Thursday, February 28, 2019

Elijah Cummings, Enabler

Closing Wednesday's hearing with Michael Cohen, House Oversight Committee chairperson Elijah Cummings Of Maryland delivered a statement described as "stunning" and "riveting." Charlie Pierce recognized it as an effort at "reassertion of democratic forms and norms, institutions and prerogatives," such as when Cummings asserted

When we're dancing with the angels, the question will be asked, in 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact? Did we stand on the sidelines and do nothing? Did we play games, and I'm tired of these statements where, "Oh, this is the first hearing..." This is not the first hearing. The first hearing was in regard to prescription drugs. Remember? A lady sat there, and her daughter died because she couldn't get $333 a month in insulin. That was our first hearing. Second hearing, HR 1, voting rights. Corruption in government. Come on now. We can do more than one thing and we have got to get back to normal.

 But on another matter, count Cummings' approach as a FAII, long-term.. Let Vox's Dara Lind set it up with

But the most contentious moments between Democrats and Republicans on the committee were about racism — or rather, whether it was appropriate to use the word “racist” to describe first Trump himself, and then Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC).

The exchanges — a morning back-and-forth between Cohen and Meadows, followed by a very heated argument between Meadows and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) at the end of the day — exhibited a lot of the worst problems with the way people talk about racism in the early 21st century, and Trump’s racism in particular.

Cohen accused Trump of being “a racist” as a way to establish that Trump was a bad person. Meadows countered it by pointing out an individual black person close to Trump: former Trump Organization employee and current Housing and Urban Development official Lynne Patton.

This is not is a helpful way to talk about racism. But when Tlaib and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) pointed this out during their questioning, they were accused of violating congressional decorum.

Tlaib said Meadows’s use of Patton as a “prop” was a “racist act” — an accusation Meadows took as an allegation that he himself was a racist. Meadows’s ensuing effort to defend himself against the accusation Tlaib wasn’t making culminated with an awkward profession that he counts Committee Chair Elijah Cummings, who is black, as a friend.

Lind then explains what should be clear but isn't:

Meadows didn’t quite pull the full “I have a black friend” maneuver, in which an individual defends against claims of racism by saying they respect individual black people — instead, he paraphrased Patton’s own assessment that Trump isn’t a racist. But he is saying that because a black woman who has known Trump for years says that Trump is not a racist, he cannot actually be a racist.

It is not a helpful- or honest- way of talking about race.  Meadows' ploy was reminiscent of the 1950s-1960s "some of my best friends are colored" line (which suggests the meaninglessness of having elected a black President).  Although some people making that claim in a presumably less-sophisticated age were lying, it's likely many were telling the truth.

Yet, instead of Cummings stating simply that as an African-American and congressman he is confident that Meadows is not racist, he reinforced the North Carolinian's argument.  After assuring the committee that Tlaib was not accusing Meadows of being a racist, Cummings asserted "First of all, I want to thank the gentleman for what you said. If there is anyone who is sensitive in regards to race, it's me. "

Sensitivity, however, is not the same as wisdom. Cummings added

Mr. Meadows, you know, and of all the people on this committee, I've said it and gotten in trouble for it- that you're one of my best friends. I know that shocks a lot of people... And I can see and feel your pain. I feel it.

That shouldn't shock anyone because racially-biased whites can have black friends. A 2009 Pew survey found that 86% of whites, as noted here,  "who think that most blacks aren’t intelligent, law-abiding, honest, hard-working and/or generous have African American friends."

Whether Meadows is an actual "racist," fitting the textbook definition of racist, here is the fellow whose pain Representative Cummings feels:

Everyone should be allowed one stupid statement, though...

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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Undeserved Apology

Madeline Albright is a Democrat. If there ever were doubt about that, it was erased because she has apologized, as we learn

At a House intelligence committee hearing, Madeline Albright just formally apologized to Mitt Romney for making fun of him in 2012 when he said Russia was our biggest geopolitical foe. She says the now Utah senator was prescient.

There are only two problems with that. One is that Mitt Romney evidently doesn't agree, at least not as recently as last month when

Utah’s junior senator voted with the administration. His communications director, Liz Johnson, told me Romney “believes the U.S. should maintain strong sanctions on Russia for its bad behavior, including its interference in our elections.” Nonetheless, she said, “his vote was in line with longstanding U.S. policy and will help preserve our leverage to gain concessions from other bad actors.”

At issue was a deal that required Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to divest from three of his companies so he no longer owned a majority stake. In exchange for the divestment, the U.S. Treasury Department would lift sanctions on those companies.

The other problem is that it is questionable that Russia is the USA's greatest geopolitical foe, even if terrorism is not considered a "geopolitical foe." Mainland China now has the second largest defensebudget in the world, is widely expanding its military presence throughout the world, and is "apparently seeks to displace the U.S. as the primary power in the Asia-Pacific and perhaps globally, as well" Columnist, author, and foreign policy expert Hal Brands explains

Today, the China challenge is commonly seen to be primarily geopolitical and economic, and there is indeed growing evidence that Beijing seeks to replace Washington as the leading power not just in the Asia-Pacific but globally. Yet China has also thrown down the ideological gauntlet. Chinese leaders have declared that Beijing’s model of authoritarian capitalism is superior to America’s model of liberal democracy. They are supporting authoritarian regimes from Cambodia to Zimbabwe, using corruption and other influence operations to impair the functioning of democracies in the Asia-Pacific and beyond, and constructing a high-tech police state at home.

