Thursday, May 23, 2019

"And Then He Had The Meeting After"


In a "conversation" published by Salon on May 22, Malcolm Nance suggested "it turned out that (Special Counsel Robert) Mueller was an institutionalist. He literally tuck to every guideline that was given to him in the face of all the evidence. Then Mueller pulled every punch that was thrown." (He then speculated whether Rosenstein or Barr instead was to blame.)

On that very day, President Trump held a news conference in the Rose Garden in which he famously claimed "I don't do cover-ups"- and in which he appeared to verify that he does participate in cover-ups, and confirming Nance's suspicion about Mueller.

This is not about the payoff Trump ordered shortly before the presidential election, made to Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about their brief affair. It goes to the very heart of the collaboration between Russia and the Trump campaign, even Donald Trump himself. It involves the June 9, 2016 get-together at Trump Tower, about which Philip Bump recently recalled

In his written testimony for Mueller, Trump said he didn’t remember whether he knew about the meeting in advance. In attendance at the meeting were several key members of his campaign team: Trump Jr., campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

“I have no recollection of learning at the time that Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, or Jared Kushner was considering participating in a meeting in June 2016 concerning potentially negative information about Hillary Clinton,” Trump’s response to Mueller reads. “Nor do I recall learning during the campaign that the June 9, 2016 meeting had taken place, that the referenced emails existed. or that Donald J. Trump, Jr., had other communications with Emin Agalarov or Robert Goldstone between June 3, 2016 and June 9, 2016.”

The suspicion that Trump knew beforehand of the meeting had been "stoked," The New York Times snarked four months ago, by Democrats "pointing to phone calls that Donald Trump Jr. received from a blocked number around the time of the meeting." However

investigators have phone records showing that Donald Trump Jr. spoke with two family friends who used blocked numbers — Brian France, the chief executive of NASCAR, and the investor Howard Lorber — as the meeting was being set up, according to the people.

Mr. Lorber had significant investments in Russia and traveled to Moscow in 1996 with President Trump as they considered building a Trump Tower there.

For the younger Mr. Trump, the revelation that he had not called his father was seen among Trump allies as a victory over Democrats at a crucial moment in the investigation, according to people close to the White House.

In the same vein, Mueller wrote in the Special Counsel's report

According to written answers submitted by President Trump, he has no recollection of learning of the meeting at this time, and the Office found no documentary evidence showing that he was made aware of the meeting or of its Russian connection- before it occurred.

However, we now should be grateful to the President for demonstrating the worthlessness of a written interview, for on May 22 his memory appeared to clear up in the Rose Garden. Trump admitted

The bottom line is they say there's no collusion- no collusion with Russia. You heard so much talk about phone calls that my son made to me from this meeting that was set up by GPS Fusion, it looks like, which was the other side, for those who don't know.

And for a year I heard about phone calls went to a special number, unauthorized, and it would have been my son Don, who is a good young man, who's gone through hell. And they were calls that must have been made by him before and after the meetings- three calls. After massive study and work, they finally found who made the calls. One was a friend of ours, a real estate developer, great guy, most of you know him, a nice guy, loves our country. And the other one was the had of NASCAR, two of them.

So of the three calls that were so horrible, he had a meeting and he called me and then he had the meeting after and he made three calls and they were written about like this little little line, a couple of lines, no one wanted to admit it....





In this Twitter thread, MSNBC legal analyst Katie Phang argues "It appears to be obstruction of justice, a lie, it’s perjury and [Trump] obstructed the Mueller investigation by lying to the Special Counsel." Others disagree, believing that Trump was stating that one call involved the real estate developer and two, the head of NASCAR.

That's interesting, but not nearly dispositive. The conventional and prevailing wisdom has been that only two calls were made. Moreover, he had a meeting and he called me and then he had the meeting after suggests that candidate Trump himself was called by his son- both before and after the infamous meeting.

Give Donald Trump credit, however, for pointing out during the news conference that the Special Counsel's investigation was expensive, though it cost only $15 million gross, not the $25 million he claimed, and with the dough ordered recouped from Paul Manafort, should be a net plus for taxpayers. It nonetheless cost millions of dollars (gross) and Robert Mueller, maintaining he found "no documentary evidence" that Trump knew about the meeting beforehand, could not find what the President now has admitted to, in full view of the nation.

Trump was surprisingly candid on another matter. "So here's the bottom line," the President began at 5:47 , "there was no collusion, no obstruction. We've been doing this since I've been President." Yes, that's right- he has been obstructing and colluding since he has been President.



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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Fully And In Plain View


CNN's Chris Cuomo on Tuesday evening

said Democrats need to look at the political reality of launching impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

“It’s an unknown, alright,” said the host of “Cuomo Prime Time” on Tuesday. “And there is a real risk of making the bully in this so far, this president, look like a victim if you overreach in the name of oversight, like he keeps saying.”

Cuomo also suggested special counsel Robert Mueller should testify before Congress about his report into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible Trump campaign collusion.

“If you get Mr. Mueller on the stand and he says what he found, how he found it, and why he explained it the way he did, the path forward from there will be clear,” Cuomo said.

