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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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Negative Reinforcement

Alan Minsky, the Executive Director of Progressive Democrats of America, asks

why does the DNC (and, by extension, the establishment wing of the Democratic Party) refuse not only to address poverty but really even to acknowledge its existence...

This is not a new question. By Bill Clinton’s presidency the shift away from supporting programs designed to address poverty became official party policy, echoing the Republicans mantra of self-help. Of course, poverty rates remained more or less constant. During Obama’s presidency, Tavis Smiley and Cornel West launched their poverty tour because of the president and the party’s refusal to even say the word, let alone do anything about poverty. Similarly the on-going Poor People’s Campaign explicitly operates outside of a party that refuses to seriously address an endemic social problem that conservatively has many tens of millions of Americans in its grips.

He answers- in part- his own question by noting

The prevailing ideology of the past four decades, call it neoliberalism or market fundamentalism, embraced by the mainstream of both parties, offers no solution to American poverty. Rather, it tacitly accepts it as part of the landscape. So an alternative poverty policy will, by definition, fly in the face of Democratic establishment orthodoxy. In other words, we’re going to meet resistance.

There are additional reasons, of course, including a lesson of Democratic primary history. In 2008, John Edwards based his campaign to become the Democratic presidential nominee on recognition of "two Americas."  Although recognizing that race played a part, it was a message centered on acknowledging that the poor of any race have been left behind while the wealthy had become wealthier and even more powerful.

Even before the scandal of having had an extra-marital affair resulting in a child, Edwards had fallen behind both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and facing a seriously uphill battle.

The race came down to one candidate promising to make history as the first female president and one determined to become the first black president. The latter prevailed, winning both the nomination and the office itself, with millions of independents (and a few Republicans) inspired by a message of good feelings and intentions. Democrats felt a real hunger for change and placed their faith in Obama's rhetoric of "hope" and"change." 

Nonetheless, as Smiley and West realized, that hope was never realized as President Obama presided over an Administration that did little to address either economic or racial inequality. Strategically, he didn't have to. As Aaron Coleman recently pointed out, "whenever Barack needed to shore up his black base, he could summon a sermon or a Jay-Z appearance quicker than you could say 'Kwanzaa.'” (The latter also played well with his young white liberal base, the former with his middle-aged white liberal base.)

And so Barack Obama remains extraordinarily popular among Democrats (which a former speechwriter of his actually believes is a good thing).  For eight years, President Obama sat on his popularity and did nothing to close the gap between the two Americas. The gathering interest among Democratic officials, including presidential candidates, in addressing the racial wealth gap could not have emerged without a failure to pay any attention to it in the previous ten (and more) years.

President Obama, largely unmoved by the plight of poor, working-class, and middle-class Americans relative to the wealthy, is the one recent successful Democratic presidential aspirant. And he is beloved with the Party's voters. It is a lesson that- unfortunately- the Democratic Party, and its national committee, has learned well.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A Little More Information

Controversy swirling around the second highest elected official in Virginia may give us a glimpse into the perspective of Democratic candidates for the presidency. On Monday we were reminded by the Associated Press

Two women have made allegations against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax. But on Saturday, Fairfax issued a statement repeating his strong denials that he had ever sexually assaulted anyone and made clear he does not intend to immediately step down....

Though Virginia's congressional delegation is split

Since the two allegations against Fairfax were made, many top Democrats running for president in 2020 have called for Fairfax’s resignation, including Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Attorneys for both Meredith Watson and Vanessa Tyson say their clients would testify in any impeachment hearing,   Fairfax has denied the charges and called for an FBI investigation, though it is more likely an investigation would be conducted by local police and/or prosecutors because the the offenses alleged are not federal crimes.  

He also decried a "rush to judgement" and that was before Politico reported late yesterday.

A woman who alleged Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax raped her in college was accused of harassing and threatening a man she had a relationship with, according to Maryland court records.

