Saturday, January 19, 2019

Nothing To Offer

As we head into the 29th day of the Trump Shutdown, Nancy Pelosi has recognized President Trump's demands as a "non-starter." As NPR explains, there are several components of the "proposal." However, the main ones are $5.7 billion for a wall which- because he was speaking to the nation beyond his supporters- he did not call a "wall." In return, there would be
Three years of legislative relief for some 700,000 recipients of the Obama-era initiative known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which protects some immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children from deportation. The Trump administration had moved to end DACA, but the decision was challenged in court and is currently held up in legal proceedings. Trump's proposal would give an extension of legal status;

A three-year extension of Temporary Protected Status for some 300,000 facing expiration;

Given that it was President Trump himself who took away protections for DACA and ended the Temporary Protection Status, this was no offer at all.  "Here," the President stated, "I'll give you back the television and the camera I stole from you, as long as you give me your new car."  A better analogy comes from Connecticut senator Chris Murphy, who tweets “Imagine a dude drove his truck into your house on purpose and then told you he’d fix the hole for $5 billion."

Nonetheless, in a move as surprising as the New England Patriots making the NFL's AFC playoffs, Trump's ploy was supported by Freedom Caucus chairperson Mark Meadows:

That's not negotiation, not when the GOP-controlled Senate (with Democratic support) voted on December 19 for a short-term spending bill, without money for any wall or fence. But in a radio interview the following day

Ann Coulter, a conservative who has criticized the lack progress on the wall, declared she won't vote for Trump in 2020 if the wall isn't built.

"They're about to have a country where no Republican will ever be elected president again," Coulter told the station WMAL. "Trump will just have been a joke presidency who scammed the American people, amused the populists for a while, but he'll have no legacy whatsoever."

Trump backed down. When the new Congress convened in January with Democrats in charge of the lower chamber, the same bill was approved by the House of Representatives. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, husband of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, has flatly refused to bring the bill to the Senate floor. It would pass easily- possibly with a veto-proof majority- but the President would veto it.

Though Meadow blames the Democratic Party and the mainstream media calls on both sides to "compromise,"Donald Trump wanted this shutdown.  In his famous Oval Office meeting (eight days before the Senate vote) in which he was owned by the Democratic leaders, the President boasted "I am proud to shut down the government for border security. ... I will take the mantle of shutting it down."

The President wants a shutdown or has convinced himself he does, because he's not willing to tell Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh "no." The Senate Majority Leader lacks the backbone to do anything other than what President Trump, taking his orders from right-wing talkers and authors, wants. The head of the Freedom Caucus, from which House leadership has been taking its marching orders the past few years, mistakes urges Democrats to capitulate.

This is one reprehensible bunch of men.

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Friday, January 18, 2019


A few days after the mid-term elections, Philadelphia Inquirer and PhillyNews blogger Will Bunch made the case for Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar, a bit left of Hillary Clinton and right of Bernie Sanders, as the Democratic Party's 2020 Democratic presidential nominee. He argued

What happened on Tuesday across America was historic in its own right, not just because of the awesome power of women and the gains for a diverse Congress that will look more like America than ever before, but because Democratic control of the House provides a glimmer of hope that the decline of democracy under Trump can be checked. But — like it or not — the sun also rose Wednesday on the start of the 2020 presidential race. The midterm election was a learning lab for what works in today's U.S. politics — and we learned quite a bit.

The opposition party showed on Tuesday that Democrats can win in the upper Rust Belt, starting at Philadelphia's City Line Avenue and spreading west all the way to Iowa and Minnesota, but it takes the right kind of candidate: Office-seekers whose belief that the goodness of a diverse and open society trumps non-stop blather about "American carnage," and a reform-minded approach to schools, health care and climate, And being a woman is a huge motivator.

In so-called "flyover country," voters seem to be clamoring to replace the crudest and meanest president in American history with "Midwestern nice." If you went into the lab and ran Tuesday's algorithms to design the perfect Democrat for 2020, she would look almost exactly like Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who won a landslide re-election in her purple (in more ways than one) state on Tuesday.

We learned Thursday from BuzzFeed News

President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.

Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. “Make it happen,” the sources said Trump told Cohen.

And even as Trump told the public he had no business deals with Russia, the sources said Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project.

Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying about the deal in testimony and in a two-page statement to the Senate and House intelligence committees. Special counsel Robert Mueller noted that Cohen’s false claim that the project ended in January 2016 was an attempt to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1” — widely understood to be Trump — “in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.”

Now the two sources have told BuzzFeed News that Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.

The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.

Responding to this latest report, Kyle Griffin, producer of The Last Word on MSNBC, is now as impressed with Senator Klobuchar as is Mr. Bunch:

Respondents are similarly taken by the Minnesota senator, tweeting "What did Amy Klobuchar know and when did she know it? She rocks." Unlike the relatively patient Bunch, two people don't even want to wait: "Can we make her the 2020 nominee now? Thanks" and "I'd vote for her in a hot second."

Cool your jets. Hold on there, tiger. Don't get ahead of yourself. (Insert your own cliche here.) Klobuchar deserves credit for asking a question connecting perjury with obstruction of justice. However, she specifically asked

A president persuading a person to commit perjury would be obstruction. Is that right?.... You also said that a president — or any person — convincing a witness to change testimony would be obstruction. Is that right?

These set the bar lower than necessary.The "persuading a person to commit perjury" should have been replaced (initially, or added as a follow-up question) with "trying to persuade" (or "convince") or "suggesting to a person."

