matt Stoller argues that he was. Nonetheless, whether foreign policy, continued reliance on oil, enthusiasm for "clean coal," or even letting the financial industry off the hook, the ongoing swoon among Democratic voters for the 44th President is self-delusional.  Moreover, as Sirota finds, it has inspired the undeserved excitement that a tall, slender, inspiring centrist male such as Beto O'Rourke has aroused in the Democratic base.











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Friday, December 28, 2018

Fierce Urgency For The One


What do journalist Jonathan Capehart and US Senator (soon to be "former" US Senator) Claire McCaskill have in common?

Neither is Hispanic, Republican, or allied with the left wing of the Democratic Party. They are, however, both comedians or less generously, oblivious to the past.

Capehart is guilty of the less egregious hypocrisy, and his prescription is right.  He observes

Democrats have this annoying habit of always looking for “The One.” The one who will sweep them off their feet in a fit of electoral ecstasy. Only their “one” should make a go of it. All others are deemed inadequate or somehow all wrong for the party or the times. Then there’s this other annoying habit. If their “one” doesn’t win the nomination, then the person who actually does win is dead to them.

Therefore, he argues

don’t get me started on the political teenage crush du jour. One minute it’s all about Oprah Winfrey. Then there are dreams of Michelle Obama. Don’t forget the boomlet over Michael Avenatti. Today, it’s all about Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.). That’s not to say that O’Rourke or even Avenatti aren’t serious. But, c’mon, people.

He mentions the 44th president only once, that when he notes

The staid process (when viewed through the WWE lens that was the GOP 2016 contest) produced a seasoned and prepared nominee in Barack Obama. He had been elected to the U.S. Senate from Illinois only four years earlier, but he won the presidency against his more senior Senate colleague, John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Barack Obama was not a seasoned nominee. Moreover, Capehart failed to note that Obama, of whom he generally has been enamored, was (and still is) the beneficiary of the equivalent of a "teenage crush." Nonetheless, Capehart was eclipsed by the oblivious remarks of Mrs. McCaskill, who has warned that Democrats

should be cautious about the rise of politicians like the 29-year-old Ocasio-Cortez, who vanquished a Democratic leader, Joe Crowley, in her primary, and have vowed sweeping changes in policy.

"I don't know her," McCaskill said when asked if she'd consider Ocasio-Cortez a "crazy Democrat" like the ones she decried on the campaign trail. "I'm a little confused why she's the thing. But it's a good example of what I'm talking about, a bright shiny new object, came out of nowhere and surprised people when she beat a very experienced congressman."

McCaskill added, "And so she's now talked about a lot. I'm not sure what she's done yet to generate that kind of enthusiasm, but I wish her well. I hope she hangs the moon.

"But I hope she also realizes that the parts of the country that are rejecting the Democratic Party, like a whole lot of white working class voters, need to hear about how their work is going to be respected, and the dignity of their jobs, and how we can really stick to issues that we can actually accomplish something on."





Credit the Senator with getting one thing right- invocation of the idiom "hang the moon," defined as "used as an example of a superlative act attributed to someone viewed with uncritical or excessive awe, reverence or infatuation." However, as Ocasio-Cortez could point out (but oddly, has not), the middle and lower middle class individuals and families being carved out of American society need more than rhetoric about "respect" and "dignity."

Ocasio-Cortez is a bright, shiny new object, though one who appears fortuitously determined to use her sudden celebrity on behalf of needed policy changes, such as promoting the Green New Deal. 

She may as well strike while the iron is hot. So, too, was Hillary Clinton a hot political commodity when she resisted the urging of supporters to run for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination in order to gain more experience. Instead, she waited until 2008 when there was, to John McCain's ultimate dismay, a different "hot" politician- a bright, shiny new object.

Fortunately, we have the benefit of hindsight, and of the St. Louis American, which reported in January, 2008 of the same senator (who now ridicules the "bright, shiny new object")

“I get the force and urgency of now,” McCaskill said Sunday morning in a conference call with local, state and national media.

“I feel it in my bones"....

McCaskill credited “the fierce urgency” of her own 18-year-old daughter, thereby aligning her support with the powerful youth movement that has helped to make Obama a strong contender.

"I get the force and urgency of now" because "I feel it in my bones," exulted the United States Senator from the state of Missouri.   And if the "urgency of now" (as opposed to, presumably, the "urgency of then") and her "bones" (judgment optional) didn't convince her, the veteran legislator was persuaded by her teenage daughter. Bright, shiny object indeed.

Let's be serious. The last Democrat to have been elected President had been a member of the US Congress for only two years when endorsed by McCaskill and was noteworthy as a Senator for.... nothing.  He differed ideologically little from his major opponent (Senator Clinton) but was motivated by "the fierce urgency of now."