The man sought and received a peace order against Meredith Watson in July 2008, the records show. A peace order falls under the “umbrella term” of a restraining order in the state of Maryland, University of Maryland law professor Leigh Goodmark said. It is applied to situations in which a person may need to ask for distance from someone who isn't their spouse or live-in partner, he said

In a petition for the restraining order, obtained by POLITICO, the man described an incident in which Watson “was detaining me against my will ... [and] not letting me leave” a vacation house in Corolla, N.C., and “dented the trunk” of his vehicle with her fist. In another instance, Watson showed up at his house stating “she was going to kill herself” and sent “threatening text messages” to the man, who had his sister come over to persuade her to leave, according to the document.

Watson’s spokeswoman, Karen Kessler, did not comment for this story before publication. After the story was published a lawyer for Watson, Nancy Erika Smith, said the order granted was a seven-day court order and that Watson “was not in the Courtroom and did not know about the proceedings or have an opportunity to be heard” when it was issued. The man “abandoned the effort after hearing from Ms. Watson’s lawyer,” Smith said.

The dispute between the two centered around $2,000 that was owed to Watson and was resolved, Smith said, with the man agreeing to pay Watson. The man who filed the request for the order did not respond to a request for comment for this story, nor did Fairfax through his office.

It appears that, regrettably, the three presidential hopefuls who had it all figured out were not asked for comment.  Politico adds

Watson also told friends she was raped by former Duke University basketball player Corey Maggette, according to a report in The New York Times. “I have never sexually assaulted anyone in my life and I completely and categorically deny any such charge," Maggette, who became an NBA player, said...

The petition against Watson also stated that, “Within 30 days the respondent was at my home and wouldn’t leave [and] the respondent was throwing property and I had to call my sister over [to] the house to make her leave. On numerous occasions respondent has stated she was going to kill herself."

“This isn’t the first time or occurrence,” the man wrote.

The petition said Watson called the man “around 100 times a day” after the vacation house incident and sent him text messages.

“I am going to enjoy tearing you down just as much as you enjoyed tearing me down. Hang on tight because you are in for a ride!” read one of the alleged text messages that the man transcribed on the petition.

It still is possible that Watson was in fact raped by Justin Fairfax or that there was improper contact of some sort.  Even if not the case, there is still the matter of the charge made by Ms. Tyson.

However, this most recent information that has come to light demonstrates further that there needs to be a full investigation.  We probably then would learn why- in a question no one media outlet has had the backbone to ask- a woman raped by a man and one forced into oral intercourse evidently did not report the matter to either the local police department or the county prosecutor's office.

There may have been an awfully good reason in both cases. Still, it's a missing critical piece of this puzzle.

Also missing is an explanation by Mr. Booker, Ms. Warren, and Ms. Gillibrand as to whether they are convinced the allegations are accurate or instead believe that the charges themselves require Justin Fairfax to step down from the position to which the voters of Virginia elected him.  It's the least we should expect from individuals who are asking voters for the opportunity to pull us out of the mess we got into a long time ago, and which Donald J. Trump is aggravating almost daily.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Another Unapologetic Apology

Under pressure from Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic members of the House of Representatives, Ilhan Omar has"apologized."

A genuine apology is something like "I'm sorry for what I've (written/said/tweeted/done)," preferably including "because I was wrong," and definitely omitting "but of course I was right." This was not oa horse of a different color; it wasn't even a mammal.

Omar began by acknowledging anti-semitism is "real," not unlike acknowledging the existnce of, say, climate, Nepal, or planet Earth itself. We know her intention is not to "offend," but instead to express her opinion, however repulsive.  (And there is no such thing as "Jewish Americans" because "Jewish" is not a nationality.)

"Just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity" sounds like she is trying to rationalize her remarks but, more generously, is a garbled set of 15 words. No one is apologizing- expressing regret at one's own words or action- by announcing she is apologizing. The apology lies in actually expressing error rather than in characterizing one's statement.

She writes "at the same time" to emphasize the message that follows: "I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry." The tell is that this is not what she had said. When Greenwald defended Omar and Tlaib for their criticism of Israel and slammed Congress for encouraging suppression of the BDS movement, Omar had responded  "It's all about the Benjamins baby 🎶."

But AIPAC does not donate money to political campaigns and though facts may be inconvenient, they still are facts.