Many details must be filled in to the report of Donald Trump evidently trying to suborn perjury.It is possible that Trump's efforts themselves played little or no role in getting Cohen to lie to Congress. Trump probably played a role in perjury Cohen committed but may not have actually persuaded him.

That doesn't suggest that Senator Klobuchar's line of questioning wasn't worthwhile. Nonetheless, we shouldn't get too excited too quickly about a couple of semi-tough questions posed by Minnesota Nice.

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Suspect Employee

The web page of Liberty (University) Worship Collective explains that it is

is made up of the most talented, next-generation worship leaders in the world, selected from over 1,200 competitors annually. The students selected have the privilege of leading worship at the largest weekly gathering of young people — Liberty University’s Convocation. From God-glorifying worship to world-class songwriting, the Liberty Worship Collective is the future of worship — now.

 (Rock out with what appears to be its signature tune. Or not.)

Oops. In a story first reported by The Wall Street Journal and not directly related to the Collective, The Daily Beast notes that then-Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen

Most are probably quite sincere, and possibly even effective witnesses for their religious convictions. Unfortunately, they appear to have missed a less-than-angelic employee at the University itself. In a story uncovered by The Wall Street Journal, the Daily Beast notes that then-Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen

promised to pay $50,000 to the small tech firm run by a Liberty University staffer to help distort online polls on CNBC and the Drudge Report.

Cohen has confirmed the bombshell report to CNN, and claimed it was carried out “at the direction and for the sole benefit of Donald J. Trump.”

The IT firm doesn’t appear to have been particularly good at the task. Cohen reportedly asked for its help in a January 2014’s CNBC poll to name the country’s top business leaders. RedFinch Solutions founder John Gauger reportedly wrote a computer script to repeatedly vote for Trump—but was still unable to get him into the top 100 candidates.

Gauger is chief information officer at Virginia’s Liberty University, the evangelical Christian college run by Jerry Fallwell Jr., a close Trump supporter. Cohen reportedly helped arrange Falwell Jr.’s endorsement of Trump in January 2016.

If the work performed at those "faith-based" institutions is not what we've been trained to believe, neither are the payment arrangements. When thirteen months later Cohen arranged

for help in a Drudge Report poll of potential Republican candidates—he only managed fifth place, with about 24,000 votes....

Cohen disclosed the work to the Journal after he received much less money for his efforts than he expected. Gauger said he believed he was due $50,000 for it- alongside a promise of lucrative work with the president-elect- but Cohen reportedly handed him "a blue Walmart bag containing between $12,000 and $13,000 in hash and, randomly, a boxing glove that Mr.Cohen said had been worn by a Brazilian mixed-martial-arts fighter."

Gauger evidently began to work at Red Finch in September 2016. However

An article on Liberty University’s website says that Gauger was hired by the school in August 2012. Gauger’s first role as the Director of Specialized Initiatives. That piece says that Gauger is a Liberty graduate, as part of the class of 2009. Gauger gained an M.B.A. and a B.S. in business from Liberty. The then-chief information officer, Matthew Zealand, said of Gauger, “John has consistently demonstrated a willingness and a drive to accomplish projects of any size. His collaborative spirit and ability to work well with a wide range of people has lead John to being the obvious candidate for this new role on my team. He has a positive energy and creative ability that has proven to be both effective and valuable to IT, and to Liberty University as a whole.”

Gauger claims to be also the chief information officer for a hospital in Virginia, so Liberty University- run by the far-right Jerry Falwell Jr.- was not the only institution to have been conned by him (assuming the University actually disapproves of his actions, which is arguable).  Nor is his behavior typical of the Liberty University Worship Collective nor of most evangelical Christian students, who differ from other students in that they are, well, evangelical Christian students.

But we should be wary of "faith-based" institutions of any kind, especially those which solicit government funding for any activity, however charitable it may sound. Most avoid doing so for reasons including a humble recognition of their own imperfections and a righteous desire not to be entangled with the state.

Those which do take money often escape scrutiny by media and others afraid of questioning anything or anyone claiming to be "faith-based."  The reticence to analyze their activities is understandable but as the story of John Gauger indicates, is alarming, or should be.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

One Mustn't Say Such Things In Polite Company.

DC Examiner Deputy Editor Jay Caruso and investigative journalist Matt Taibbi agree:

It's difficult for Taibbi, Caruso, and other journalistic heavyweights who have a career to protect and live inside the Beltway. on the West Coast, or the West Side of Manhattan to break cultural taboos. However, Lindsey Graham must be quite sensitive to his constituents in South Carolina, which may be even further culturally than geographically from these areas.

Stephanie Ruhle has the courage to say, and Taibbi and Caruso do not, and have little interest in investigating. Donald Trump probably has something on Lindsey Graham, which may be the latter's sexuality or something entirely different.

Mr. Trump boasted periodically during the campaign of being politically incorrect, as when he said on Face The Nation "I'll tell you what's wrong with political correctness. It takes too long. We don't have enough time. We don't have enough time." and has publicly ridiculed numerous individuals, politicians and otherwise, with insults common only to little boys on the playground.

Having played ball for many years with La Cosa Nostra and the Kremlin, and not being encumbered by the requirements of political correctness or good manners, he would not hesitate to blackmail a United States senator.