That would be great, as would the 2020 Lexus with a red bow awaiting you in your driveway on Christmas morning. And about as likely. On Tuesday morning The Washington Post had reported

Robert S. Mueller III and House Democrats have been unable to reach an agreement on how much of the special counsel’s expected congressional testimony would be public, and how much would take place in private, according to people familiar with the matter.

The special counsel’s office, along with senior Justice Department officials, has been quietly negotiating with the House Judiciary Committee, whose chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), has been eager to have Mueller testify as soon as possible.

Later that day, Glen Kirschner, who served under Robert Mueller in the US Attorney's office, told (at 3:02 of video below) MSNBC's Ari Melber

Bob Mueller could take the principled position "look, folks, it's all there, 448 pages of it. And look at the way he concluded, Ari, Volume 2. Could it be any more transparent or any more powerful and frankly if I could just read it briefly.

This is how Bob ended Volume 2, which was chock full of obstruction of justice by the President. He said "the protection of the criminal justice system from corrupt acts by any person, including the President, accords with the fundamental principle of our government that no person in this country is so high that he is above the law. Period.

I could see Mueller taking the principled position that folks, it's all there and to have regurgitate what I've put in writing or testify to hearsay about what the witnesses said that led me to this conclusion is not what you need. What you need is the witnesses.





Please regurgitate. Representative Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) has stated that he believes most members of Congress have not read the SpecialCounsel's report, and it's unlikely more than two or three percent of the American people have done so.

The Special Counsel's office wrote “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. We are unable to reach such a judgment.” But the President's false claim of "a complete and total exoneration" has been read by far more Americans than Mueller's strong inference(s) that Trump committed obstruction of justice.

And not only read, but more importantly, seen. The President is seen- transparently, powerfully, and completely dishonestly- maintaining that he has been cleared by the investigation. He put his face to the argument.

That is what is missing as long as Mueller does not testify completely, with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  He could do so without  repercussion. He is 74 years old and sufficiently economically secure to retire and if choosing not to do so, could write his ticket at any one of hundreds (thousands?) of law firms across the country.

This invulnerability to retaliation is not as clear in the case of Hope Hicks, Annie Donaldson, Felix Sater, or any of the other witnesses whom Glenn Kirschner presumably would like to testify.  Nor does any of them have the credibility or stature of the former US Attorney, FBI director, and decorated Marine from the Vietnam War.

Robert Mueller has one more responsibility to his country. Having put his foot into the water, he needs to put a face to the report and tell under oath, in public, all he knows. Although it now appears very unlikely, he must say, as Cuomo states, "what he found, how he found it, and why he explained it the way he did." If he does anything else, he damages the constitutional principle of checks and balance between the executive and legislative branches of government, the rule of law, and the integrity of the criminal justice system Glen Kirschner believes Mueller is dedicated to.




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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

About That Epiphany, Joe



It failed to capture my attention when on April 22 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

vowed to be the "Grim Reaper" for progressive policies if Republicans hold on to the Senate in 2020.

"If I'm still the majority leader in the Senate think of me as the Grim Reaper. None of that stuff is going to pass," McConnell said while speaking to community leaders in Owensboro, Ky.

McConnell noted that if Republicans win back the House or President Trump wins reelection "that takes care of it." But he pledged that even if Republicans lose the White House, he would use his position as majority leader to block progressive proposals like the Green New Deal.

"I guarantee you that if I'm the last man standing and I'm still the majority leader, it ain't happening. I can promise you," McConnell added.





That probably did not escape the attention of the the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for President, who 3-4 weeks later remarkably predicted

that Republicans will have an "epiphany" and start working with Democrats once President Donald Trump is out of office.

"The thing that will fundamentally change things is with Donald Trump out of the White House. Not a joke," Biden told reporters at a diner in Concord, New Hampshire. "You will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends."

Biden's echoed his dreams of epiphany when four days later he would approvingly tell a campaign rally

Some say Democrats don't want to hear about unity, That what they are saying you to have to do to win the Democratic nomination. Well, I don't believe it. I believe Democrats want to unify this nation.

Mitch McConnell had enough influence and power to tell President Barack Obama: no, not on my watch, there will be no Justice Merrick Garland. He now is telling Democrats that if Republicans win back the House, progressive legislation will fail because "if I'm the last man standing and I'm still the majority leader, it ain't happening. I can promise you."

This is the unity that presidential candidate Joe Biden aspires to, and which President Joe Biden would embrace.










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Monday, May 20, 2019

Not An Idiot, Part Infinity


Merriam-Webster defines "idiot" as "a foolish or stupid person."  Donald Trump is no idiot, although the former mayor and cabinet secretary from Texas evidently believes he is, given that



  

Democratic presidential hopeful Juli├ín Castro heard about President Trump’s rally in Panama City Beach, Florida, on Wednesday night—and he’s not having it. 

“The president,” he said in an interview with Mother Jones on Thursday, “is being a grade-A idiot.”