Equating AIPAC with the NRA and the fossil fuel industry- two groups of which Omar is (rightly) critical- and not of immigrant rights or other groups she favors, she makes it clear that she is hostile to the the pro-Israel group. That is her right, but including it in an apology alone renders the so-called apology meaningless.

In response, Representative Joe Kennedy III- who evidently will not be spotted entering a MENSA meeting- tweeted "Glad to see this. With anti-semitism on the rise at home and abroad, we must unequivocally reject tropes, stereotypes or other language deeply hurtful to the Jewish community -- there's no place for it."

One can only hope that Kennedy other elected officials and media figures who believe that Ilhan Omar has apologized are merely declaring victory in an attempt to move on. If instead they believe that a politician demanding "people hear me when others attack me" and that AIPAC is the moral equivalent of the murder-approving, likely Russia-funded National Rifle Association is offering a mea culpa, they don't realize when they've been played.

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Christianity Subordinated

Proudly Never Trump in 2016, Erick Erickson- lawyer, blogger, talk show host, and intense evangelical Protestant- now promises to vote for Trump-Pence in 2020 while

Some of my concerns about President Trump remain. I still struggle on the character issue and I understand Christian friends who would rather sit it out than get involved. But I also recognize that we cannot have the Trump Administration policies without President Trump and there is much to like.

Erickson cites taxes, deregulation, the ACA, Israel, the Paris accord and the agreement with Iran, "shifting foreign policy focus to the western hemisphere, and "solid executive appointments, including to the judiciary."  As could be expected, Erickson adds

We have a party that is increasingly hostile to religion and now applies religious tests to blocking judicial nominees. We have a party that believes children can be murdered at birth.

The Democratic Party does not apply religious tests to judicial nominees.  Rather, a few of President Trump's nominees have made it clear not only that their religious views inform their judicial philosophy, but that they believe divine law trumps secular law in consideration of legal issues. Andrew L. Seidel explains

Questions of religion are fair game the moment nominees argue that their duty to their god is superior to their duty to this country. The issue is not the religious belief itself, but the ability of that nominee to honor their oath of office. If they cannot, We the People have a right to know. And the Senate has a duty to ask.

These questions cannot be blocked by a Senator, as Ted Cruz recently did, whining  about a "theological inquisition."  It would be better (or at least more transparent)  for a nominee to defend his or her judicial philosophy in light of theological precepts the candidate holds.That would require a willingness to defend her judicial approach with its philosophical underpinnings. 

Alas, under questioning they choose to hide their rationale and Christian faith. Similarly, Erick Erickson chooses not to tell us what Democratic official "believes children can be murdered at birth,." He may be referring to Virginia governor Ralph Northam, though surely the latter does not represent an entire party, especially now that he is under attack from some of its most prominent members.

A few days (not coincidentally) before the Northam blackface scandal, the Governor was asked about a hypothetical situation prompted by the mischaracterization by conservatives of an abortion bill briefly considered by the state's House of Delegates.  Although the bill pertains to second and third trimester abortions, Northam unwisely responded

If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if that's what the mother and the family desire. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.

Characteristically apoplectic, Republicans erupted in false outrage, contending- as it would appear Erickson is- that this is infanticide. However, it's likely the critics understand that

When an infant who might have otherwise been terminated in a third-trimester abortion is born, doctors and parents don’t then decide whether to kill the baby. They choose whether to take extreme, painful measures to try, against the odds, to keep a baby with severe congenital deformities alive.

It's unsurprising that as a forced birth advocate Erickson, though arguing in bad faith, would attack Democrats for support of abortion rights and questioning of judges about the impact of religious belief upon their judicial philosophy.

Nonetheless, when Erickson suggested in September of 2016 that he would vote for neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump, he accused the latter of "corrupting the virtuous and fostering hatred, racism and dangerous strains of nationalism." Erickson argues that the 2+ years of President Trump have been characterized by successful, conservative activity.

Erickson is elated that the policies have been very conservative and, in his opinion, successful. However, Donald Trump's presidency has been marked no more by extremist policies- which a President Cruz also would have promulgated- than it has been by lies, repeated regularly and enthusiastically; public demeaning of friend and foe alike; and boasts of the President's endless greatness.