And he won. He won the nomination and the presidency, later going on to be re-elected. (Thank you, Justice Roberts!) He was a bright and shiny, albeit impressive, object who caught a wave and rode it all the way.

Now Claire McCaskill and Jonathan Capehart want Democrats not to fall in love.  That's a hard sell to a Party which almost visibly swooned, got one of their own elected President, then eight years later went with the tried and true veteran and lost. The warnings of McCaskill and Capehart are very interesting. They're also eight years late.




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Thursday, December 27, 2018

Only If Honorable Is Spelled "Dishonorable"


Former FBI agent Josh Campbell is an analyst with CNN, and a very good one. And maybe we should thank him for reminding us to take at face value what seems to be reasonable action:


Admittedly, President Trump on Wednesday visited soldiers in Iraq, whom he used as political pawns in photo ops while they were glad to see him. The New York Times reports

on Wednesday, about 100 American servicemen and women, some of whom were wearing red “Make America Great Again” caps, greeted Mr. Trump with a standing ovation in Al Asad Air Base’s dining facility, which had been decorated for Christmas. He and Mrs. Trump spent about 15 minutes there talking with the troops.

Pictures of red MAGA hats on soldiers, a standing ovation, and a quick in-and-out make for a near-perfect photo-op. The soldiers would have had to be near-insane, or at least aberrant, not to be grateful when someone who occupies an office formerly held by the leader of the Free World flies from half the globe over to see them.

They can be expected to be proud, too, to be congratulated for doing a "great job" and elated being told by Trump that he got them "a big one."

Raise, that is, at least presumably.  The President asserted that he had gotten them a 10% raise after they had gotten no raise at all for 10 years.

The 10% raise was actually 2.6%.  Active-duty military personnel have received a raise each year for at least the past 56 years and this was the third biggest, not the largest, of the past eleven years. Moreover, the increases are tied to increases in private-sector raises, though Congress can hike them. (This was not the first of his lies on the subject; from May, below.)

Otherwise, Trump's assertions were accurate (And how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?). That does not make the President's visit "honorable." Neither was it made more honorable because Trump proudly did a selfie with members of Seal Team Five, whose presence in Iraq had been confidential. (If it's good enough for the Israelis, it should be good enough for our soldiers.)

It's tempting for liberals to show our fairness, objectivity and bipartisan bonafides by supporting President Trump when he does something normal, such as visiting American soldiers in a war zone.  But buyer, beware. Norm Eisen of CREW sums up:










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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Elusive Privilege


At first read, perhaps, Brianha Joy Gray made a point Thomas Frank and so many others have made when she wrote in January 2018

Importantly, Democrats should make clear that the white supremacy Trump peddles may benefit working class whites, but its benefits are marginal compared to the material rewards that would come from a class conscious, progressive, political agenda.

Gray understood "there is real danger in artificially divorcing Trump’s broader economic agenda from his racism. Doing so has the potential to bolster the flimsy relationship between working class white voters and the Republican Party."  Moreover, she acknowledged (as do few in the left or in the mainstream media) "that for an unsettlingly large percentage of white-Americans- many of whom feel abandoned by liberals- the identification of Trump with whiteness is not a critique." (She meant "criticism," not "critique," the latter being an analysis and not necessarily negative.)

Moreover, Gray realized

for all he maligns non-whites, Trump is far from a champion of the white race. Even at his most bigoted, one can tease out the financial incentives that operated in symbiosis with his prejudice. His relentless campaign against the Central Park Five was not only evidence of his callow disregard for criminal justice and the civil rights of the accused, it reflected his personal interest in the greater policing of New York City, the increased safety which most (wrongly) assumed would follow, and the correspondingly higher value of his Central Park-facing properties. The housing discrimination for which Trump is famous was enabled by a lack of fundamental respect for black renters, yes, but it was also likely motivated, in part, by a desire to extract the maximum fees from his properties. Trump wrote off entire nations as “shithole countries,” but while those “shitholes” were uniformly brown, it strains credulity to believe that he would have made a stink about wealthy, non-white nations like Japan or Saudi Arabia. Even Eric Trump’s foot-in-mouth defense of his father’s racism speaks some truth to power: “My father,” he says, “sees one color: green. That’s all he cares about.”

This is all standard, albeit valid, boilerplate of the populist left, which often notes "the role racism has played in dividing the poor and preserving power for the wealthy." Gray even quoted President Johnson's "prescient warning that 'if you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket.'”