Trump was speaking about the tens of thousands of migrants at the US-Mexico border when he started talking about Border Patrol agents using deadly force. “And don’t forget—we don’t let them and we can’t let them use weapons,” Trump said. “We can’t. Other countries do. We can’t. I would never do that. But how do you stop these people? You can’t. There’s—”
From the crowd, a woman reportedly yelled out, “Shoot them!”

The president paused before deadpanning, “That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that stuff. Only in the Panhandle!

People love being name-checked, even if it's in apparent ridicule. Evangelical Christians adore Donald Trump not only because he supports forced-birth and puts right-wing judges onto the US Supreme Court, but also because he mentions them, directly or indirectly.   It's why the Christian right loved him his flippant remark "That's my second favorite book of all time. You know what my favorite is?" The Bible! Nothing beats the Bible, not even The Art of the Deal. Not even close." (Of course, Trump wrote about as much of "The Art of the Deal" as he did of the Bible.)  

It's why he came out unscathed- arguably even more popular- when he demeaned, by misrepresenting, the sacrament of communion by stating "When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed. I think in terms of ‘let’s go on and let’s make it right.'”

And it's one of the reasons the crowd roared it's approval when Trump,with  a "boy are these people off the wall" look,  said "it's only in the Panhandle you can get away with that stuff."

Mother Jones added

In an exclusive interview in San Antonio, Castro slammed Trump, calling his behavior “unbecoming of a president.”

“I mean, the president is being a grade-A idiot,” he said. “Entertaining the idea that you would shoot a human being just because they’re looking for a better life. You know, somebody can think that that’s all fun and games, but we’ve already seen during this administration the level of hate crimes increase. We’ve seen so many white supremacists go out there and say that they’re inspired by President Trump and shoot people. And so he’s being a grade-A idiot.

The President is no grade-A idiot, or any kind of idiot. Journalist Greg Sargent and another tweeter recognize:




Trump is skillfully trying to have it both ways, yet either approach satisfies the longing of Trump's base supporters for the red meat it wants served up to them. It is an effective strategy which belies the argument that the President is an idiot or his remarks idiotic.  And each time Julian Castro or another political opponent mistakes evil for idiocy, it reinforces the impression that Donald J. Trump as merely another flawed politician, but one devoted to the interests of his supporters and of the country




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Sunday, May 19, 2019

Bolstering Trump


In a truly insightful piece, Politico editor-in-chief Peter Canellos argues that the depiction by Saturday Night Live's Alec Baldwin of Donald Trump has inadvertently reinforced a favorable impression of the President.  Baldwin very much dislikes Trump, but the attacks on his "intelligence and competence," Canellos understands, have had the perverse effect of humanizing the President and

What appears to be authenticity is one of Trump’s greatest electoral calling cards, and Republicans tend to take it at face value. He’s an amateur in a professional game, and that explains why he sometimes breaks the rules. There’s a kind of everyman logic behind his actions, and his supporters want him to shake up the system. Despite their antipathy toward him, there are many Democrats who assess him on similar terms.

Typically, Democrats believe Trump is "dangerously unqualified for the presidency but that he’s not fundamentally ill-intentioned." It's a misconception which runs counter to

other, much harsher assessments of Trump. One, suggested by the Mueller report, is of a man who willfully used the tools of his office for his personal benefit, who demanded illegal and unethical acts from his subordinates, threatened them and tried to replace them when they refused to go along and shredded legal and political norms in the process. In trying to save himself, that version of Trump isn’t some rogue elephant acting on instinct, but a narcissist who puts his own interests ahead of the country’s. There is, presumably, no twinkle in Trump’s eye when he orders his Treasury secretary to refuse a congressional subpoena of his tax records, no sharp intake of breath when he invokes executive privilege to shield an investigation into his own campaign. His mouth doesn’t twist into a petrified O when he maligns Robert Mueller or calls on Republican appointees of the Supreme Court to protect him.

And so Canellos concludes

This Trump isn’t the stuff of caricature, or the hapless figure of fun portrayed on “SNL.” He’s the one who shows up on TV nearly every day, president of the United States despite the disdain of all those knowing elites, bending Washington to his will.





That has been the fundamental character of the Trump Administration, one in which the elites excoriated by the President bend to his will. That includes not only Trump TV (formerly GOP TV, sometimes known as "Fox News"), GOP members of the House and the Senate, and House Democrats, terrified of the I (impeachment) word. It extends even to Democratic presidential candidates, only four of whom (Warren, Moulton, Massam, and Harris) have called for impeachment.

And then there is William Barr, whose obsequiousness to the President is brazenly unprofessional, unpatriotic, and dangerous. 

Midway through is article, Canellos asks "Is Trump calculating, or is he improvising?" From tweet to tweet, the President may be impulsive. However, the rhetoric and actions are less accidental than cunning, undertaken by a canny President empowered by an unparalleled ability to fake authenticity.




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Friday, May 17, 2019

Slightly Trumpesque


It was the day before the Super Bowl in February, 2017, when dedication to self over country  was a little less clear that

President Donald Trump appeared to equate US actions with the authoritarian regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin in an interview released Saturday, saying, "There are a lot of killers. You think our country's so innocent?"