Most GOP hawks seem to believe that Iran is the greatest menace to world peace, and Russia remains a danger, greater so because of its increasing coziness with China.  However, it should not be assumed that Mitt Romney believed back in 2012 that Russia was the USA's greatest geopolitical foe. 

The former governor could have run against President Obama in 2012 by noting that"Obamacare" was largely a ripoff of the health care plan that he himself had in Michigan implemented, more smoothly and efficiently than the ACA nationally. However, that would have angered the right flank of his party, and connecting Obama to Russia was low-hanging fruit, very unlikely to stir any controversy among Republicans.

There is no reason to apologize to Mitt Romney. Eli Lake notes

The measure to close debate and repeal the Deripaska deal lost by only two votes. The senator declined to join the 11 other members of his party, a party whose 2012 presidential nominee memorably warned that Russia was America’s “No. 1 geopolitical foe.” That guy was on to something. I wonder what happened to him.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Like What Reid Says

Politico reports

“Is there anything that I think that President Trump is doing right? I just have trouble accepting him as a person, and so frankly I don't see anything he's doing right,” Reid told CNN’s Dana Bash.

President Trump responded
Of course Trump did, because on March 26, 2016

“I’ve had time to ponder and to think. We’ve got to be more concerned about the country, the Senate, the state of Nevada than us,” Reid said. “And as a result of that, I’m not going to run for reelection.”

Reid's current message- "I don't see anything he's doing right"- is peculiarly evocative of Donald J. Trump.  Far-right Christian activist Joshua Feuerstein last autumn told Al-Jazeera

God always used people that had a past. You look at David. He had multiple affairs. Yet, the Bible says he was a man after God's own heart.

While I know that Trump's past has had moral failure after moral failure, I have no doubt that he is standing on a God-centered, Biblical agenda.

In yet another example of a self-centered, non-Biblical agenda, President Trump in January pimped for his wall by dumping on thetwo-thirds of illegal immigrants who show up for court when scheduled:

They go into our country, and then you announce — these are the laws — then you say, ‘come back in three years for your trial, Tell me what percentage of people come back. Would you say 100 percent? No you’re a little off. How about 2 percent. And those people you almost don’t want ‘cause they cannot be very smart.

We're accustomed to Trump lying whenever he opens his mouth or sends something out on Twitter. But it takes a special kind of guy who would celebrate people who a court's order and ridicule people who follow the rules and show up when ordered by a Judge. It takes the same kind of a guy who would lie about Harry Reid in the same message he accuses the former Senate leader of "lies and deception." It takes a Donald J. Trump.

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The New York Times Did Not Try To Elect Hillary Clinton

There was a lot of news earlier today: feel-good exercise in fantasy wins an Academy Award for best movie; a President who reads his teleprompter as well as I read, well, Creole attacks a film director for how he reads his notes; Donald Trump preparing for his trip to see how much he can give away to his boyfriend in North Korea; Mike Pence trying to build a case for war withVenezuela.

And still I read (a month late)  an article by the Atlantic's Caitlan Flanagan about the confrontation between Nick Sandmann and Native Indian Nathan Phillips last  month at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C Flanagan ends, a little out of context, lecturing The New York Times because

You were partly responsible for the election of Trump because you are the most influential newspaper in the country, and you are not fair or impartial. Millions of Americans believe you hate them and that you will casually harm them. Two years ago, they fought back against you, and they won. If Trump wins again, you will once again have played a small but important role in that victory.

Certainly a large swath of voters dislikes and resents the media. Voters also dislike and resent Hollywood, yet continue to flock to theaters and watch award shows.   However, that does not mean the press in general, and The New York Times in particular, is not generally fair and impartial. 

Aware it is not widely perceived as objective, The Times was slightly partial in the 2016 election cycle. Sensitive to the charge of liberal bias and expected within a few months to be reporting on "President Hillary Clinton," the media was prone to bend over backwards on behalf of candidate Trump.

This was critically at play in the appearance beneath the fold of the front page of that same New York Times on on October 31, 2016 of the headline "Investigating Donald Trump, FBI Sees No Clear Link To Russia."

The article itself was more nuanced.  However, most Americans read only headlines, and appointment of the Special Counsel and revelations  over the past 21-24 months suggest that- though the headline may have been technically correct- it was extremely misleading. When in debate Hillary Clinton accused Trump of being a puppet of Vladimir Putin and the latter responded "no puppet, you're the puppet," the media largely ignored the issue of Donald Trump's entanglement with the Kremlin and Russian businessmen.

Gallup found that from July through September, the words Americans most heard around Donald Trump were the following, in order: speech, make, president, and immigration.  For Hillary Clinton, the most prominent was "emails," followed by "lie." While Donald Trump was telling whopper after whopper, "lie" didn't even make the cut for him.

Given that Flanagan wisely qualified her comment with "partly responsible," it would be unfair to the impact upon the election of  misogyny, ethnic bigotry, and discontent outside of coastal America after eight years of a failed Democratic administration. Sure, The New York Times played a role in Trump's victory. But it was less hatred toward it than the inadvertent bias it practiced in favor of the Republican candidate. 

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Sunday, February 24, 2019

Not A Lynching

This is not good.