"While Trump is a racist," Gray emphasized, "he is no zealot. His "true religion" is not racism but "avarice" and "it seems more apt to describe him as a plutocrat." Yet

despite his governance of grift, the mainstream left has committed to a narrative in which Trump is defined predominately by his racial antagonism. He’s our “first white president.” The “lowest white man.” Similarly, his supporters, who certainly should be criticized for being, at best, indifferent to Trump’s racism, are painted as motivated solely by racial animus rather than the blend of economic populism and bigotry that has long been used to foment a potent nativist anxiety.

Instead, Gray recognized, almost uniquely, that

it’s important to draw attention to the ways in which our liberal language increasingly pushes the idea that anti-blackness and pro-whiteness are always in diametric opposition, leaving no space for forms of oppression which subjugate subsets of both groups.

This leaves inevitably and inextricably to the truly revelatory money quote:

When we describe Trump as pro-white, we are complicit in the transformation of a man infamous for his commitment to wealth into an ideologue committed to the betterment of most American people.

This means all Gray thinks it means, and more. She believes that the Democratic Party must not "take for granted" what Charles Blow terms the "unassailability of white privilege." However, her entire critique calls into question the increasingly chic concept of "white privilege."

There is, as she both implicitly and explicitly argued, a class privilege. But she resists the logical implication, that "white privilege" is largely (albeit not completely) ephemeral and chimerical. It is a diversion from policies intended to reinforce the power and privilege of the economic elite of whatever race.

This is the North Star, the guiding ethos, of the Republican Party, which has stood by President Trump, despite his destruction of norms and common decency, because he has delivered the Party's donor base a tax cut.

If the identification of Trump with whiteness, as Gray was bold enough to point out, is less a negative than a positive among white Americans (such as those who provided Trump's margin of victory in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania), characterization of those voters as benefiting from "white privilege" will continue to backfire. President Trump's policies not only fail to improve the lot of most white Americans; they are not intended to improve the lot of white Americans.  Yet, linking the policies of a president who is apparently racist to "white privilege" reinforces the notion that as they harm blacks, they help whites.

Poor, working-class, (even middle-class) whites do not possess a privilege, but instead exist under a lesser burden.  Bandying about "white privilege"- or as Gray would argue, "racist" trivializes the struggles of poor, working-class, and even middle-class white Americans. It will convince ever more whites that policies undermining blacks will inevitably benefit themselves. 

That is not only electorally counter-productive for the Democratic Party, which must persuade voters that the impact of conservative GOP policies is not a zero-sum game. Insisting that they are encased in a cocoon of "white privilege" is not only counter-productive, but demeaning and in essential part,
false.








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Tuesday, December 25, 2018

A Superstar's Superstar. And Something Else.


On Monday, Huffington Post reported

The Los Angeles Lakers star apologized Sunday for sharing a “getting that Jewish money” lyric from the rap song “asmr” by 21 Savage.

“We been getting that Jewish money / Everything is Kosher,” (LeBron) James typed onto his Instagram story entry.

“Entourage” producer Doug Ellin and others online took offense, informing the superstar that the words reinforced a harmful stereotype.

In his mea culpa, James said he thought the words were positive.

Consideration of the posting of LeBron James, superstar of the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers and now of of the Los Angeles Lakers, would not be fair without context. If the lyrics from the entire song were generally profound or at least inoffensive, quoting the artist might be reasonable. Therefore, consider....


Intro]
Y'all know what's goin' on
21 Gang 'til I'm gone
4L Gang 'til I'm gone
If Young Metro don't trust you, I'm gon'-

[Verse 1]
Roll the window down, stick the Glock out (Stick the Glock out)
This chopper got a AMP, I'ma rock out (I'ma rock out)
When it's time for smoke, they gon' cop out (They gon' cop out)
This AK47 made in Moscow (Made in Moscow)
All these dead bodies got me seein' strange things (Straight up)
Both sides of the gun, I done dealt and felt the pain (On God)
Drive by? Nah, we the walk-up gang (21)
I come from the 6 where they chalk up lames (On God)
Slide in and out (Out)
Spend the night? I doubt (Doubt)
Gold grill mouth (Mouth)
I come from the South (South)
We was stealin' cars
You was inside the house (Pussy)
I know he gon' be a rat one day
Right now we call him a mouse (21)

[Chorus]
I got lots of stripes, all my niggas shyst
You can roll the dice, you might lose your life
Keep my Desert Eagle on me, he not nothin' nice
I just need one Glock, Nas need one mic (Lil' bitch)