Now chairperson of the Judiciary Committee, the South Carolinian is a powerful senator, indeed. He is, however, not nearly as powerful as Mitch McConnell, another individual whose personal life is being ignored by the press at the expense of the national interest. Greg Sargent reminds us

top Obama administration officials privately asked senior congressional leaders in both parties to go public with a united front against Russian interference. But (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell refused, claiming (in The Post’s words) that “he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.” McConnell also questioned the intelligence demonstrating Russian sabotage.

Cue to the Trump Administration and

The refusal to hold votes on legislation protecting the special counsel. In fairness, Trump has still not moved successfully against Mueller. But McConnell scuttled efforts to protect Mueller even though Trump privately tried to fire him twice. There’s still time for Trump to act, and passing such protections — which the Democratic House would support — would plainly make any such action, and the damage it would cause, less likely.

There’s also a forward-looking dimension here. As the Lawfare podcast notes, if FBI officials opened a separate investigation into whether Trump was obstructing the probe to help Russia, it’s plausible McConnell and other congressional officials were briefed on this. That would make the failure to act to shield Mueller worse. We need to know more about this, too.

On the shutdown front, McConnell continues to refuse votes on bills reopening the government that have already passed the House. McConnell claims there’s no point, because Trump wouldn’t sign them. But this actively shields Trump from having to veto bills funding the government, which would make it much harder for him to keep holding out. Worse, McConnell privately told Trump in December he has no leverage and no endgame here, meaning McConnell knows full well that not forcing Trump’s hand leaves us adrift with no exit in sight.

"We need to know more about this, too," recognizes Sargent, who understands that McConnell's motives are probably not beyond reproach. The media should end its de facto prohibition on consideration of the Majority Leader's possible motives in remaining loyal to a President whose statements and behavior constitute an unprecedented threat to the institutions and security, hence economy, of this country.

It can start by acknowledging that McConnell is married, probably not coincidentally, to Secretary of the Treasury Elaine Chao.

A Democratic member of the other legislative chamber points out
Ascribing motives without evidence is perilous. Fortunately, here there is evidence, which goes unnoticed while Matt Taibbi and some others turn a curiously blind eye to power brokers whose highest priorities appear not to include the national interest.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Trump: Don't Eat Mor Chikin

In a national championship game fought between two evenly matched teams on July 7, the Clemson Tigers defeated Lou Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide 44-16.

The President of the USA, as is customary, entertained the victors at the White House, a win-win as an honor for the players and reasonably valuable photo-op for the host.

In this instance, Donald Trump played his role to the hilt, remarking "we have pizzas, we have 300 hamburgers, many, many french fries, all of our favorite food." The President wanted to demonstrate that he, too, is suffering in the shutdown as White House staff members are sidelined. Asked "do you prefer McDonald's or Wendy's," Trump responded "I like them all. If it's American, I like it. It's all American stuff." He even took the opportunity to lie (in all likelihood):

If he's serving "all American stuff," Trump couldn't possibly be selling out to the Kremlin, or so he'd like us to believe. "I want to see what's here when we leave, because I don't think it'll be much," the President speculated, because there is nothing that says "delicious" more than cold pizza, hamburgers, and french fries, all brightly displayed without warming plates.

The President accomplished a major objective if product placement was on his mind- because there was one fast-food operation that was conspicuously absent.

Or rather, it would have been conspicuously absent, had the media yet again ignored one of Donald Trump's ongoing projects. There was nothing from Chick-fil-A, home of chicken and waffle fries superior to most other fast food.

It's the outfit known for its fervent opposition to same-sex marriage. More importantly- at least symbolically- it's the restaurant which never opens on Sunday. As of 2011, the company required its job applicants

to disclose their marital status, number of dependents and their involvement in community, civil and religious organizations, according to

The company’s vetting process can include more than a dozen interviews with an applicant – some lasting hours – and the applicant’s family, including with their children, according to Forbes.(Late founder and owner S. Truett) Cathy told the magazine he is looking for married candidates (he believes they are more industrious) who are loyal, wholesome and treat their families well.

“If a man can’t manage his own life, he can’t manage a business,” Cathy said, according to Forbes.

Still, its food has become increasingly popular, even among individuals with dramatically different political viewpoints, and is less awful than most (if not all) of its competitors. Yet, it was not on the menu, despite one of its restaurants being only 1.6 miles, and less than ten minutes by automobile, from the White House.

It might have been an oversight were events like this not carefully choreographed. The Administration includes Vice-President Mike Pence, a fervent opponent of same-sex marriage and supporter of "religious liberty" legislation while governor of Indiana, no doubt a reason he was selected as running mate for the selfishly, gaudily libertine Donald Trump.

On Easter Sunday, he chooses to tweet profusely, in 2018 warning people about caravans with "big flows of people" who "take advantage" of our "dumb immigration laws" which are too welcoming.He appears to believe Second Corinthians is Two Corinthians and that the purpose of communion is to ask for forgiveness (which he doesn't do, anyway), during which he takes "my little cracker" and "my little wine," places the offering into the communion plate.

Or so it appears. No believing Christian speaks of "Two Corinthians," believes that communion is for confession, or takes the "little cracker" or the "little wine" lightly. 

Few non-believers would refer to "Two Corinthians" or assume communion=confession, or mock the elements of the sacrament as "little." Neither would Donald Trump, whose IQ reaches well into the double digits, except by design.

And yet Donald Trump has done exactly that, as well as sending out tweets which are hateful 363 days a year, but particularly repulsive on Easter (or Christmas).