In a speech criticized by the House Republican Majority Leader and defended by black lawmakers

Embattled Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax compared himself to Jim Crow-era lynching victims in a surprise speech Sunday, as he resists widespread calls to resign prompted by allegations of sexual assault.

Fairfax strongly defended himself and lashed out at his critics from his rostrum in the state Senate as the 2019 legislative session was coming to a close.

“I’ve heard much about anti-lynching on the floor of this very Senate, where people were not given any due process whatsoever, and we rue that,” Fairfax said, referencing legislation the General Assembly passed expressing “profound regret” for lynchings in Virginia between 1877 and 1950.

“And we talk about hundreds, at least 100 terror lynchings that have happened in the Commonwealth of Virginia under those very same auspices. And yet we stand here in a rush to judgment with nothing but accusations and no facts and we decide that we are willing to do the same thing,” Fairfax said.

GOP legislative leaders plan to hold a hearing Monday, in which the Lieutenant Governor and his two accusers will testify, into the sexual assault charges two women have leveled against him.

The Lieutenant Governor argues that the initial rush to judgement against him is analogous to that which precipitated "at least 100 terror lynchings in Virginia between 1877 and 1950" (as against, apparently, the lynchings not to be condemned as terrorism).

We've heard little of this sort of political mau-mauing since the unqualified Clarence Thomas complained that questioning him before anointing him a lifetime member of the United States Supreme Court was "a high-tech lynching of an uppity Negro." Fairfax's debased comment serves no purpose other than as part of a base strategy (pursued by President Trump to combat Special Counsel Mueller's investigation) in which the Lieutenant Governor relies on his die-hard supporters to avoid impeachment.

Clarence Thomas had made a lifestyle out of sexual harassment.  But even if he were being unfairly accused, it was hardly a lynching, in which- he should have been reminded- people were killed. Fairfax claimed "if we go backwards, and we rush to judgment and we allow for political lynchings without any due process, any facts, any evidence being heard...." Whatever injustice has been perpetrated against Fairfax, it is not a lynching and not comparable to hanging people.

The Lieutenant Governor's fate should be determined by a full investigation of the sexual abuse allegations and not bu a loathsome remark. Nonetheless, if a white Democratic male had made the same remark, he would be condemned across the political spectrum- as he would deserve to be. We should expect no less from a black man.

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Less Cryptic Than Transparent

Morgan Fairchild:

Corey Lewandowski bizarrely rambles about Dunkin’ Donuts to avoid answering whether he helped with Sessions ouster.

There is nothing bizarre about it.  Fairchild's tweet pertained to a segment on MSNBC's "The Beat" in which Ari Melber questioned Lewandowski about the New York Times report that

Privately, Mr. Trump tried to remove Mr. Sessions — he said he wanted an attorney general who would protect him — but did not fire him, in part because White House aides dodged the president’s orders to demand his resignation. The president even called his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, over the Fourth of July weekend to ask him to pressure Mr. Sessions to resign. Mr. Lewandowski was noncommittal and never acted on the request.

Asked whether he had received "that call," Lewandowski replied

Yea, I, look, honestly, I have the special privilege of speaking to the President on a very regular basis. I don't recall the specific call that they say took place on July 4.

The New York Times never mentioned July 4, instead specifying that the call was not placed on July 4.  If the call was placed "over the July 4 weekend," it could not have been made on July 4 because 7/4/18 is a Wednesday.

Lewandowski continued

As a matter of fact, they were so specific of the call that my kids were in my truck and we were driving to Dunkin' Donuts on the Fourth of July weekend would have been something I remember

They were driving to Dunkin' Donuts during the entire weekend? The Lewandowski family, which  reportedly lives in New Hampshire, evidently travels a long way for a jelly doughnut and a cup of coffee.

He adds

and since I polled my four children, they don't remember that either and since they usually remember when the President calls, they don't remember that either.

The Times article was published on February 12, 2019, more than seven months after a phone call from a man whom the children's father talks to on a very regular basis. It's unlikely they'd remember. Alternatively, it even could have been "kids, do you remember that phone call from the President when we were driving to Dunkin' Donuts- because if you don't, we can go back sometime."

Additionally, there are few things less politically correct than questioning the veracity, memory, or incomparable wisdom of children, as Dianne Feinstein has learned.  Dredging up a Dunkin' Donut story including them was a stroke of genius.

Lewandowski remarked also "so not to say it's fake news but I think I would have remembered that conversation."  He's not only not saying it's fake news. Lewandowski is practically using a baseball bat to club listeners over the head with the truth- that the call did come through, but he's not going to rat out the President he served faithfully.

Corey Lewandowski was not a man gone off on a bizarre rant. It's Donald Trump in another instance in which he was unable to muster the backbone to fire someone he wanted to go away. 

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Friday, February 22, 2019

(False) Bravado

Roger Stone posted a picture of Amy Berman in which the Judge's head appeared in front of what appeared to be the crosshairs of a rifle scope, accompanying a post in which he

called special counsel Robert Mueller a “Deep State hitman,” who guaranteed through legal trickery that Stone’s upcoming “show trial” would be before Jackson. He then noted that Jackson was appointed by former President Obama, had dismissed the Benghazi charges against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and incarcerated former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort prior to his conviction.