[Verse 2]
I done did a lot in the streets and them facts (21)
PTSD like I came from Iraq (On God)
You made it from the gutter, then I'm tippin' my hat (I am)
Don't go big on me, you might get hit with this MAC (Brrah)
I don't need no holster, you get burned like toaster (21)
I don't drink no liquor, but I'm smokin' on mimosa (Yeah)
We been gettin' that Jewish money, everything is Kosher (On God)
Bought myself a 'Ventador and bought my bitch a Roadster(Straight up)
Drive my Lambo to the store, I'ma wave with my doors
I'm on Glenwood, not the Ave., nigga, the road (21)
Talkin' on the pillow, nigga, that shit for the hoes (Straight up)
I'd never snitch on my enemies or my bros (Never)
I'm so 21, dawg, I'm so SG (Yeah)
I'm so 4L Gang, I keep a Glock, not a XD (21)
Head so good, she not even white, I still call her Becky (Yeah, yeah)
Richard Mille cost so much I could push a button and see next week (Straight up)
.30 on the glizzy, got my pants dizzy (Pants dizzy)
Playin' 'round with Savage, you get shot in the kidney (Shot in the kidney)
So many drums, he gon' think a band hit him (Ha)
Chopper clapped his ass, he thought a hand hit him (Ha)
I do the BlocBoy JB on a brick (Skrrt, skrrt)
Make your crew do the Electric Slide with this stick (Straight up)
She don't get no new Chanel, she gon' throw a fit (Straight up)
I wanna buy that girl the world, the way she suck this dick (Yeah)
Fronted me some bags, I ran out the same night (Damn)
When I was in jail, on my momma, I ain't kite (Damn)
Niggas know I'm solid, I shoot and I fight (Straight up)
You just wear Adidas, but in real life, I got stripes (21)

[Chorus]
I got lots of stripes, all my niggas shyst
You can roll the dice, you might lose your life
Keep my Desert Eagle on me, he not nothin' nice
I just need one Glock, Nas need one mic

[Outro]
My brother down the road, they tried to give him life
He swear he so creative, turned a toothbrush to a knife
Savage got your wifey playin' with herself on Skype
She thought the AC was on, it was just my ice
We pull up ready to shoot (Brrrah)
Y'all ready to fight (Stupid)
Pull up, ready to kill (Yeah)
Y'all ready to die (Straight up)
Broke-ass nigga get killed ridin' a bike (Pussy)
Savage left his gun at home, nigga, yeah, right (Ha)

On a positive note, King James did not post the lyrics

We pull up ready to shoot (Brrrah)
Y'all ready to fight (Stupid)
Pull up, ready to kill (Yeah)
Y'all ready to die (Straight up)
Broke-ass nigga get killed ridin' a bike (Pussy)
Savage left his gun at home, nigga, yeah, right (Ha)

The NBA was wise not to take action against the athlete for an action, properly protected from state sanction by the First Amendment, taken on the field for a matter unrelated to performance on the court.

However, the NBA's decision was taken instead because of who took it- King James, indisputably the best player in all of basketball and one of the league's half dozen greatest players of all time.

The league evidently has elected to claim that it is letting bygones be bygones because James has allegedly apologized. Unsurprisingly, because he is King James and real apologies are nearly extinct (a tremendous exception here), it was no apology.

The "mea culpa" cited by Huffington Post included....

"Apologies, for sure;" i.e., "whatever." 

James continued" if I offended anyone."  There is no "if," fella.

He added "That’s not why I chose to share that lyric," as if anyone is accusing him of going out of his way to alienate fans and others and sullying his favorable reputation. Doing so would have been remarkably stupid.

"I always [post lyrics]. That’s what I do. I ride in my car, I listen to great music, and that was the byproduct of it." That would be "don't blame me- it was accidental. It's great music, and the controversial lyrics blend in."

"So I actually thought it was a compliment, and obviously it wasn’t through the lens of a lot of people. My apologies. It definitely was not the intent, obviously, to hurt anybody.” 

He "thought it was a compliment." To be fair, the man lauded by many people (a notable exception being the President of the USA) for being intelligent may actually have believed "we been gettin' that Jewish money, everything is Kosher" is a "compliment."

If he did so, Mr. James is not nearly as smart as he has been held up to be. Ultimately, there are exactly two possibilities- James is fairly unintelligent or he is a bigot. As for me, I never have believed, and still do not believe, that LeBron James is at all stupid.









Monday, December 24, 2018

Wall Money


Trump wins.

Donald Trump hasn't won yet, may not yet win, and shouldn't win, because there is only one way he squirms out of the Trump Shutdown successfully declaring victory.






After President Trump on Tuesday signaled support for short-term funding for the government without money for his beloved wall, conservative author and political commentator Michelle Malkin complained on "Fox and Friends"

Well, I'm not going to sugarcoat it and I'm not going to spin it. I wish I could but this was a cave, a blink, and all you have to do is look at- you quoted it, Steve- the exact, precise words that President Trump used.