Trump made the remark during an interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, saying he respected his Russian counterpart.

"But he's a killer," O'Reilly said to Trump.

"There are a lot of killers. You think our country's so innocent?" Trump replied.

A clip of the exchange was released Saturday and the full interview aired Sunday before the Super Bowl.

It was an unusual assertion coming from the President of the United States. Trump himself, however, has made similar points before.

"He's running his country and at least he's a leader, unlike what we have in this country," Trump told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" in December 2015.

He continued, "I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe, so you know. There's a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, a lot of killing, a lot of stupidity," Trump said.

Moral equivalence can be result from being compromised by a foreign power, as likely in the case of Trump, or instead merely ignorant, naive, or wrong-headed. Campaigning in the first primary state

You say that anything has to be owned 50 percent by Chinese to invest in China, guess what? bears an eerie similarity to "our country does plenty of killing also, Joe." Biden probably is referring to regulations which went into effect last October which require foreign investors to notify the Treasury Department that they are trying to obtain a stake in an American company. The Department then could review the deal if it determined the investment a national security threat.

Be wary of a presidential candidate who compares American concern over national security with appropriation by the Chinese government of intellectual property by forcedtechnology transfers, espionage and theft. The source of Trump's benevolence toward the Russian government may be family business ventures in Russia, while Biden may be simply wrong. However

Hunter Biden’s investment company in China, known as Bohai Harvest RST, has pooled money, largely from state-owned venture capital, to buy or invest in a range of industries in the U.S. and China. Bohai Harvest has put money into an automotive firm, mining companies, and technology ventures, such as Didi Chuxing Technology, one of the largest ride-hailing companies in the world after Uber....

Bohai Harvest operates and works with a number of funds to make its various investments, a tangled business structure that has brought Hunter Biden into close proximity to influential Chinese government and business figures, according to a review of Chinese business filings by The Intercept.

This is not enough to conclude that the former vice-president is compromised with Xi's mainland China to nearly the extent that President Trump is with Putin's Russia.   But Donald J. Trump has set the bar very low, and raising it a little with Joseph R. Biden is insufficient.










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Thursday, May 16, 2019

That Notorious Justice


There was a time when nominees for the United States Supreme Court did not routinely lie, mislead, or fail to answer the questions upon testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee. And so it was that when Ruth Bader Ginsburg was tapped by President Barack Obama for a seat on the United States Supreme Court, she stated

The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.

That might not have seemed a revolutionary statement at the time. But it is now that

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday signed the nation’s most restrictive abortion law, setting up a court fight that Republicans hope will end with the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

“To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God,” Ivey said in a statement.

The state Senate on Tuesday approved the legislation, which prohibits abortion at any point during pregnancy, even in cases of rape and incest. The bill, which was easily approved by the Republican-dominated House last month, does make an exception if the pregnancy poses a health risk to the mother.

Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, earlier Thursday vowed a legal challenge, saying the law violates the landmark 1973 Roe ruling guaranteeing a woman’s right to an abortion until a fetus is viable.

The Republicans who pushed for and passed the legislation are hoping for just that. They believe the Supreme Court's new conservative majority offers the anti-abortion movement its best chance in a generation to overturn Roe.

Just this year, four states, including Georgia last week, banned abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected — about six weeks into a pregnancy. But Alabama’s law goes even further. This measure prohibits abortion at any point during the pregnancy and while a woman can’t be prosecuted, a person who performs the abortion can be convicted of a Class A felony and be imprisoned for up to 99 years in prison — essentially a life sentence.

Of course he- or she- can.  Activists and their allies want to threaten only the doctor with prison because it is relatively safe politically.  They realize that were the individual (woman) who wants, seeks, obtains, and pays for an abortion to be held accountable for what they consider "murder," there would be public revulsion.

Moreover, they want to threaten only the doctor with prison because in so doing they remove from the woman all agency.   They deny her the ability to consider herself a fully adult human responsible for her own choices. And that is a very, very good day for the forced-birth movement.









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It's About Woman


At a campaign rally Monday in Hampton, New Hampshire

Shirley Sylvester, a retired project manager from Hampton, said she believed that Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss demonstrated that the country “wasn’t ready for a woman.” And while she said she likes South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D), she fears that the country isn’t ready for a gay man, either.

“Joe’s the only one that can give Trump a run for his money,” she said. “After having Donald Trump in office, a lot of even the Republicans will want to go back to just where we were before we became this country that we are now.”

Mindy Musumeci, a construction contractor who, along with her husband Jim, drove up from Bentley, Massachusetts, to see Biden in Hampton, offered a similar assessment.

“I feel like the country is broken right now. And we need somebody who can win and then heal it,” she said.

Asked for her opinion of her home-state Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Musumeci responded, “I like Elizabeth Warren and this is really hard for me to say as a woman, but I just don’t think the U.S. is ready for a woman president.”

Maybe it is Mindy Musumeci and Shirley Sylvester, rather than the country, who aren't ready for a female president.