Even women can play the tough guy. The Washington Post notes

A federal judge on Thursday ordered that longtime Republican operative and Trump confidant Roger Stone may not speak publicly about the investigation or case against him.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington said it would be “foolhardy” to wait for Stone to transgress again in the wake of an Instagram post that appeared to show her photo near crosshairs. The post suggested both she and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, whose office brought the case against Stone, were biased.

“I’m not giving you another chance,” Jackson told Stone. “I have serious doubts whether you’ve learned any lesson at all.”

If he violates the order in any way, Jackson warned, she will order him to jail.

Stone accused the Judge of being biased and presiding over a show trial, also convincing Jackson that he was

“fanning the flames” and “chose to use his public platform . . . to incite others who may be less constrained.” Alluding to the charges against a Coast Guard lieutenant accused of plotting a terrorist attack, she said Stone’s post could have sparked violence: “You don’t have to read the paper beyond today to know that that’s a possibility.”

He has surely learned a lesson, now realizing that he can do all that and receive a stern lecture. Mimi Rocah, formerly a US Attorney with the now-famous SDNY and currently an NBC and MSNBC legal analyst, reflects the common, conventional wisdom now making the rounds:
This is a rather benign view of hell.  According to The New York Times, Jackson's

new order imposes the same restrictions on him that she has placed on lawyers in the case.

“From this moment on, the defendant may not speak publicly about this case — period. No statements about the case on TV, radio, print reporters or internet. No posts on social media,” Judge Jackson said. She said her order also applied to surrogates who might speak on Mr. Stone’s behalf.

She said Mr. Stone could continue to seek donations to his legal defense fund, but could note only that he had pleaded not guilty — without commenting on the judge, the prosecutors, the witnesses or anyone involved in the case.

Rocah should be familiar with the tough guy act many judges put on, and should understand that not speaking publicly about a criminal case is common among criminal defendants, rarely referred to as "hell."  Nor is it a hardship to be able to pull down the tidy sum of $47,000 as a communications consultant, as had Stone.

Admittedly most defendants are not encumbered with the same notoriety nor advantaged with friends in high places (in this instance, the President) as is Stone.  Nonetheless, remaining silent about a criminal case is routine, and even typically recommended by the defense attorney.

Investigative journalist and author David Cay Johnston, though mistakenly believing race and religion play a role, understands the role of privilege and wealth in this case more than do the vast majority of legal analysts and broadcast journalists. He tweets
Were Johnston to eliminate "especially," he'd have it nailed. The talking heads on cable television (and, sadly, probably on network news and in print journalism) need a primer in recognizing judicial grandstanding.

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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Non-Discrimination Slammed

Yesterday I criticized Moira Donegan for claiming that Bernie Sanders "was publicly dismissive toward Black Lives Matter activists who expressed concern over his approach to racial issues."She had written

Sanders, meanwhile, speaks about the struggles of the working class in reductionist and retro ways; he seems to hold an anachronistic understanding of the American worker as white and male, oppressed only by his bosses and not at the same time by the structures of racism and sexism. Sanders has made, and continues to make, tone deaf statements on race in particular. He dismissed voters who want to see themselves in their politicians as trafficking in “identity politics”, and was publicly dismissive toward Black Lives Matter activists who expressed concern over his approach to racial issues. He seems to have tolerated a gender pay gap and some truly repugnant sexual harassment in his 2016 campaign. But few scandals seem to stick to Sanders. Like Donald Trump, he has a base of hardcore supporters who will forgive him anything.

Her larger issue is encapsulated in the charge that "Sanders has made, and continues to make, tone deaf statements on race in particular." Donegan linked to an article which notes that the Vermont senator was asked (rhetorically, presumably) whether he represents "the face of the new Democratic Party." He responded

We have got to look at candidates, you know, not by the color of their skin, not by their sexual orientation or their gender and not by their age. I mean, I think we have got to try to move us toward a non-discriminatory society which looks at people based on their abilities, based on what they stand for.

Avoiding discrimination based on inherited characteristics of sexual orientation, gender, age, or race: what a novel concept! For Donegan and others convinced there should be one, homogeneous face representing the Democratic Party, this must have been a radical statement.

Sanders suggests as a goal "a non-discriminatory society which looks at people based on their abilities, based on what they stand for." Given that it's difficult to determine relative abilities of candidates, the term might be a proxy for experience and accomplishment.

Admittedly, the last Democratic President was thin on experience and on accomplishment when he was elected. Still, a candidate's record and views would be considered important- even determinative- in a normal political atmosphere.

In that environment, we'd acknowledge existence of the racial wealth gap, in which the average white family has been alleged to hold as much as 20 times the wealth of the average black family.Then,  the wise measures proposed by Sanders (and Donegan's favorite candidate, Elizabeth Warren) to address wealth inequality would be widely applauded on the left. Certainly, President Trump and his party, whining about "socialism," have taken notice.

But this is no normal political atmosphere. One political party had been skirting around the edges of racial bigotry since the days of candidate and president 666, Ronald (6) Wilson (6) Reagan (6),. and now has plunged headlong into racial bias with a side helping of misogyny, corruption, and provocation to violence.

Much of the other party, Donegan included, believes the notion of a non-discriminatory policy emphasizing the importance of ability and beliefs is "tone deaf." Indeed, some call it "tone deaf." Others may call it "the content of one's character." Times change, in this case not for the better.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Unwarranted Criticism

It's roughly seventeen months until the 2020 Democratic National Convention, and already the childish squabbling has begun.   Although some of it is directed by supporters of Bernie Sanders, far more more targets the Vermont senator.