These are not Christ-like virtues, and Erickson wrote at the time

That I see so many Christians justifying Trump’s immorality, defining deviancy down, and turning to anger and despondency about the future tells me I cannot in good faith support Trump because his victory would have lasting, damaging consequences for Christianity in America.

Now Erick Erickson supports the man whose victory appears it will have lasting, damaging consequences for Christianity in America.  That would be troubling from an atheist, far more so from someone who claims a deep Christian faith.

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Sunday, February 10, 2019


There is a serious problem oddly obscured in the current controversy over alleged sexual assaults committed by Justin Fairfax, now Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, and that of sexual assaults allegedly committed decades earlier by Brett Kavanaugh.

Once Circuit Court Judge Kavanaugh appeared on a short list of nominees for the US Supreme Court, Christine Blasey Ford wrote US Senator Dianne Feinstein, charging that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s, when she was 15 and he was 17.   The information eventually became the primary controversy in the Senate Judiciary Committee considering the nomination.

Deborah Ramirez also charged Kavanaugh with sexual misconduct, which would have occurred a few years later, when both individuals were attending Yale University. Declaring loyalty to Kavanaugh, the White House labeled the accusation a "35-year-old, uncorroborated claim" which "is the latest in a coordinated smear campaign."

It wasn't coordinated- but never mind. It was, of course, uncorroborated, neither proven nor disproved.

Following an additional, cursory investigation, the Senate Judiciary Committee (possibly inaccurately) declared there was "no evidence to substantiate any of the claims" of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh.

There had been six (6) investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of Brett Kavanaugh in the quarter century spanning the period of 1993 to 2018- and a partisan GOP committee did not exonerate the candidate, only claiming there was "no evidence."

After Meredith Watson, then Vanessa Tyson, recently accused Justin Fairfax of sexual assault, the Lieutenant Governor released a statement which included  “I demand a full investigation into these unsubstantiated and false allegations. I will clear my good name and I have nothing to hide. I have passed two full field background checks by the FBI and run for office in two highly contested elections with nothing like this being raised before.”

Fairfax cites "two full field background checks by the FBI."  Similarly, supporters of Brett Kavanaugh had cited the "full-field investigations" conducted of Kavanaugh on several occasions.

And yet, this: all these investigations by the highly-touted Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau came up with nothing. Nothing.

That begs the question of why the Federal Bureau of Investigation is conducting inadequate investigations of public figures. Even if none of the charges against either Kavanaugh or Fairfax is valid (an extremely improbable scenario), they are accusations the FBI presumably did not learn of (or alternatively, buried).

Donald Trump, and to a lesser extent, his supporters have been attacking the FBI for the better part of two years. However, they do not question the competence or efficiency of America's top law enforcement agency, but instead its over-zealousness, and that only because it has been investigating Donald Trump.

Responding to criticism of the bureau from Team Russia, Democrats have only heaped praise upon the agency.  It has been, consequently, immune from legitimate criticism. But after Donald Trump is removed, one way or the other, from office, there should be an investigation into the investigators, because the Federal Bureau of Investigation has not been living up to its hype.

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Saturday, February 09, 2019

We Don't Need No Stinking Investigation!

As The Washington Post has reported

A Maryland woman said Friday that she was sexually assaulted by Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) in a “premeditated and aggressive” attack in 2000, while both were undergraduate students at Duke University. She is the second woman this week to accuse him of sexual assault. Fairfax forcefully denied both allegations.

Democratic Party leaders quickly called for Fairfax to resign, including the influential Virginia Legislative Black Caucus. Many who had withheld judgment after the first allegation this week said they could no longer stand by him, including most of Virginia’s Democratic congressional delegation and national Democrats with presidential aspirations.

While Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) and Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.) said Fairfax should resign if the allegations were true, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) offered no such equivocation. “The allegations against him detail atrocious crimes, and he can no longer effectively serve the Commonwealth,” Kaine said in a statement. “We cannot ever ignore or tolerate sexual assault"...

The new accusation against Fairfax came from Meredith Watson, who said Friday in a statement through her attorney that she shared her account with several classmates and friends immediately after the alleged assault occurred. Watson did not speak publicly Friday, and her lawyer did not make her available for an interview.