And now look at what the White House is forced to do- and yes, to answer Brian a couple of seconds ago, yes, we have to hold the Republicans, especially Mitch McConnell, who's been in office since 1981 and never has been able to get this deal done because he's afraid of a shutdown. But now look at what the White House is forced to do, scrounge around for 600 million dollars in the defense budget in order to fund a puny 100 miles. It's as if border security is an afterthought and for Nancy Pelosi....





Malkin was only one of several GOP talking heads who would not have forgiven if the President and the GOP House not recklessly chosen to shut down the federal government over the border wall.

Whether funding is increased or reduced for other border security measures and whether the wall will deter illegal immigration is secondary. They are determined to beat the Democratic Party by getting funding for construction. Therefore, on Thursday Trump reversed course, the House fell in line, and the Trump Shutdown ensued.

Afterward, Budget Secretary Mick Mulvaney and Vice President Pence met with congressional leaders and members of Congress were sent home for Christmas break. Then

Mulvaney put the onus on Democrats, saying the White House is now offering to open the government for less than the $5 billion in wall funding Trump had demanded. Democrats say the wall is immoral and would be ineffective, and they are instead offering to keep the border-security funding at the current $1.3 billion, with money going to fencing and other security measures, but not for a wall.

“We moved off of the 5. We hope they move up from their 1.3,” Mulvaney said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”

Mulvaney refused to offer specifics, but a Democratic aide said the White House offer was for $2.1 billion for border security, including new fencing, plus an additional $400 million fund for other Trump immigration priorities....

Despite near-unanimous opposition to the wall, Democrats have said they are willing to negotiate on funding for other border-security measures. And the administration’s recent shift in focus from a concrete wall to a fence-like barrier made of steel slats offered a slight glimmer of hope for room to compromise.

Malkin, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, and their ilk are demanding, in Homeland Security Nielsen's lingo, "wall."  President Trump promised he'd be "proud" to shut down the government over the wall and Fox News' Doocy stated “If there’s not a shutdown, he’s going to look like a loser."

But if Trump gets any money for something he can call a "wall," he will brag that he broke the Democrats, and that includes his "artistically designed steel slats."

A compromise with Republicans is impossible. He will get wall-like money and declare victory. Or he will not get wall money, the right-wing talk show will erupt, and the part will be riven.

"Do we succumb to tyranny of talk radio hosts?” asked outgoing Tennessee Republican senator Bob Corker.  We do, if Democrats succumb to the lure of a "compromise" spun by Trumpists as a victory.



                                                  MERRY CHRISTMAS


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Saturday, December 22, 2018

Not A Great Week For Europe, Either


Following the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Axios' Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen reveal "We talked all day yesterday with Republican officials, operatives and advisers who are truly scared for America. But it's telling that few have the courage to say it publicly."

Obviously, General Mattis had the courage to say it publicly, noting his concern with

treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.

With the opportunity to express his appreciation for serving his Commander-in-Chief or the President, Mattis instead wrote (emphasis mine) "I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform."

Senators especially appreciated the General's hawkishness, commitment to international alliances, and general demeanor, with Democratic senator Tim Kaine stating "I want someone like Mattis who will tell the President the truth to his face." Republican senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin asserted "I'd like  a Mattis clone. I think we all would" and Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse remarked "This is a sad day for America."





Evidently so, because it leaves a vacuum which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo may, disastrously, partially fill.

In a six-sentence statement, Senate Majority Leader McConnell maintained that he is "particularly distressed that he (Mattis) is resigning due to sharp differences with the President on these and other key aspects of America’s global leadership." He added “I believe it’s essential that the United States maintain and strengthen the post-World War II alliances that have been carefully built by leaders in both parties."

The Europeans would agree. Nevertheless (or perhaps therefore) at the 2018 NATO Foreign Minister Summit in Brussels early this month, reports the New Yorker's Susan Glasser, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo  "attacked the United Nations, the E.U., the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, and derided what he called Europe’s flawed vision of multilateralism as 'an end to itself.'" He ludicrously compared “the type of leadership that President Trump is boldly reasserting” with American leadership during the Cold War and refused to take questions after his speech ended.

Not having boasted sufficiently, while returning from Brussels Pompeo actually claimed

We’ve rebuilt NATO in important ways already. NATO is a far stronger organization as a result of the Trump administration than it was for the previous decade, I can assure you. And the 28 European ministers who were there with me today know that too.

This is no way to win friends (aside from Moscow) while a brilliant strategy to alienate friends and allies. A few days earlier, Fogh Rasmussen, a prime minister of Denmark who went on to become the Secretary-General of NATO, had warned

If, at a certain state, Mattis — for one reason or another — were to leave the U.S. government, that would create huge, huge problems with U.S. allies within NATO. If he were to be sacked, that would be an indication that the U.S. government doesn't feel as committed to Article V as in the past. And, in the worst case, it might also tempt [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to test the strength of the alliance and in particular the strength of Article V.