Much of the criticism of Sanders is thoughtless, though much is thoughtful.  In the latter category, Guardian US columnist Moira Donegan argues

Sanders, meanwhile, speaks about the struggles of the working class in reductionist and retro ways; he seems to hold an anachronistic understanding of the American worker as white and male, oppressed only by his bosses and not at the same time by the structures of racism and sexism. Sanders has made, and continues to make, tone deaf statements on race in particular. He dismissed voters who want to see themselves in their politicians as trafficking in “identity politics”, and was publicly dismissive toward Black Lives Matter activists who expressed concern over his approach to racial issues. He seems to have tolerated a gender pay gap and some truly repugnant sexual harassment in his 2016 campaign. But few scandals seem to stick to Sanders. Like Donald Trump, he has a base of hardcore supporters who will forgive him anything.

The heart of Donegan's criticism lies in Sanders' rejection of identity politics, which is partial, though seen by his Democratic critics as definitive (which is part of the problem).  I'll address that at another time.

Donegan charges the senator with being "publicly dismissive toward Black Lives Matter activists who expressed concern over his approach to racial issues." The August 2015 Vox article to which she links explains that the previous month

Black Lives Matter activists made it clear that they were dissatisfied with Sanders's approach to race during the progressive Netroots Nation conference, when Martin O'Malley and Sanders appeared at a town hall event hosted by immigration activist and journalist Jose Antonio Vargas.

Protesters interrupted O'Malley, took the stage, and gave speeches about the deaths of young black men and women in police custody — ending with a call for both O'Malley and Sanders to present "concrete actions" for racial justice, and to pay tribute by name to women killed by police or who died in custody.

Sanders was defensive and cranky: "I've spent 50 years of my life fighting for civil rights. If you don't want me to be here, that's okay." The protesters were unimpressed. "Your 'progressive' is not enough," Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter and one of the protesters who took the stage, told the press as a message to Sanders and other presidential candidates. "We need more." The next day, at an event in Houston, Sanders mentioned Sandra Bland (who died in police custody in July) and talked at more length about the issue than he had in the past.

Perhaps "I've spent 50 years of my life fighting for civil rights" is what Donegan means by "retro"- a reference to a candidate's record, with which Donegan is insufficiently concerned and Black Lives Matter thoroughly oblivious.

Evidently, Black Lives Matter's primary interest was disrupting meetings or sowing discord because

At a Defend Social Security rally in Seattle on Saturday, the pattern repeated itself: Activist Marissa Johnson leaped on stage, approached the microphone, and addressed the audience and Sanders alike. After calling for four and a half minutes of silence for the one-year anniversary (which was Sunday) of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, she challenged Sanders again on his lack of a concrete policy to address racial violence — contrasting him with O'Malley, who released a relatively detailed criminal justice platform at the beginning of August.

Sanders stood by silently during Johnson's speech. Attendees weren't so quiet: They booed Johnson, and some called for her arrest. Eventually, according to MSNBC, event organizers made the decision to shut down the event, without Sanders getting a chance to deliver most of his speech.

The attendees understood what the event organizers, who penalized Sanders for being attacked, did not.

Black Lives Matter earlier in the campaign had disrupted a private fundraiser for Hillary Clinton. Understandably but regrettably, they were not ejected. Nor were they ejected when they disrupted any events held for or by Donald Trump during his primary or regular election campaign.

If you find yourself asking "what events was the group at?" you're catching on. Do a Google search of "Black Lives Matter Donald Trump events" and there will be several references to a Black Lives Matter NYC activist unexpectedly being invited to address a pro-Trump crowd in Washington, D.C. on September 29, 2017, nearly eleven months after the election. 

However, prior to the vote- when it would have mattered- Black Lives Matter ignored Trump events. They may have been intimidated or determined it did not serve its purpose to disrupt a gathering to celebrate Donald Trump. Intentionally or otherwise, they served as an adjunct to the Trump campaign.

Breaking up Democratic gatherings was low-hanging fruit, with protesters confident that their condemnation would be accepted by Democratic candidates and by much of the Democratic popular base.  Notwithstanding his own overreaction, Donald Trump obviously understood that voters were not hungry for what the casual voter would perceive as weakness.

The absence of Black Lives Matter at any Trump gathering, though it disrupted a Netroots Nation conference, a Sanders event, and a Clinton fundraiser, should reveal a red flag to anyone not completely blind.

Yet, Moira Donegan spanks Bernie Sanders for allegedly being "publicly dismissive toward Black Lives Matter activists."  He was not completely dismissive, although he probably should have been.  Every Democratic candidate should be aware that the "M" in BLM might stand for not only "matter" but also "mischief."

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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Using And Abusing The Christian Right

Three months ago, professor of science and religion Benjamin Huskinson wrote "if white evangelicals have indeed hitched themselves to Trump’s wagon, I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes when Trump discovers that he doesn’t really need them."

Those evangelicals are safe, or at least as much as any voting bloc in America. Politico reports that the night before the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this month

President Donald Trump was hosting religious leaders and lawmakers for dinner at the White House when he spotted Democratic Senator Chris Coons — and pounced.