Failing to promote Chick-fil-A as he did Burger King and McDonalds is far less serious, and more of a curiosity. However, sometimes an individual begins to run out of ways to demonstrate contempt for a group of supporters and poke the finger in their eye, so a White House meal becomes the latest effort to test his limits and the gullibility of his supporters.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Or She Can Change Her Initials from TG to BHO

US Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii has announced that she will run for the Democratic nomination for President. Gabbard has her detractors for several reasons, including her opposition to regime change in Syria and partiality to Indian strongman Narenda Modi, a fellow Hindi. However, that is not the issue(s) likely to derail her campaign. Rather

In one instance in February 2004, Gabbard, at the time a 22-year-old state representative, was testifying against a bill aimed at legalizing same-sex civil unions.

“To try to act as if there is a difference between ‘civil unions’ and same-sex marriage is dishonest, cowardly and extremely disrespectful to the people of Hawaii,” she said. “As Democrats, we should be representing the views of the people, not a small number of homosexual extremists.”

Six months later, Gabbard spoke more candidly while replying to an email originally sent to her father, Mike Gabbard, who was a Republican city councilman in Honolulu running for Congress.

“I smell a skunk,” Gabbard told Honolulu Magazine. She was responding to an email that was originally addressed to her father asking about his ties to the leader of a Hare Krishna movement in Hawaii, according to the magazine.

“It’s clear to me that you’re acting as a conduit for The Honolulu Weekly and other homosexual extremist supporters of Ed Case [Mike Gabbard’s opponent],” she wrote.

It appears that Gabbard's views on gay rights shifted radically approximately a decade ago. CNN explains that in her successful run for the US House in 2012, she stated "I want to apologize for statements that I have made in the past that have been very divisive and even disrespectful to those within the LGBT community." Since being elected, she "has supported efforts to promote LGBT equality, including co-sponsoring pro-LGBT legislation like The Equality Act, a bill to amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to protect LGBT individuals."

Nonetheless, she has been attacked on Twitter for those earlier views. Media Matters Editor-at-large Parker Molloy: "So, she’ll co-sponsor bills supporting LGBTQ rights, but still personally thinks we’re icky."  Former Vermont governor Howard Dean: "I was on the other side of this argument wearing a bulletproof vest while she was" condemning homosexuals."  Investigative reporter Andrew Kaczynski: "I realized Tulsi Gabbard was anti-gay but didn't quite realize how anti-gay she was in the 2000s."

Gabbard, despite acknowledgment of error, may not be able to survive this onslaught and what is likely to come.

But someone else survived and even prospered from his opposition- which continued until it was untenable in 2012- to same-sex marriage.  After Senator Obama opposed gay marriage in his (successful) 2008 presidential candidacy, wrote Washington Post reporter Hunter Schwarz in 2015

Obama publicly opposed same-sex marriage for years after that, in fact, until an interview with ABC News in 2012, which also just so happened to be the first year the support for gay marriage crested opposition, data from Pew shows, and the year Obama was campaigning for reelection.

Obama's support also followed closely support endorsement of same-sex marriage by his running mate, Vice President Biden, and thereby preempted a rift in the campaign. Schwarz added

In 1996, as an Illinois state Senate candidate, Obama indicated on a questionnaire that he supported same-sex marriage. In 2011, however, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said the questionnaire was filled out by someone else and that Obama "has never favored same-sex marriage." Obama also frequently said attitudes on the issue, including his, were "evolving" -- something many took as code for what was to come.

"My Forty Years in Politics" by former campaign chairperson (and still Obama fan) David Axelrod was published at the time of Schwarz's article and

Indeed, as Axelrod writes, Obama told him at the time that he was "just not very good at bull*****ing." And he wasn't. Plenty of people believed at the time that he was actually pretty clearly in favor of gay marriage and just didn't feel comfortable saying it. Yet the White House apparently decided to keep up the charade for years afterward.

Except that Obama was truly adept at bull*****ing because it allowed him to cement his base in Chicago, especially in the black church. Axelrod noted

Opposition to gay marriage was particularly strong in the black church, and as he ran for higher office, he grudgingly accepted the counsel of more pragmatic folks like me, and modified his position to support civil unions rather than marriage, which he would term a ‘sacred union.'

It worked like a charm. To his ecclesiastical base,  Obama publicly opposed same-sex marriage, substituting a nod and a wink to his supporters on the left. He added that he was "evolving," simultaneously signaling that he agreed with the left and taking a subtle dig at the creationists who dominate the Christian right. Additionally (and unlike Gabbard) he wisely still has not acknowledged error in opposing "marriage equality" nor apologized for pretending otherwise.

Jamelle Bouie recently argued "black candidates may have the strategic advantage in the Democratic primary.... because they won’t have to demonstrate the same social solidarity. Like Obama, they can stay somewhat silent on race, embodying the opposition to the president’s racism rather than vocalizing it."

Black candidates may have a strategic advantage on gay rights for the same reason, with liberal/progressive voters assuming they are on the correct side of the issue. That may, however, not prove to be the case. Rather, it may have only been the bi-racial, former community activist Barack Obama who, despite his protestation, always has been a very, very good bull*****er.

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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Donald Trump, Prescient

When at a debate in August, 2015 Megyn Kelly asked Donald Trump whether he was part of a war on women as alleged by Hillary Clinton, Trump was uncharacteristically forthright, maintaining

The big problem this country has is being politically correct. I've been challenged by so many people and I don't frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn't have time either.