“I deny this latest unsubstantiated allegation,” Fairfax responded in a statement. “It is demonstrably false. I have never forced myself on anyone ever.”

Asked what evidence Fairfax had that would demonstrate that the charge was false, spokeswoman Lauren Burke said: “In due time, all the facts will come out.”

If it's up to several Democrats- Terry McAuliffe, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris-  who have announced, or may announce, for the Democratic nomination for President- the facts probably will not come out.

All those Democrats, as well as at least five Democratic US Representatives, have called on the Lieutenant Governor to resign.  And they are all wrong.

If the charges against Fairfax are as they seem and the pleas for him to resign are legitimate (reasonable), they are sufficientlyserious to warrant an investigation.

That investigation should have been conducted 18-19 years when the alleged violent crimes took place. Unfortunately, the attack never was reported- or so it seems, in the absence of any reporting to the contrary- and the people of North Carolina (in Tyson's case, Massachusetts) thereby were denied the inquiry they deserved.

McAuliffe, the immediate ex-governor of Virginia, recognizes the charges as "serious" and as "credible."Yet, when a defendant is charged with a crime, a grand jury indicts the individual- thereby concluding the serious charge is credible- and he is not automatically punished or penalized, instead given an opportunity to go to trial or to negotiate a plea. A lieutenant governor should be given similar consideration.

Notwithstanding the statement of public officials that Justin Fairfax must not wait for the civil equivalent of indictment but instead resign immediately, there must be a prompt and thorough investigation. That might benefit Fairfax, whose political career (and more) will otherwise have been unjustly destroyed if the accusations are invalid. If they are largely accurate, however, the two women who maintain they were sexually assaulted deserve complete vindication.

The behavior alleged is dreadful and appalling. However, in a democratic republic, we do not lightly overturn the will of the people. That includes those in the state of Virginia, whom Fairfax serve, and the  voters of Virginia, who elected him. All deserve assurance that the truth has been sought and as much as possible, determined.

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Friday, February 08, 2019

Unreliable Advocate

Anti-trust crusader Matt Stoller, a critic of Barack Obama and of the Democratic establishment (but I repeat myself), is not a fan of Neal Katyal, often seen opining on MSNBC and CNN.

Stoller noted that Katyal's law firm marketing materials bragged that the latter "achieved landmark wins for Bristol-Myers Squibb limiting forum-shopping in mass torts cases, and for Wells Fargo reversing a decision allowing cities to sue under the Fair Housing Act."

So when Katyal tweeted "100 years from now, law students will read about this decision. It may be read alongside Dred Scott, Plessy v. Feguson, Korematsu, and the Chinese Exclusion Act cases," an unimpressed and skeptical Stoller responded

Katyal makes money selling corporate legal services as a rainmaker for #BigLaw firm Hogan Lovells's Supreme Court practice. He endorsed Gorsuch for the court and warmly praised Kavanaugh. I don't understand the credulity towards an obvious con artist.

A charge fairly extreme (except as applied to anyone in Donald Trump's inner circle) as "an obvious con artist," should not be taken as face value. However, in a January 2017 op-ed in The New York Times, Katyal wrote

I have no doubt that if confirmed, Judge Gorsuch would help to restore confidence in the rule of law. His years on the bench reveal a commitment to judicial independence — a record that should give the American people confidence that he will not compromise principle to favor the president who appointed him. Judge Gorsuch’s record suggests that he would follow in the tradition of Justice Elena Kagan, who voted against President Obama when she felt a part of the Affordable Care Act went too far. In particular, he has written opinions vigorously defending the paramount duty of the courts to say what the law is, without deferring to the executive branch’s interpretations of federal statutes, including our immigration laws.

One down, one to go. Soon after President Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to replace Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, we learned

Katyal, a former acting solicitor general in the Obama administration, spoke highly of Kavanaugh’s work ethic and character.

“It’s very hard for anyone who has worked with him, appeared before him, to frankly say a bad word about him,” Katyal said. “This is an incredibly brilliant, careful person, but someone who will move the court in a conservative direction.