Or maybe it's another contingent, as we learned yesterday from Politico:

Kamala Harris used humor to swat aside the chatter about her becoming Joe Biden’s running mate: Maybe it should be the other way around, she said Wednesday, given Biden’s experience in the No. 2 job.

But inside her campaign and among allies, such talk is not a laughing matter. They're rankled by the suggestion, privately venting that it’s demeaning to a woman of color and perpetuates an unfair critique that she’s somehow not prepared for the job she’s actually seeking.

"It's infuriating," a Harris confidant fumed several days before the idea began taking hold in the media.

Since then, the chorus of Democrats sizing up her run and concluding she’d be perfect as Biden’s running mate has rapidly gone from whisper campaign to national narrative. They include some fans of the California senator: Last week, members of the influential Congressional Black Caucus floated Biden and Harris as a “dream ticket.” That put her in the uncomfortable spot of trying to delicately push back on it without offending the group, of which she’s a member.

Talk of a Biden-Harris ticket more than half a year before the first vote is cast is foolish. A candidate who is ultimately unsuccessful but racked up a lot of popular support on the way to Charlotte 2020 may be the obvious choice for the second spot. And it is probably 22-24 months before it becomes clear who that individual is.  It may be Harris, Pete Buttigieg or anyone- even Joe Biden.

But it also is condescending and offensive, as the Harris camp recognizes. And as it realizes, it need be careful about fingering the culprit.

Three days before observing reaction of the Harris camp, Politico had reported

Some black lawmakers are agonizing over whether to back Biden or two members of the close-knit caucus — Sens. Harris and Cory Booker — who also are vying for the White House, according to interviews with a dozen CBC members.

But with the former vice president jumping out to a huge, if early, lead in the polls, several CBC members are warming to the idea of a Biden-Harris ticket to take on President Donald Trump.

“That would be a dream ticket for me, a dream ticket!” said Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.). “If she is not the nominee, that would be a dream ticket for this country.”

Wet dreams of installing Harris as #2 are interesting, given that not she but Bernie Sanders currently is second to Biden in national polls of Democrats. (Harris, Warren, and Buttigieg seem to be neck-and-neck for #3 nationally.)

It's curious also given that at this stage- May of 2012- twelve years ago, Hillary Clinton was the favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination.  Of the eight polls taken during the first two weeks of that month, Hillary Clinton led Barack Obama by two points in one- and by a substantial amount in the other seven.

Yet, there was no talk then of "Clinton-Obama." There is, however, talk now of "Biden-Harris," at least by the Congressional Black Caucus. (Below: Harris is right; also, not ready for the question.)





The reason is obvious. Such speculation is patronizing toward the trailing candidate- and undermines her effort to be considered for the top job. It helps shape perception of voters to a desired outcome. (Think Donald Trump's early and frequent complaints of a Mueller "witch hunt.")

This is being done to Kamala Harris, member of an ethnic minority and a woman.  It was not done to Barack Obama, member of an ethnic minority but a man. (Some prefer colored person/"person of color," which finally became unacceptable 40-50 years ago but has returned.)

The difference obviously is gender. One was (well, still is) a man and the other is a woman.  The Congressional Black Caucus, as well as others which might follow its lead, should check its values at the door.




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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

He Should Know


Your mission, readers, if you choose to accept it, is to identify the name of the Democratic politician whose name I have omitted from the following excerpt from page 207 of Michael Grunwald's The New New Deal, published in August of 2012. (Unavoidable hints appear in various place.)

______ says that during the transition, he was warned not to expect any cooperation on many votes. “I spoke to seven different Republican Senators, who said, ______ I’m not going to be able to help you on anything,’ he recalls. His informants said McConnell had demanded unified resistance. “The way it was characterized to me was: `For the next two years, we can’t let you succeed in anything. That’s our ticket to coming back,’” ______ says.

______ says he hasn’t even told Obama who his sources were, but Bob Bennett of Utah and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania both confirmed they had conversations with ______ along these lines.

______, of course, has a history of outsized comments. But two former Republican Senators are confirming the gist of the charges (though both have their reasons for holding a grudge against the GOP). Meanwhile, former Senator George Voinovich also goes on record telling Grunwald that Republican marching orders were to oppose everything the Obama administration proposed.

“If he was for it, we had to be against it,” Voinovich tells Grunwald. And at another point, characterizing a strategy session Republicans and McConnell had held in early January of 2009, Voinovich said: “He wanted everyone to hold the fort. All he cared about was making sure Obama could never have a clean victory.”

As a reader of this blog, you doubtless are politically sophisticated and thus realize that the omitted name is the same as in the subject of this story from Politico on Tuesday:

Former Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday he expects Republicans will have an "epiphany" when President Donald Trump leaves office, and will embrace working with Democratic colleagues.

"I just think there is a way, and the thing that will fundamentally change things is with Donald Trump out of the White House. Not a joke. You will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends," Biden said during a campaign stop in New Hampshire. "It's already beginning in the House now ... If we can't change, we're in trouble. This nation cannot function without generating consensus. It can't do it."