A few months later, Republican senator Lindsey Graham labeled Trump "a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party. He doesn’t represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for. " Two days later, he would comment "you know how you make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell."

Two months later, Graham would state "I think he's a kook. I think he's crazy. I think he's unfit for office" and he ultimately voted for Independent Evan McMullin in the presidential election.

In "Fear" released last September, famed former reporter Bob Woodward claimed that the dramatic turnaround in Graham's attitude toward Donald Trump began with an Oval Office meeting in March, 2017. Trump met with Graham with a bear hug and then remarked "We've got to be friends. You are going to be my friend."

Some unfortunate teen-age girls have been told by a boy, "you are going to be my girlfriend" or by a creepy uncle, "you are going to be my friend." Yet, if Woodward is to be believed, it worked like a charm.

Nonetheless, in July Graham knocked the President for having suggested that Attorney General Sessions should have prosecuted Hillary Clinton. The following month, he criticized Trump for his response to the events in Charlottesville, Virginia.

A couple of months later, the two played golf together and Graham gushed over the President as if he had a schoolboy crush:

It was all downhill from there, Graham even returning to the theme last June with

Most recently- on Thursday evening- the Senator recommended the President "declare emergency, build the wall now" because "the Democrats are not working in good faith with you." By later that evening, it was all but certain that President Trump would declare a national emergency and re-direct funds to construction of his precious wall. 

On Friday afternoon, however, Trump told reporters that invoking emergency powers is "the easy way out" (which is why he probably will do it eventually) but "I'm not going to do it so fast."

Though surprising, it wasn't startling because the President believes he has little reason to concern himself with GOP members of Congress and others who do not want him to take that constitutionally doubtful action.  And he has no reason at all to heed Lindsey Graham.

Aside from the far right represented by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Laura Ingraham, there is no Republican (Vladimir Putin being a member of the All-Russia People's Front) who can exert control over President Trump.

The House of Representatives, once ruled by sycophantic Paul Ryan, now is in Democratic hands, the Senate Majority Leader has a wife in Trump's cabinet, and Lindsey Graham is from South Carolina.

Graham may have been angling for a spot in President Trump's cabinet, previously as Attorney General, now as Secretary of Defense. However, that may not transpire, leaving him as a United States Senator from the state of South Carolina, a state which consistently votes Republican in presidential contests and in which Trump is very popular.

As a Republican (one not identified with the far-right of the Party), Lindsey Graham is nearly certain to win a general election. However, Donald Trump can make or break GOP candidates in primaries and South Carolina is a very conservative state with extremely conservative primary voters. It's highly unlikely that Trump failed to mention that in both the golf outing in October, 2017 and the earlier meeting at the White House.

There has been an unwritten rule that gentlemen not be unnecessarily rude with other gentlemen, including blackmailing them on unrelated, personal matters. It's highly unlikely, though, that President Trump, who shatters norms almost daily, would allow what he would consider "political correctness" to interfere with his message to the deep south Senator.

In October, comedienne Chelsea Handler tweeted "If you’re wondering why Republicans took a sick day today, it’s probably because it’s #NationalComingOutDay. Looking at you @LindseyGrahamSC."

Pointing out that Lindsey Graham is Protestant, a lawyer, or a veteran would be harmless and would pass without notice. Even claiming that he is not Protestant, a lawyer, or a veteran would be relatively uncontroversial. However, Handler was criticized by conservatives and gay groups- criticized precisely because they realize that Graham would be harmed if he were believed, at least by his home state's residents, to be gay.  (They did not choose to deny her assertion.) 

President Trump has not been one to allow the niceties of what he would consider "political correctness" to get in the way of his message. Though it is widely speculated that Lindsey Graham is gay, he has denied it, and the very lack of hard evidence is a safeguard against its use as a political cudgel against him in South Carolina.

MSNBC host and former GOP Representative Joe Scarborough (R-Fl) recently lamented Donald Trump's transformation from "one of the most genial, reasonable and measured members of Congress" to "one of the administration's leading henchmen in hatching plots to run roughshod over our nation's traditions and turn the party into a rudderless collection of mini-me Donald Trumps."

This is a widely-held view. Yet, there has been relatively little interest in exploring the radical change over the last two years in the behavior of a member of the upper chamber of the legislative branch of the most powerful nation on earth.  "The big problem this country has is being politically correct," Donald J. Trump advised us 41 months ago. Alas, in the interest of a misguided politeness, the saga of Lindsey Graham has proven him right.

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Friday, January 11, 2019

Jury Is Still Out, Barely

Most Americans are intelligent and (arguably) most American voters are even more intelligent.

Maybe most voters in the State of Iowa are intelligent, even in its 4th congressional district, represented by Steve King, who recently was interviewed by The New York Times:  .

“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” Mr. King said. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

Although King later issued a clarification, Charlie Pierce remarked

this revolting lump of hot, bigoted mess has been elected to the Congress nine freaking times. His constituents are racists or they are idiots. (A third alternative is not available at this time.)

They've voted nine times for a fellow who previously graced his office desk with a Confederate flag. (Iowa was not part of the Confederacy.) They've been represented for over 16 years by a fellow who has supported far-right politicians in Europe and been characterized by a neo-Nazi as "basically an open white nationalist at this point."

Racists or idiots, Pierce speculates. In either case, a great lack many harbor sentiments inconsistent with democratic values of tolerance and inclusiveness, or are ill-informed, irrational, and senseless.