Trump confronted the Delaware lawmaker — who attended the event as the Prayer Breakfast’s official Democratic co-chair — over the issue of abortion, creating a tense scene in the White House’s Blue Room, according to three sources familiar with the exchange.

Trump leaned in close to Coons, who calls himself “a practicing Christian and a devout Presbyterian,” and laced into the Democratic senator over controversial moves to change statewide policies on abortion that have roiled New York and Virginia politics in recent weeks. “He was in his face about it,” said one person familiar with the exchange. The person described Trump as extremely “worked up.”

“He saw a Democrat in the room, a Democrat who’s known to be a person of faith, and he was like, ‘Why aren't you speaking out about this?’” the source added.

Another source who was in the room confirmed the account, describing the moment as both “awkward” and attention-grabbing. Rarely has Trump been so vocal about abortion when the masses aren’t watching, this person said. (A Coons spokesman declined to comment.)

The masses weren't watching- but somehow this incident made its way into the hands of the Politico reporter, who added

The private episode underscored Trump’s recent public focus on abortion, which has delighted his evangelical Christian supporters. During his State of the Union address last Tuesday, Trump used vivid imagery to claim that New York’s new abortion law would “allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth.” And he accused Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who’s backed similar legislation in his state, of wanting to allow medical providers to “execute” babies after birth.

President Trump has become so opposed to abortion rights that he lied about both the terms of the New York law and Virginia governor Northam's remarks, indicative of the veracity of either Trump or of the forced-birth movement. Politico continues

Abortion is a somewhat unlikely new cause for a president who years ago called himself “very pro-choice” and did not make the issue a central theme of his 2016 campaign. But people close to Trump say that he has developed an increasingly sincere passion for the cause.

It is unlikely, but not unprecedented. The successful huckster always is looking for a mark, and evangelical leaders have scanned the table and seeing no mark, fail to realize it is them.

The counter-argument is that the President is giving white evangelicals what they want, including especially two Supreme Court justices on the right fringe.  And three weeks ago, Trump tweeted "numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of  studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!"

Trump is probably expecting more students to learn about "Two Corinthians."  Meanwhile, he continues to insult them, conspicuously refusing even to take the Sabbath off (sometimes Easter) from social media rantings:

Ultimately, though, it makes little sense for Trump to make Sunday a day of rest, not when it gives him yet another opportunity, aside from misrepresenting communion, the book of Corinthians, and repentance, to ridicule Christianity. And why not? Evangelical leaders yearn for more humiliation of Christianity by their new god.

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Monday, February 18, 2019

No Apparent Curiosity

The wife of White House Special Advisor Kellyanne Conway (nee Fitzpatrick) has boldly stepped out again, arguing
This isn't the first time  Kellyanne's husband has criticized President Trump on Twitter, and let's hop;e it won't be the last. It is clear that he is on to something here, though probably slightly off in his conclusion.

Trump presumably was lying about North Korea- as he has done before- because it had been the better part of a day since his previous falsehood. However, it's unlikely that his primary health problem is mental stability

 On February 9, Navy Commander Sean Conley issued a briefsummary (only at first glance a redundancy) of a physical exam at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, declaring that the President "is in very good health and I anticipate he will remain so for the duration of his presidency and beyond."

Conley probably is not a quack. But he evidently plays one in public, or at least when he must describe a patient who is President of the United States of America. He can no more forecast the health of Donald Trump for two to six years out- and beyond- than he can for any of his patients, and for this one he has an obvious motive to distort, manipulate, or suppress the truth.

That is to say: he has no idea, nor would he ever make that claim about any other patient. On February 14, Dr. Conley delivered a valentine to the President, maintaining the latter is in "very good health overall" despite being clinically obese and prescribed an increased dosage of his heart medicine. ("Otherwise, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?")

Unless Trump's complete medical records are released- a very unlikely occurrence- the doctor's claim cannot be adequately assessed.  Nor has anyone reportedly asked Dr. Conley whether Trump takes any additional drug of an illegal or legal nature.

Last December, a former Celebrity Apprentice crew member (very credibly) stated that the star frequently sniffed Adderall on the set, and he maintained (a little less plausibly) that the President now uses the drug.

In September of 2016, following the first general election presidential debate (sniff, sniff) Dr. James Hamblin had explained

many of Trump’s behavioral patterns are consistent with those of a high-functioning speed (amphetamine) user—one who uses in a capacity somewhere between the legitimized label “ADHD” and performance-enhancing Ivy league MBA students. Trump attended Wharton. Trump sleeps little and boasts about never wanting for energy, despite getting little exercise and eating poorly (by his own admission). Though that could also be the result of the cocaine.

Something- perhaps corporate ownership of the media- is preventing print and broadcast journalists from probing the source of obviously ludicrous, often grotesque, behavior. Dr. Hamblin cautioned "or these patterns of behavior could be innate, a product of the neurochemical milieu in this particular person's brain." We need to know which it is.

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Sunday, February 17, 2019

Not So Benign Neglect

Invaluable Washington Post investigative reporter David Farenthold, with two colleagues, reported recently

The Washington Post spoke with 16 men and women from Costa Rica and other Latin American countries, including six in Santa Teresa de Cajon, who said they were employed at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster. All of them said that they worked for Trump without legal status — and that their managers knew.