Suspicion abounds that other plausible candidates (and a few implausible ones) such as Pete Buttigieg, Beto O'Rourke, and Cory Booker believe the GOP is hankering to return to normalcy, which it began to abandon (along with patriotic duty) around the time Richard Nixon sabotaged the Paris Peace Talks.

But Cory Booker and Beto O'Rourke have not been vice-president and Buttigieg hasn't even served in
Washington, D.C.

Biden has been there. And as the incoming vice-president, he was told by Republicans he trusted "we can't let you succeed in anything."

Grunwald would note 4+ years later, in December 2016- before approval of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the High Court-

This strategy of kicking the hell out of Obama all the time, treating him not just as a president from the opposing party but an extreme threat to the American way of life, has been a remarkable political success. It helped Republicans take back the House in 2010, the Senate in 2014, and the White House in 2016. This no-cooperation, no-apologies approach is also on the verge of delivering a conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

Buttigieg is not in a position to know, and O'Rourke, Booker (and a few others) did not witness their own boss being sliced and diced by Republicans.  Hence, their perspective is redeemable. However, Biden, who swears that we "will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends," was there for all eight years of the Obama presidency

Those are his friends, whom he appears unaware will slit his throat, politically and ideologically. That is, of course, unless he is totally aware of their intentions and quite comfortable with their agenda supporting mammoth financial institutions and  opposing the health and safety of consumers, preservation of the environment, and the rights of women and minorities.






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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Sanders Joins The Throng


Say it ain't so, Senator.

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders has been criticized in the 2020 campaign, as he was in the 2016 campaign, for devaluing the importance of race, allegedly failing to acknowledge the connection between race and class.  For example, after Sanders announced his candidacy, MSNBC political analyst/contributor tweeted "OK, 23 minutes in Bernie finally mentions race and gender."  

Maxwell later acknowledged that she had overlook Sanders' mention of "racism" and "sexism" earlier in his statement. Nevertheless, her critique of the preoccupation (recognition of, in my view) with class has been a common complaint against the candidate.

However, on Monday the Senator, who has been an official presidential candidate for nearly three months, became also an unofficial Democratic candidate for the office. On Monday morning, the current occupant of the presidency:

On Monday afternoon, the Vermont senator, heretofore the Democratic candidate who best understood the primacy of class in American society and politics:
No, Senator, just no. The play is that

1- The President of the United States in America is best situated to set the tone for religious and racial understanding in America; 

2- The President of the USA has made it clear that he is biased against Islam- and even against Christianity:

3- For all his statements ridiculing Christianity, the President retains the support of a large number of Christians;

4- Bias against Muslims, Jews, Christians, and people of any (or lack of) faith must end.

Instead, Senator Sanders slammed President Trump's criticism of Representative Rashida Tlaib's "tremendous hatred of Israel and the Jewish people" as among his "ugly attacks against Muslim women in Congress."

The congresswoman's remark was anti-Israel and anti-Jewish but, admittedly, if one wants to bend over backwards and strain the lumbar, it may be interpreted otherwise.





Nonetheless, Trump simply said nothing about Tlaib being Muslim, obviously avoiding linking Tlaib's opinions to her religion. And not only did the President not mention that Tlaib is a woman, it's hard to understand how her gender would determine her view of the Israel-Palestinian conflict or related issues.   (Presumably, lots of Palestinian-American men also oppose a Jewish state in the Mideast.)

Sanders' rebuke of President Trump is akin to what would be expected of any of the other candidates for President, who (apart from Elizabeth Warren) seem oblivious to the reality of two Americas, one for the rich and one for the rest of us.  It is a remark which has the odor of pandering on an ethnic basis which has become almost de rigueur among Democratic candidates. (Admittedly, they want also white male votes, which are referred to as "rural" or "working men and women" or "Michigan.")

There is already a president who divides people on the base of religion or race, as Sanders notes. However, Donald Trump did not do that in this tweet that set Sanders off and the latter's response will reinforce the perception of many voters of a Democratic party overly anxious to play the race and gender card.



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Monday, May 13, 2019

Bigotry Not Exclusively In The Executive Branch


Among the tweets about a remark made by Democratic Representative Rashida Tlaib:

Anti-Semitism is on the rise in our country but it has nothing to do with Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar whose words are being maliciously twisted. It has everything to do with Trump’s white supremacy which is emboldening racist domestic terrorists and mass shooters.

— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) May 13, 2019

Dr. Gu is correct. The increase in anti-Semitism is probably attributable to Donald Trump and is most assuredly not resulting from anything pertaining to Michigan's Rashida Tlaib or Minnesota's Ilhan Omar.

But at least in the case of Rashida Tlaib, it is not for want of trying. CNN reports

Speaking on an episode of Yahoo News' "Skullduggery" podcast that was released Friday, Tlaib was asked about her support for a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She began by noting the recent observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day before veering into the historic position of the state of Israel.

"There's kind of a calming feeling I always tell folks when I think of the Holocaust, and the tragedy of the Holocaust, and the fact that it was my ancestors, Palestinians, who lost their land and some lost their lives, their livelihood, their human dignity, their existence in many ways, have been wiped out, and some people's passports," Tlaib said.