Less than three weeks later, Defense Secretary Mattis- alarmed by the Administration's attack on alliances, the decision to withdraw from Syria, and other matters- would resign. By contrast

“It no longer makes sense for there to be 2,000 soldiers stationed there," he (Pompeo) said this week, even as reports emerged that he privately disagreed with the move.

Such willingness to defend Trump — no matter the potential damage to his reputation — is par for the course for Pompeo. The diplomat is a former congressman from Kansas with a reputation as a highly partisan Republican, and he has worked exceedingly hard to stay in Trump’s good graces. He often tries to spin Trump’s unpopular actions in a positive light — even agreeing to pose for a smile-filled photo with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman at the height of outrage over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

One guy is well respected by Congress and his peers. He tries unsuccessfully to steer President Trump away from a dangerous policy, then honorably resigns with a letter warning of the threat to our national security, international order, and democratic values.   

The other fellow, fairly fresh after trying to weaken the Trans-Atlantic Alliance, cozies up even further with a reckless President, all the while trying to preserve his reputation with the GOP establishment. He pauses to whisper in the ear of friendly reporters so that he may preserve his reputation with a GOP establishment while he recognizes the SS Titanic heading to the iceberg and urges the captain on.

It was a bad week for the President. It may have been an even worse week for the USA and the west.




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Friday, December 21, 2018

Still Cagey


Progressives left their skepticism of corporate power at the door as earlier this week they unloaded on Nate Silver, when- wary of the boycott against :"Tucker Carlson Tonight"- he remarked "I don't want the PR department of Applebee's deciding for us all what's racist vs. legitimate/acceptable political speech."

Silver may still be bold, but he's now off the mark when he argues

Hold your thanks, Nate. Donald Trump still knows where his political bread is buttered.



Border security. Bernie Sanders goes where too few Democrats are willing to go when he tweets


Rush and Fox & Friends criticized Trump. 





This is not about "border security"- it's about maintaining support where his party's real power lies, in the right-wing media. Yet, if Democrats allow the President to cite "border security" without rebuttal, voters will come to believe that is what it's all about.

Democrats need a counter-narrative, and Sanders suggests the way forward: "Rush and Fox & Friends criticized Trump."

They cannot cede the claim of "strength" or "power" to Donald Trump.  He should be portrayed as he is- a captive of unelected media extremists. Take away Trump's aura of strength, and he has nothing.

By contrast, if Trump is allowed to tweet and say "border security," he comes off as the strong man and his opponents as opposed to border security.

It is not a good look for the President's critics.  Donald Trump would have been swept off the political stage if he hadn't bloviated about immigration when he came down the escalator in June of 2015. It is what his supporters most want, and a large middle finger to the people they don't want- or like.

These are the people the President needs, the voters who are a daily reminder to GOP members of Congress that if they are not satisfied, they can become the next Eric Cantor.

President Trump knows that he cannot be removed from office as long as he has the support of thirty-three Republican senators.  If he stays "strong" on the wall- and is allowed to posture as strong- he'll maintain enough popular support that many Republican senators will not be able to desert him.

Donald Trump may be impulsive, ignorant, and addicted to drugs. He may even be crazy- but only like a fox.



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Thursday, December 20, 2018

Careless


Inviting controversy and even a boycott, last week Tucker Carlson stated  “The left says we have a moral obligation to admit the world's poor, even if it makes our own country more like Tijuana is now, which is to say poorer and dirtier and more divided.”

And then a reputable news organization, the Huffington Post posts the headline "Fox News Tucker Carlson Gets Called Out On Racist Rhetoric By Own Guest."

There are individuals who believe that proper concern with grammar is a fetish, incidental to anything pertinent, and can obscure the fundamental point being made.

But HuffPost's headline, which literally infers the guest is guilty of racist rhetoric, is emblematic of a misleading implication. Then Lee Moran leads off the piece with "Retired Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz wasted no time in addressing Tucker Carlson’s racist rhetoric in his appearance on the Fox News host’s show Wednesday."

The headline and the first sentence, while not explicitly quoting Carlson's guest, imply that the famed lawyer had referred to the host's rhetoric as "racist." However, he did not do so, as indicated by both the video (below) and the remainder of the article, in which Moran noted

The “Tucker Carlson Tonight” host had brought Dershowitz on air to talk about the latest developments in the case of President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who is awaiting sentencing for lying to the FBI.

However, Dershowitz immediately interrupted Carlson to chastise him for controversially claiming last week that immigrants make America “poorer and dirtier,” which has seen multiple major sponsors flee the show.