The former employees who still live in New Jersey provided pay slips documenting their work at the Bedminster club. They identified friends and relatives in Costa Rica who also were employed at the course. In Costa Rica, The Post located former workers in two regions who provided detailed accounts of their time at the Bedminster property and shared memorabilia they had kept, such as Trump-branded golf tees, as well as photos of themselves at the club.

The brightly painted homes that line the road in Santa Teresa de Cajon, many paid for by wages earned 4,000 miles away, are the fruits of a long-running pipeline of illegal workers to the president’s course, one that carried far more than a few unauthorized employees who slipped through the cracks.

Soon after Trump broke ground at Bedminster in 2002 with a golden shovel, this village emerged as a wellspring of low-paid labor for the private club, which charges tens of thousands of dollars to join. Over the years, dozens of workers from Costa Rica went north to fill jobs as groundskeepers, housekeepers and dishwashers at Bedminster, former employees said. The club hired others from El Salvador, Mexico and Guatemala who spoke to The Post. Many ended up in the blue-collar borough of Bound Brook, N.J., piling into vans before dawn to head to the course each morning.

Their descriptions of Bedminster’s long reliance on illegal workers are bolstered by a newly obtained police report showing that the club’s head of security was told in 2011 about an employee suspected of using false identification papers — the first known documentation of a warning to the Trump Organization about the legal status of a worker.

Usually when the organic feces hits the rotating oscillator, there is panic in the workplace, a recognition that "they're on to us." Not, however, at Trump properties, as we learn

Other supervisors received similar flags over the years. A worker from Ecuador said she told Bedminster’s general manager several years ago that she entered the country illegally.

Eric Trump, a son of the president who runs the Trump Organization along with his brother Donald Trump Jr., declined to comment on the accounts by the former workers. Bedminster managers did not return requests for comment.

The company’s recent purge of unauthorized workers from at least five Trump properties contributes to mounting evidence that the president benefited for years from the work of illegal laborers he now vilifies.

So at least now the attention of voters and public officials can be turned to the practice of large employers routinely hiring illegal immigrants. Can, but won't:

It remains unclear what measures Trump or his company took to avoid hiring such workers, even after he launched a White House bid built on the threat he says they pose to Americans.

Amid Trump’s push for a border wall, there has been little public discussion of how U.S. employers — including the president himself — have generated demand for unlawful workers.

Of course there hasn't.  Hiring illegal immigrants- uh, er, undocumented workers- has long been a major part of the Trump business model. It was only fifteen months ago that details were released of a 1998 settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed because

Donald J. Trump employed a crew of 200 undocumented Polish workers who worked in 12-hour shifts, without gloves, hard hats or masks, to demolish the Bonwit Teller building on Fifth Avenue, where the 58-story, golden-hued Trump Tower now stands.

The workers were paid as little as $4 an hour for their dangerous labor, less than half the union wage, if they got paid at all.

Perhaps frustrated by the lack of attention to the extensive reporting of illegal immigrant labor at Trump properties, Farenthold has tweeted

But Farenthold should not have been shocked. Neither President Trump, the Republican Party, or the Democratic Party wanted to belabor the Bedminster-Central America connection, and the larger issue of exploitation of illegal immigrants also has been virtually ignored by Washington elites.

Unsurprisingly, Beto O'Rourke, himself a Washington elite as a former member of the United States House of Representatives, told Chris Hayes on Thursday that border wall already constructed should be torn down (whatever the cost).  He stated also "you make the the State of Texas, by extension you make the country a safer place by treating people with dignity and respect."

Nonetheless, you will not hear O'Rourke, his fellow Democrats, nor Donald Trump and Republicans suggesting that people will be treated "with dignity and respect" if- and only if- they are here legally.

If they are here illegally, as most prominent Democrats and Republicans condone, they will not be treated with that "dignity and respect."  The nomination of Heather Nauert has been withdrawn before it actually was made because it had not been submitted to the Senate. But there should have been no surprise that the President had intended to appoint her, not when neither party is especially exorcised by the illegal presence in the USA of 10-20 million people, many of them here to make Donald J. Trump and other plutocrats even wealthier.

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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Invitation To Failure

If you believe that "slavery and the scaffolding of white supremacy" are unrelated to marijuana, you know one more thing than Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) apparently does. Huffington Post reports that the media darling

 made her comments during a House Financial Services subcommittee hearing this week on banking services for the burgeoning cannabis industry as more states legalize the sale and use of marijuana.

She suggested the growing industry was “compounding the racial wealth gap”  by allowing wealthy white-dominated companies to gain a quick advantage in the industry. She complained that communities most affected by drug incarcerations are the “last in the door” when it comes to profiting now from legalized cannabis.

The nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance praised her position. “We must legalize marijuana in a way that recognizes and repairs the disastrous, disproportionate harms of the drug war ... on people of color,” the organization tweeted after the hearing.

Ocasio-Cortez cited statistics from Colorado and Washington, where marijuana is legal for recreational use, that 73 percent of cannabis business executives are male and 81 percent are white.

The State of Washington is not 50% non-hispanic white, and neither is Colorado. Colorado is a mere 29.6% % black, Hispanic, Asian, "mixed," or "other" while Washington is 70.4% non-Hispanic white. And for reasons of history, culture, and/or politics, most business executives in the USA are male and most are white. 