She continued, "I mean, just all of it was in the name of trying to create a safe haven for Jews, post-the Holocaust, post-the tragedy and the horrific persecution of Jews across the world at that time, and I love the fact that it was my ancestors that provided that, right, in many ways. But they did it in a way that took their human dignity away, right, and it was forced on them. And so when I think about a one-state, I think about the fact that, why couldn't we do it in a better way?"

When asked whether advocating for a one-state solution could be seen as reckless, Tlaib replied, "No, I'm coming from a place of love, for equality and justice, I truly am."

"I want a safe haven for Jews," she added. "Who doesn't want to be safe? I am humbled by the fact that it was my ancestors that had to suffer for that to happen, but I will not turn my back and allow others to hijack it and say that it's some extremist approach because they're coming from a place of... whatever it is... of division, inequality." Tlaib responded

Policing my words, twisting & turning them to ignite vile attacks on me will not work. All of you who are trying to silence me will fail miserably. I will never allow you to take my words out of context to push your racist and hateful agenda. The truth will always win.

Tlaib was accused by Israel's ambassador to the United Nations of "trying to rewrite history," by Wyoming senator Liz Cheney for "vile anti-Semitism" for "thinking the Holocaust provides her a 'calming feeling,'" and by President Trump for "horrible and highly insensitive" comments which demonstrated a "tremendous hatred of Israel and the Jewish people."





The President recently implied that Jews harbored a dual loyalty when at a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition he referred to Benjamin Netanyahu as "your prime minister" and claimed a Democratic victory in 2020 "would cripple our country and very well could leave Israel out there all by yourselves." He did not say "you Jews care as much about Israel as about our own country." Politicians, even the forever crude Donald Trump, are not that explicit.

Neither was Tlaib, but she was awfully close.  "When I think of the Holocaust," the Michigan Democrat stated, she is reminded of " the fact that it was my ancestors, Palestinians, who lost their land and some lost their lives, their livelihood, their human dignity, their existence in many ways, have been wiped out, and some people's passports..."  "You say the Holocaust was bad," she might have well said, but "look what happened to the Palestinians!"

Palestinian Arabs fled Palestine, leaving the land to the Jews, in 1949 under controversialcircumstances.   Yet, Tlaib clearly believes Jews were responsible because "they did it in a way that took their human dignity away." (Tlaib here seems to be referring to Jews as "they." Referring to an ethnic group one loathes as "they" is an old tradition.)

To be sure, the Michigan congresswoman does want to assure us that she is exceedingly modest, "humbled by the fact that it was my ancestors that had to suffer for that to happen." We did Jews such a favor, she wants us to know, sacrificing to the point of death for their sins.

Tlaib had previously stated that she opposes a two-statesolution, one Jewish and the other Palestinian Arab. Therefore, when she stated on Skullduggery, "when I think about a one-state, I think about the fact that, why couldn't we to it in a better way?" she is hanging out a "no Jews need apply" banner.

In her defense, Representative Tlaib, oddly admitting to a "calming feeling," may have only a working knowledge of the English language and thus may have meant something different than what she stated. And of course, the federal government's leading bigot is one Donald J. Trump. However, Tlaib now is competing with Steve King (R-IA) as the leading voice of prejudice in the United States House of Representatives. Let's hope she is "humbled."



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Sunday, May 12, 2019

Now, China


At the last presidential debate in 2012, President Barack Obama actually stated

Gov. Romney, I'm glad that you recognize that al-Qaida is a threat, because a few months ago when you were asked what's the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia, not al-Qaida. You said Russia ... the 1980s, they're now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War's been over for 20 years.

Barack Obama is no fool, was no fool, and got elected. The fools were those of us who defended Obama's remark, who didn't realize that when he stated "you know, the Cold War's been over for 20 years," he was being either disingenuous or dangerously wrong.

When the in 1989 the KGB compound in Dresden, Germany was in danger of being overrun, lieutenant colonel Vladimir Putin

felt he was watching one of the largest and most powerful empires the world had ever seen unravel in the most pathetic and humiliating way. “I had the feeling that the country was no more,” he recalled later in a series of interviews published in 2000. “It had disappeared."

On the verge of becoming President of Russia in 1999, Putin warned

For the first time in the past 200–300 years, Russia faces the real danger that it could be relegated to the second, or even the third tier of global powers.. He called on Russians to unite to make sure that the country remained what he called a “first-tier” nation.

Now that President Trump, as Dana Milbank noted in December, "is handing Moscow the Cold War victory it could never win," it is clear that President Obama was either conned by the Russians or conned the American people. He made a major error which President Trump (intentionally or not) is exacerbating. And if we're not careful as a nation, we are likely to make a similar mistake with another world power: mainland China.

Earlier this month, the Washington Post's Philip Bump addressed the massive increase in military spending undertaken by the (Communist) regime in mainland China, as well as the massive Belt and Road initiative, undertaken to position the nation as a global power, and not only an economic one.