The evidence is not only in their endorsement of Steve King.  Although the 4th District is not one of those venerated, celebrated Trump to Obama districts, the electoral turnaround is stunning. In 2008, 53% of its voters opted for Barack Obama and only 45% for John McCain. In 2012 its Democratic/Republican numbers reversed- 53% voted for Mitt Romney and only 45% for Obama. Four years later, the big change came when Donald Trump garnered 61% of the vote and Hillary Clinton only 34%.

In eight years, the percentage of vote given to the GOP- represented by a war hero in 2008 and a draft evader in 2016- went from 45% to 63%.  The district in 2008 rejected this guy in favor of Barack Obama:

Eight years later its voters, favorable to Barack Obama, overwhelmingly repudiated Hillary Clinton and embraced this guy:

There may have been many factors involved in the dramatic uptick in the GOP share of the presidential vote in eight years. However, the starkly different perspective of the two Party's candidates (with Romney, three) is undoubtedly one of them. "Racists or idiots" may be a little harsh. The shoe may not fit exactly, but it's not far off.

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Thursday, January 10, 2019


Continuing his feud with Donald Trump, Joe Scarborough is increasingly less endeared with the Republican Party:
The New York Times had explained that references during the primary and general election campaigns to a wall on the southern border were promoted by advisers as

a mnemonic device of sorts, a way to make sure their candidate — who hated reading from a script but loved boasting about himself and his talents as a builder — would remember to talk about getting tough on immigration, which was to be a signature issue in his nascent campaign.

That rhetorical device now has been magnified immeasurably, aided by South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, who after the President's immigration speech told Sean Hannity

To my Republican colleagues: This is the best chance we’ll ever have to help President Trump get border wall funding, steel barrier funding, and at the same time, fix the loopholes. The only way we’ll lose is to give in. If we stand firm, put bills on the table that make sense, we will win this on behalf of the American people.

But, if we undercut the president, that’s the end of his presidency, and the end of our party - and we deserve to be punished if we give in now.

A former GOP US Representative, Scarborough was being generous when he argued "maybe the party needs to die." We learn from Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee
Barr is not a furloughed worker and has met with Republican members of the Judiciary Committee. A former Obama  Justice Department spokesperson tweets

"If we give in now," Lindsey Graham remarked, "we deserve to be punished." Graham has the right prescription for the wrong reason(s). As its members of Congress stand by their man in the White House, the party doesn't deserve to be punished. For the sake of American democracy, it needs to be replaced by a party which gives more than lip service to the national interest.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Same Trump, Different Circumstances

"Responding to a 'border emergency' by urging the beginning of planning for a 15-year civil engineering project," David Frum tweets, is "rather like saying 'My house is burning! Time to begin the process of calling for design proposals for a new fire station.'"

And so President Trump's address to the nation Tuesday night began and ended with a period or semi-colon rather than with his customary exclamation point, more of a hostage tape than a call for dramatic action.

Frum's colleague at The Atlantic, David A. Graham recognized

The speech was bewildering. Was this stiff oration given by the same man who captured the nation’s attention—and elicited outrage—with his descent down a gold escalator in June 2015, his vow that “I alone can fix it” in summer 2016, or his invocation of “American carnage” in January 2017? It’s hard to believe that master showman was the same person who sat behind the Resolute Desk on Tuesday.

It is the same person whom people misinterpret- Republicans, for strategic advantage- as a "counter-puncher. However, Donald Trump is a puncher, not a counter-puncher.

When he walked down the escalator in June, 2015, he was acting, in contrast both to being genuine and to reacting.  He was brash and bold, promising to help schools, veterans, the middle class, the elderly, Israel and bring back "peace through strength."

Tuesday night, however, Trump was practically a wounded puppy because he is losing.  He knows he does not hold a winning hand, having given up leverage when he boasted that he would be "proud" to shut down the federal government. Tweeting prior to the President's speech, Hawaii senator Mazie Hirono observed "the only crisis that exists is the one he manufactured and the only wall that's real is the one closing in on him."

That's an exaggeration, but only a slight one. The President, having predicted the speech "is not going to change a damn thing," apparently relented because his arm was twisted by communications aides Bill Shine, Sarah H. Sanders, and Kellyanne F. Conway (weakness, as usual).

He'll get back his mojo, of course, for a while. Still, with the walls evidently closing in on him, Democrats should take notice that Trump has been tamed- at least temporarily- and that attempting to cajole, pacify, or appease him will only backfire.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Feeling Good, Proud, Happy, And United

Adam Serwer of The Atlantic has written "taking joy.... in their shared laughter at the suffering of others"

is more human than most would like to admit. Somewhere on the wide spectrum between adolescent teasing and the smiling white men in the lynching photographs are the Trump supporters whose community is built by rejoicing in the anguish of those they see as unlike them, who have found in their shared cruelty an answer to the loneliness and atomization of modern life.

Trump’s only true skill is the con; his only fundamental belief is that the United States is the birthright of straight, white, Christian men, and his only real, authentic pleasure is in cruelty. It is that cruelty, and the delight it brings them, that binds his most ardent supporters to him, in shared scorn for those they hate and fear: immigrants, black voters, feminists, and treasonous white men who empathize with any of those who would steal their birthright. The president’s ability to execute that cruelty through word and deed makes them euphoric. It makes them feel good, it makes them feel proud, it makes them feel happy, it makes them feel united. And as long as he makes them feel that way, they will let him get away with anything, no matter what it costs them.