“In my practice, we basically have a rule that if there’s a Kavanaugh clerk who applies, we hire that person. He’s legendary for his preparation,” Katyal added. “This is a guy who reads … every one of those opinions, sits down with his clerks on Fridays, and goes through them, each one, every single opinion. He is an unusual judge, so I think it will be a very interesting set of hearings.”

On Thursday, the Supreme Court granted a temporary stay to a Louisiana law that required doctors performing abortions to obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Had it gone into effect, possibly all facilities providing abortions in the state may have shut down. Chief Justice Roberts joined the four liberal judges, with justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh- the latter writing the minority opinion- taking the forced birth position.

Katyal was wrong about Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, and that's not all. In May 2018 he claimed "The basic point is that prosecutors should not be able to tie up the work of a president," a highly arguable point. The same month, he cast further doubt on remedying criminal behavior of a president by indictment, a view he has been reticent to express on MSNBC.

Matt Stoller believes there is a Democratic "deep state," which is "not the politicians, not the consultants, but Big Law. That's where power lives." Unfortunately, referring to it as a "deep state" enhances a Republican talking point. But with the likes of Neal Katyal, an acting solicitor general in the Obama Administration, defender of global warming and friend of The Federalist Society, it's hard to argue with him.

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Thursday, February 07, 2019

Whistling Dixie

Give it up for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Castigated by conservatives for appearing "sullen" during most of the State of the Union address, Ocasio-Cortez responded "We’re flying without a pilot. And I‘m not here to comfort anyone about that fact."

Finally we have an elected official who will speak truth to power, never shade the truth and always keep her eye on the prize.

I'm joking. Prior to the vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee to pass the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Senate floor, Ana Maria Archila famously confronted Republican senator Jeff Flake as he stood in an elevator. Afterward, Flake cast his "aye" vote on the condition that there would be an updated FBI investigation of Kavanaugh before the nomination would be decided in the full chamber.

There was in fact an investigation before the US District Court of Appeals Judge was approved 50 to 48. And so following to the State of the Union address on Tuesday, Representative Ocasio-Cortez appeared on MSNBC with her guest, Ms. Archila, and stated that Archila's act demonstrated

any normal person in any one moment can have the courage inside them to step up in a critical moment that can change the course of our country and I think that's what Ana Maria did in that moment in the elevator and it did change the proceedings of the vote. Senator Flake as a result of her testimony and the way she expressed her story asked for a further investigation before this vote proceeded.

It was only 34 days since becoming a member of the United States Congress, and already Ocasio-Cortez was declaring victory where there was none. She proclaimed "a critical moment that can change the course of history" because Flake "asked for a further investigation before this vote proceeded."

If (a huge "if") the Supplemental Background Investigation did change the course of history, it only added slightly to Brett Kavanaugh's margin of victory

The FBI investigation was under the control of the White House, with a strict time limit and the individuals to be interviewed subject to approval by Senate Republicans.  Neither Kavanaugh nor his accuser, Christine Blasey-Ford, was interviewed despite the plea of Blasey-Ford's attorneys.

Instead of the report itself being released, the Senate Judiciary Committee, headed by Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, issued an executive summary, which appeared to clear Kavanaugh. However, though the report concluded "there is no corroboration of the allegations made by Dr. Ford or Ms. Ramirez,"  USA Today reported at the time

an aide to a Democratic senator on the Judiciary Committee said Friday that the executive summary released by Republicans is "flat out wrong."

"We are prevented by Senate rules from saying how and why, and we choose to respect Senate rules," the aide said.

Assuming the aide was neither lying nor misinformed, the FBI report did not exonerate Brett Kavanaugh.

"Something is rotten in Denmark" goes the old saying. At the time, it appeared to most Democrats that the supplemental investigation was inadequate. In light of the remark of the anonymous aide, it appears that the investigation itself may have been nearly thorough but that the committee's majority misled the American public.

Democrats lost.  Enhancing his phony image as a thoughtful moderate, Jeff Flake won, as did senators Grassley and McConnell and President Trump. Nonetheless,  the courageous but ultimately ineffectual Ana Archila did not "change the course of history,"  however much Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants us to believe otherwise.

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Unwarranted Criticism

It's roughly seventeen months until the 2020 Democratic National Convention, and already the childish squabbling has begun.   Altho...