“I hate boycotts and attempts to censor free speech. I’m in favor of complete dialogue, but as such, I feel compelled to tell you that I, with due respect, disagree with the way you categorize mass immigration,” Dershowitz said. “That’s all. I just want to say that.”

Dershowitz later told Carlson: “I wish you hadn’t used that language. Language like that was used to describe my grandparents and great-grandparents and probably some of yours. So let’s move on.”





The Trump defender- not supporter- was bold in criticizing his host at all. Nonetheless, he was more respectful than to accuse Carlson of making a "racist" remark, instead telling him "with due respect, (I) disagree with the way you categorize mass immigration."

Dershowitz added "that's all. I just want to say that" because his purpose was not to berate Carlson. The latter had been condemned for comments which were, or at least appeared to be, hateful and bigoted.  The guest wanted to make it clear that his appearance soon afterward on the program should not in any way be interpreted as agreement or consent.

It is no little thing to exaggerate and state- in this case, approvingly- that a celebrity (as he has become, in Republican and Democratic circles, for good and ill) has referred to someone or something as racist.

In defense of his immigration remarks, Carlson maintained

Those who won’t shut up get silenced. You’ve seen it a million times. It happens all the time. The enforcers scream “racist!” on Twitter until everyone gets intimidated, and changes the subject to the Russia investigation or some other distraction.

It’s a tactic. A well-worn one. Nobody thinks it's real. And it won’t work with this show. We’re not intimidated. We plan to try to say what’s true until the last day.

"Screaming 'racist'" is an occasional tactic of the left. But it's less of a tactic than the right would have us Americans believe.

Far more than calling someone "racist," the left will imply racism or racial hostility or bigotry. That is a crucial distinction; the right rallies its supporters by charging the left with making constant accusations of racism.  It is a successful tactic because rank-and-file conservatives feel victimized at (allegedly) being ceaselessly attacked as racists.

The charge of racism is legitimately, even justifiably, made at times, such as when a David Duke or a Donald Trump suggests an inherent racial inferiority or continually makes hostile or bigoted remarks bearing little resemblance to reality. In the instant case, however, the Huffington Post inferred that Alan Dershowitz had accused Tucker Carlson of making a racist remark, which he had not. Whenever the term itself is applied recklessly, it is not only counter-productive but cheapens the seriousness of bias.




Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Slow Down There, Foks


I did not intend this week to blog about the political prospects of any of the 763 Democrats considering running for President, nor about the Baltimore Ravens' quarterback controversy.  However, a recent New Yorker chat with Minnesota Democrat and Senate Judiciary Committee member Amy Klobuchar included a question beginning "your response to Kavanaugh was so straightforward, unpersonalized. A different kind of politics than we're used to."

In November, an impressed Will Bunch maintained that Klobuchar is "absolutely right on the politics." He also waxed enthusiastic because the senator is from the Midwest- where, as he noted, the last Democratic presidential nominee unacceptably faltered.  Additionally, Klobuchar is in the mold of "center-left women who promised liberal-but-not-radical reforms to health care and education" who ran impressively well on November 6, as did she.

There was no mention that the last Democratic presidential nominee, who flopped while an odds-on favorite to win election, is a center-left woman who promised liberal-but-not-radical reforms to health care and education.

 But never mind.   While an argument can be made that Klobuchar, as an inoffensive woman (unlike, say, Hillary Clinton or Kamala Harris) who is not an inveterate free-trader is a solid prospect, objectivity flew out the window when Bunch argued

Klobuchar got something of a political break — even if America didn't — when she found herself facing off in the Senate Judiciary Committee with embattled jurist Brett Kavanaugh, who tried to bully the Minnesotan. When Klobuchar mentioned her father's struggles with alcohol and pressed the nominee on his own alleged drinking problem, Kavanaugh bizarrely tried to throw shade back on her, saying "I think you've probably had beers, senator," and asking her if she'd blacked out. Klobuchar responded with dignity and grace ("I have no drinking problem, Judge") while staying on course with tough questioning. The moment made Klobuchar a star, if not yet a superstar.

It also raised Klobuchar’s media profile....

It did raise the Senator's profile, though the party's last nominee may not agree that widespread name recognition is key to being elected President. Moreover, she recognizes that responding to your opponent "with dignity and grace" may even be a hindrance.





Nonetheless, Senator Klobuchar once a prosecutor in Hennepin County, Minnesota, did respond with dignity and grace- especially if "dignity and grace" is spelled "being owned."

Kavanaugh (below) states "I provided material that's still redacted about the situation with the second-year roommate and I don't really want to repeat that in a public hearing." Klobuchar nods her head in agreement with a candidate she opposed. Kavanaugh, seizing on an opportunity to show his human side, smiles and tells a brief story about a roommate, after which Klobuchar smiles again.