Impressively, Serwer wrote that in early October, in the midst of the Brett Kavanaugh/Christine Blasey Ford controversy. It would be much easier today. From Marianna, Florida on the impact of the Trump Shutdown on the rural, conservative and Republican Panhandle, the New  York Times' Patricia Mazzei reports

Crystal Minton, accompanied her fiancé to a friend’s house to help clear the remnants of a metal roof mangled by the hurricane. Ms. Minton, a 38-year-old secretary, said she had obtained permission from the warden to put off her Mississippi duty until early February because she is a single mother caring for disabled parents. Her fiancé plans to take vacation days to look after Ms. Minton’s 7-year-old twins once she has to go to work.

The shutdown on top of the hurricane has caused Ms. Minton to rethink a lot of things.

“I voted for him, and he’s the one who’s doing this,” she said of Mr. Trump. “I thought he was going to do good things. He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.”

He's not hurting the people he needs to be hurting. Obviously, Ms. Minton wishes President Trump would hurt "the people he needs to be hurting."

However, I thought he was going to do good things. Because he isn't hurting the people he needs to be hurting, he could not possibly be doing "good things."

And that's one of the reasons Katy Tur, in the video below, is dead wrong, on at least two counts. Tur believes Trump needs supporters who voted for him to "get things done." However, he needs those people less than he needs hard-core Republicans, who will let their Senators know what their political future will look like if they do not stand by their man.

Moreover, notwithstanding Tur's perception, Trump needs to produce "The Wall," however he's able to define a wall.  He needs it not only because his supporters oppose illegal immigration, and most of them, legal immigration.

It is- or would be- a physical manifestation of what they want. Barring from the country individuals who might need social services is a minor benefit. Causing them pain is the major advantage, and the reason (notwithstanding Tur's notion) that "they will let him get away with anything."

A wall may or may not benefit the USA. But it certainly would hurt Mexico.  "Who's gonna topay for the wall?" "Mexico," his exuberant fans would yell back at him. Mexico and Mexicans will have to pay and suck it up.

Steve M understands that the President

wants the fight and the wall. What he wants is to win the fight, which means Democrats lose, and lose badly. ..

Trump can't act in a way that would bring shame upon himself in the eyes of the people he most wants to please (the GOP base, Sean Hannity, etc.). They expect him not to cede anything to Democrats -- and Trump assumes they expect him, the master of the deal, to cut a deal in which he wins everything and the other side wins nothing.

It's not win-win for Trump and most of his supporters. It's not even "tails we win, heads you lose." They will be happy with "you lose."

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This Blog Is 37% Better Than Any Other.

A former tennis great, probably not a fan of Donald J. Trump:

She maintains also that fewer people believed the propaganda of the Prague regime than that of the Washington, D.C. regime.

That's easy to understand because Trump is good.... very, very good.

Answer honestly: if a casual friend told you that Miami Beach yesterday experienced its lowest minimum temperature on record, you might not believe her. If, however, she told you that yesterday it had its lowest ever temperature at 34 degrees, you probably would believe her.

In reality, neither is accurate because the temperature fell only to 60 degrees yesterday in Miami Beach and the lowest ever recorded is 32degrees.

When lying, go big. Lie with statistics because people will be more likely to believe an individual who comes up with statistics to back up his assertions, whereupon he sounds authoritative. So on Sunday the President tweeted

The Washington Post's Phillip Bump notes that the 6,000 figure cited by the Department of Human Services pertained to

gang members (“including MS-13”) apprehended at the border — and removed from the country by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to a Homeland Security spokesman, about 5,000 of those 6,000 gang member arrests/apprehensions happened somewhere besides the southern border. Only 1,019 were apprehended at the southern border, about a fifth of them at designated ports of entry.

The Post's Fact Checker found

In the 11-month period through August 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Protection encountered 16,831 people convicted of crimes in the United States or abroad, but 63 percent of them showed up at ports of entry. That includes airport travelers, not just people “trying to get across the border.”

Another WaPo Fact Checker has observed

The president also simply invents faux facts. He repeatedly said U.S. Steel is building six to eight new steel plants, but that’s not true. He said that as president, Obama gave citizenship to 2,500 Iranians during the nuclear-deal negotiations, but that’s false. Over and over, Trump claimed that the Uzbekistan-born man who in 2017 was accused of killing eight people with a pickup truck in New York brought two dozen relatives to the United States through “chain migration.” The real number is zero.

Approximately 35 years ago, Steve Miller sang "Some people call me the space cowboy, yeah. Some people call me the gangster of love. Some people call me Maurice..." Some people call Donald Trump "crazy," some call him "stupid," some call him "impulsive."  There may be a little of each, but there is a lot of devious.

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Monday, January 07, 2019

Disturbing Reality

Although mainstream media during the presidential campaign often quoted Donald J. Trump condemning immigration, it rarely acknowledged that voters perceived a dramatic difference between the two parties on the issue of ethnicity generally. In a piece carried a few days before being named a New York Times columnist, Slate's Jamelle Bouie quoted two impolite, politically incorrect, honest political scientists who had noted

In 2016, the presidential campaign focused on issues tied to racial, ethnic, and religious identities and attitudes. The two candidates took very different positions on those issues, and voters perceived those differences. People’s attitudes on these issues were then ‘activated’ as decision-making criteria and became even more strongly associated with white voters’ preference for Clinton or Trump.