Beginning at 4:00 and resuming  at 4:44 of the video below, the freshman (freshwoman, or fresh person) Representative rhetorically comments

And so, so, you see what this really looks like is it's kind of coming to big picture that the folks who profited off for-profit incarceration get to profit off the legalization of marijuana first while the communities most impacted are last in the door....

So would you recommend that in us kind of opening this lane that also be paired with kind of affirmative licensing laws that prioritize front-line communities and communities that were most impacted to get them licenses first so that they can reap the benefits or recouping some segments of cost that they have bared in the 90s on the War on Drugs?

The very agreeable witness was Corey Barnette, described here as the "founder and Chief Executive Officer of District Growers, LLC, a full service grower and producer of cannabis, cannabis concentrates and cannabis-infused edible products." You should not be surprised that Mr. Barnette is neither a scientist nor medical researcher, nor a down-on-his luck ex-con who needs a leg up to rebuild a life shattered by the War on Drugs. Prior to becoming very successful in 

the medical cannabis industry, Mr. Barnette owned and operated businesses in a number of different industries across several states, including but not limited to automotive manufacturing, pharmaceutical testing, sports and entertainment, and transportation industries. For example, Mr. Barnette owned and operated Primary Physicians Research, a clinical trials service provider of drug testing services to large pharmaceutical companies. From 2001 to 2004, he served as a Vice President of the Small Enterprise Assistance Funds, an emerging market venture capital firm investing in start-up and early-stage businesses in 28 different emerging market countries. From 1997 to 2000, he serves as an investment banker with NationsBanc Montgomery Securites.

As the day of legalization of recreational marijuana, possibly nationally and more likely in several states, draws near, the challenge should not be to ensure that vast profits are made as the public is swindled and manipulated by wealthy minorities and private equity firms headed by minorities.

Purchasers must not be exploited, period. That should apply whatever the race or gender of the businessperson and whatever the race or gender of the chief executive officer of the individual(s) fronting for the group.

That is not, however, the thrust of Ocasio-Cortez's spoken concern. She is not suggesting that individuals who have been disadvantaged by disproportionate inequities in policing or the criminal justice system be given particular consideration. She is recommending that privilege be conveyed upon individuals (or companies) notwithstanding whatever hurdles- or not- they themselves have had to overcome.

Recreational marijuana, as with medical marijuana, is no ordinary business. The regulations which must be imposed in order to protect both consumers and the general public, and to maintain public support for legalization, are nearly unmatched in American commerce. So, too, are the opportunites for exorbitant profits, which are likely to attract a proliferation of hucksters (though Barnette has not been among them).

State officials must establish strict guidelines. Local agencies and boards will have to consider the motivation of entrepreneurs and numerous details, including but not limited to safety and security, location relative to schools and neighborhoods, and age of consumer. Philosophical issues aside, there is too much at stake to overlook critical factors in favor of skin color and biological makeup.

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Friday, February 15, 2019

Proudly Taking Credit

After President Obama in February of 2008 told a predominately black audience that children shold not be fed "Popeyes" and otherwise an inadequate diet, Princeton professor of African-American studies Eddie Glaude wrote

A reversal of sorts; a black president who has presided over the dismantling of a tradition, who masterfully uses the language of black struggle in the service of Wall Street who is lauded for his celebration of black culture and his performance of black cultural cues, but whose policy leaves much to be desired. This is someone who chastises black people for eating Popeye's chicken for breakfast."

One individual commented "he also had a Bill Cosby moment. The only difference is he's potentially in a position where he can actually render aid, and not just chastisement. That type of honesty is below my pay grade."

 And so this, too, is classic Obama:
I'm proud of all of them.  Given that proud is "Feeling deep pleasure or satisfaction as a result of one's own achievements, qualities, or possessions or those of someone with whom one is closely associated." the parents of those Parkland students should be proud.

But President Obama? He's not their parent, teacher, or pastor, but someoneposing as really committed to reducing gun violence.  He had his chance, eight years or 2,920 days of chances, yet

During his first term, Obama didn't call for any major new restriction on guns or gun owners. Instead, he urged authorities to enforce the state and federal laws already on the books. In fact, Obama signed only two major laws that address how guns are carried in America, and both actually expand the rights of gun owners.

One of the laws allows gun owners to carry weapons in national parks; that law took effect in February 2012 and replaced President Ronald Reagan's policy of required guns be locked in glove compartments of trunks of cars that enter national parks.

Another gun law signed by Obama allows Amtrak passengers to carry guns in checked baggage, a move that reversed a measure put in place after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

During his second term, in January of 2016, Obama did issue 23 executive actions. However

those executive actions contained no new laws or regulations; and they were not executive orders, which are different than executive actions.

"For all the pomp and ceremony, nothing in the president’s proposals is going to put a dent in U.S. gun crime or even substantially change the federal legal landscape. In that sense, apoplectic opponents and overjoyed supporters are both probably overreacting," wrote Adam Bates, a policy analyst with the libertarian Cato Institute's Project on Criminal Justice.

When Barack Obama claims pride in the young people pushing for gun safety measures, he is taking credit for at least a small portion of the activism rendered necessary in part by inaction in the eight years he could have actually accomplished something. It is unsurprising in an individual whose presidency featured soaring oratory evoking good feelings obscuring a presidency of limited accomplishment.

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Racehorse Genes

Credit the discovery to Michael D'Antonio.  He conducted a series of interviews with Donald J. Trump in 2014, of whom Donald Trump Jr....