"So there's never been a case." Klobuchar asked, "where you drank so much that you didn't remember what happened the night before or part of what happened." That is a sharp contrast to "tough questioning." Not surprisingly, with the "question" framed more as a statement, Kavanaugh agreed with Klobuchar that he has no drinking problem.

The nominee did not "bizarrely" try "to throw shade back on her." He successfully threw shade upon her, in so doing turning the issue back to her. For that brief moment- which concluded her time- the interviewer and the interviewee switched roles. Kavanaugh took over the interview.

In classic prosecutorial style, the Senator had led the witness- except in this case, she led him into an answer he wanted to give, one which undermined the Democratic argument against the nominee. It's an ideal outcome for a witness aiming to control the interview, and Klobuchar got served.

Bunch is not alone in romanticizing Amy Klobuchar's conversation with the judge, which may increase the Senator's odds of ending up on the national ticket in 2020. However, while in her brief time with Bart O'Kavanaugh she elevated her profile, she also enhanced (however marginally) the image of an undesirable nominee for the US Supreme Court.









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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Trump: A Wall For Thee, Illegal Workers For Me


Unsurprisingly, as something neither Trump supporters (the entire GOP) nor Democrats wanted to talk about, it was only a one-day story.  Still, it was notable that on Sunday's Face The Nation, White House senior adviser Stephen Miller (not this Steve Miller) vigorously defended Donald Trump's dream of a border wall with Mexico.

After Miller stated "we're going to do whatever is necessary to build the border wall, to stop this ongoing crisis of illegal immigration" and asked a follow-up question, he responded

This is a very fundamental issue. At stake is the question of whether or not the United States remains a sovereign country, whether or not we can establish and enforce rules for entrance into our country.

The Democrat Party has a simple choice. They can either choose to fight for America's working class or to promote illegal immigration. You can't do both.





While Miller is trying to convince the country that fighting for America's working class requires a wall, he might want to persuade the president he works for. Twelve days ago we learned

During more than five years as a housekeeper at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., Victorina Morales has made Donald J. Trump’s bed, cleaned his toilet and dusted his crystal golf trophies. When he visited as president, she was directed to wear a pin in the shape of the American flag adorned with a Secret Service logo.

Because of the “outstanding” support she has provided during Mr. Trump’s visits, Ms. Morales in July was given a certificate from the White House Communications Agency inscribed with her name.

Quite an achievement for an undocumented immigrant housekeeper.

Ms. Morales’s journey from cultivating corn in rural Guatemala to fluffing pillows at an exclusive golf resort took her from the southwest border, where she said she crossed illegally in 1999, to the horse country of New Jersey, where she was hired at the Trump property in 2013 with documents she said were phony.

She said she was not the only worker at the club who was in the country illegally....

“There are many people without papers,” said Ms. Diaz, who said she witnessed several people being hired whom she knew to be undocumented.





Whatever Donald Trump's level of knowledge about the illegal immigrants working at his club- and there is no hard evidence that Trump, a notorious micro-manager, was aware- there is no reason to believe he would have objected. In July, Miami Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago wrote

... it’s not surprising that his posh Palm Beach estate and private resort club, Mar-a-Lago, is asking the Labor Department to grant Trump 61 foreign worker visas — six more than requested last year.

Amid the scandals that constantly surround Trump, the request might seem insignificant news. But, coming from immigrant-bashing "America First" Trump, it takes the cake in the hypocrisy department.

Under the H-2B visa program for seasonal, non-agricultural workers, employers must prove that they can’t find Americans to fill the jobs. Are there not enough cooks, servers and housekeepers in South Florida to staff Trump’s "Winter White House?"

Hard to believe, but then again, the Trump organization makes the minimal effort required to prove to the government that it can’t find U.S.-based employees.

As anyone who has tried can attest, all you have to do is ask for recommendations on Facebook — and a flood of candidates turn up.

Tourism being our No. 1 industry, Florida is hospitality haven, with a slew of programs at universities and colleges churning out skilled graduates. In addition, the state is home to a healthy, hard-working and young immigrant population eager to make a decent living cooking, waitressing and housekeeping — even if it’s seasonal, lower skilled employment.

Add to this the displaced and unemployed people from Puerto Rico post Hurricane Maria, and how can the Labor Department justify Trump’s foreign hires?

The Labor Department doesn't have to justify Trump's foreign hires.  Democrats, fearful of even a remote possibility of appearing anti-immigrant, would not strenuously complain. And neither will Republicans, who are in the pocket of Donald J. Trump. There is no downside except for the American worker, never a high priority for Stephen Miller's boss.




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Lesson Learned

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