Voters were aware of this in 2008 (and earlier). However, as Bouie notes, Barack

Obama won a portion of whites with negative views of blacks. The reason has everything to do with the campaigns. Obama didn’t emphasize race or speak explicitly on racial issues. Neither did Mitt Romney. Race mattered, but white racial views—and white identity—weren’t as crucial to the outcome.

Irony, then, rears its ugly head.  Bouie realizes

After embracing the Republican congressional agenda, Trump can’t run on building infrastructure and protecting retirement programs. But he still has racism. And another campaign of racial fear and resentment—against another Democrat trying to shore up their racial justice bona fides—sets up another election where white voters are polarized along their racial views. This doesn’t mean the presidency is out of reach for Democrats—the midterm elections show there are other Americans to mobilize and win—but the “Obama-to-Trump” voters might be gone from the party for good.

One possible implication of all of this is that black candidates may have the strategic advantage in the Democratic primary. Not because they’ll automatically win black voters, but because they won’t have to demonstrate the same social solidarity. Like Obama, they can stay somewhat silent on race, embodying the opposition to the president’s racism rather than vocalizing it and allowing them space to focus on economic messaging without triggering the cycle of polarization that Clinton experienced.

Although this is insightful, and probably reflects reality, a reasonable person can be forgiven for wondering why black Democratic presidential candidates "can stay somewhat silent on race, embodying the opposition to the president's racism rather than vocalizing it...." "White candidates," Bouie understands, "will face the additional task of demonstrating social solidarity—of showing that they understand the problems of racism and discrimination and empathize with the victims."

We can recognize a double standard rather than condoning it.  

News flash: a Democrat cannot run on the national stage circa 2016-2020 without at least rhetorically understanding the problems of racism, discrimination, and victimization of minorities  (video below from Mischief Night, 2015).. There is no Democrat who has advocated building a wall between Mexico and the USA, maintaining "mass incarceration," rolling back any of the gains made by minorities in the country, or even suggested that a police officer who has shot an African-American may have done so unavoidably. None.

The news media bears partial- but not full-blame.  As Bouie notes (with his quote marks), Hillary Clinton emphasized "structural racism" and "implicit bias," met with Black Lives Matter, described "police violence" as a force that "terrorizes communities," and in other ways stressed her "solidarity" (my quote marks) with marginalized groups. The candidate she defeated, Bernie Sanders, now also is expected to prove his racial bona fides.

The media should not give to any candidate based on the inherited characteristic of race a pass on the biggest issue(s) in the last presidential election, as Bouie understands is likely. Doing so constitutes privilege- and it's not "white" privilege.

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Saturday, January 05, 2019

Unpredictable Senate

It was only January 3, and we already had a legitimate submission for hypocrisy of the year. This was courtesy, unsurprisingly, of Donald J. Trump, of whom newly-elected US Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan told supporters at a Move On rally “We’re going to go in and impeach the motherf***er."

The President responded "I thought her comments were disgraceful. This is a person that I don't know, I assume she's new. I think she dishonored herself and I think she dishonored her family. Using language like that in front of her son and whoever else was there, I thought that was a great dishonor to her and to her family."

Now that Representative Tlaib has dishonored her family, where is Stormy Daniels when we need her? Democrats are unnecessarily, characteristically, alarmed, though Representative "Adam Schitt" remains characteristically calm.

Conventional, nearly universal, wisdom has it that the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives can impeach but that the GOP-controlled Senate will never convict. That rests on the ridiculous assumption that a Senate trial would take place in today's environment, in which 71% of Republican voters believed as of a month ago that the Special Counsel probe is a "witch hunt."

However, it is very unlikely there will be impeachment proceedings before Mueller issues a report- and even then, none unless the findings are damning.  However, if the findings are very serious- as is extremely likely-  there will be a shift in opinion among GOP voters. It may not be dramatic, but wouldn't have to be in order to make a Senate trial sufficiently competitive that a two-thirds majority would be found to throw Donald Trump out of office.

Yet, that assumption in turn rests on one made, from what I can tell, by every politician, pundit, and lawyer who has weighed in on the subject. The presupposition is that once the House has impeached the President, the Senate would take up the matter.

Article 1, Section 2 of the US Constitution reads "The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment."  Section 3 states

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

Clearly, only the Senate has the power to try individuals who have been impeached. Almost as clearly, the Senate has no obligation to do so; it is granted not the responsibility, but the power.

So it is not certain that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would post the case of the House v. President Donald J. Trump.  If he did bring it, GOP senators would have to to take a stand. At this moment- before release of the Special Counsel's report- that would be hazardous for the few representing states not strongly Republican. It's a risk he might prefer to avoid, similar to his decision, cowardly and irresponsible, to avoid bringing to a vote the House's bill ending the current government shutdown.

However, if Mueller's report establishes a strong likelihood that Trump were aided by a conspiracy involving his campaign and Russia, pressure would mount on even his own party's senators to vote to convict. While the Majority Leader would not like to force them into making a difficult decision which could be hazardous either way they voted, he might have no choice because a majority of the country would be clamoring for removal.

Consequently, a trial in the Senate- were it to take place- would not necessarily result in acquittal, notwithstanding conventional wisdom.  It is also unlikely to take place in the absence of overwhelming evidence which shocks the conscience of the nation, which makes Rashida Tlaib's enthusiasm nearly as unnecessary as the overheated response to it. 

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Nothing To Offer

As we head into the 29th day of the Trump Shutdown, Nancy Pelosi has recognized President Trump's demands as a "non-starter....