From its own perspective, human rights activist Amnesty International earlier this year began

mobilizing its two million members and supporters behind two key pieces of human rights legislation — S. 178, the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019, and the UIGHUR Act. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and 20 other Senators introduced the Act of 2019. The UIGHUR Act of 2018 (H.R.7384) was initiated by Congressman Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and four other legislators. Up to one million Uighurs and other ethnic minorities are being arbitrarily detained in so-called “re-education camps” –an affront to international human rights law. The new Congress needs to assert its leadership on this key human rights issue and swiftly pass legislation without haste.





The organization became another victim of the totalitarian regime as

Amnesty International was excited to move to a new headquarters location in New York. Today, however we were notified that a Chinese SoE had purchased the building and unfortunately due to our work on human rights in China can no longer move there. Bc of our work on human rights in China.

Negotiating a trade deal, President Trump has said nothing about human rights abuses in China, the police state in which surveillance of residents is significantly expanding and Uighurs continue to be herded into concentration camps. That's of little discomfort to America's would-be authoritarian. Matt Stoller finds

it’s weird to watch him pose as the defender of liberal internationalism against the Chinese. It’s even weirder that he’s kind of right. We can do better than let Trump claim this mantle....I’m also personally frightened by the many Dem candidates who don’t see the threat or actively dismiss it. The amount of Chinese $$$ in DC and Western politics is astoundingly large.

It's a little bit like 2012 all over again. Many "coastal Democrats," Stoller recognizes, see the Chinese as merely "a peaceful trading partner" while the party's presidential field is led by the man who served under President Obama and says the (mainland) Chinese are "not bad folks, folks." Through an extraordinary sequence of events, Russia has gained, at least temporarily, the upper hand on the USA. Increasingly, it appears that Communist China also is doing so.



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Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Water


A couple of weeks ago, the word from Washington, D.C. was that Democratic congressional leadership and President Trump had agreed that spending $2 trillion on infrastructure was a swell idea.

Obviously, this was irrelevant because because a) which aspects of infrastructure would be addressed would need to be determined; b) the emphasis could be on aiding the public, as Democrats would prefer, or private profitability, as Trump would prefer; c) Trump agrees to whatever works for him at that moment, which is subject to change within minutes; and d) no one had asked the opinionof Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who promptly nixed the idea. 

Inaction is particularly tragic for the communities in which drinking the water might be considered "cruel and unusual punishment" if imposed on an individual on death row. One location is Lovely in Appalachia's Martin County, in which the drinking water is so severely compromised  that the "Kentucky House recently passed a resolution asking Gov. Matt Bevin (R) to declare a state of emergency and free up resources to fix the dilapidated system." The danger is not limited to Appalachia or to urban towns such as Flint, Michigan, however, as

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation’s drinking-water system a D grade in its quadrennial report card. The network of more than 1 million miles of pipes includes many that are a century old and have a 75-year life expectancy. Across the country, 14 percent of treated water is lost through leaks, and here in Martin County, that figure has at times reached more than 70 percent. The American Water Works Association estimates that it will take $1 trillion to support demand over the next 25 years; in Martin County, repairs carry a price tag exceeding $10 million.

The link between lead exposure and crime has been well-documented by Kevin Drum who in a 2012 magazine article noted

atmospheric lead from gasoline tailpipes rose steadily after World War II, affecting babies born in the late 40s and beyond. The leading edge of this generation became teenagers in the late 60s and was more prone than previous generations to committing violent crime. Every year the population of teenagers with lead poisoning increased, and violent crime increased with it. This is why the 70s and 80s were eras in which crime skyrocketed.

In the early 70s the United States began to phase out leaded gasoline and newborns became steadily less lead poisoned. Like clockwork, as the leading edge of this generation became teenagers in the early 90s, the crime wave started to recede. By 2010, an entire generation of teenagers and young adults—the age group responsible for most crime—had grown up nearly lead free, and the violent crime rate had plummeted to half or less of its high point. This happened across the board: in big and small cities; among blacks and whites; in every state; in every city; and, as it turns out, in every other country that also phased out leaded gasoline.

It’s important to emphasize that the lead-crime hypothesis doesn’t claim that lead is solely responsible for crime. It primarily explains only one thing: the huge rise in crime of the 70s and 80s and the equally huge—and completely unexpected—decline in crime of the 90s and aughts.

As Drum reviews, there has been additional supporting evidence since then. Though the continued exposure to lead among children is especially troubling, it turns out that adults are not immune.  Now a 2018 study has

found that each year, as many as 412,000 American adults face a greater risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases because they were exposed to elevated levels of lead during their lifetimes. That’s 10 times more than previously thought, and comparable to the risk level from smoking, which kills more than 480,000 Americans a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study by Dr. Bruce Lanphear, a professor of health sciences at Simon Fraser University, and his colleagues was published this week in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet. The researchers reviewed death certificates for more than 14,000 people tested for lead exposure between 1988 and 1994. They found that after roughly 20 years, people with the highest levels of lead in their blood were 70 percent more likely to have died of cardiovascular disease, and twice as likely to have died of ischaemic heart disease, than their peers with lower lead levels. 

That suggests that – just as for children – there is “no apparent safe level” of lead exposure for adults, Lanphear said in an interview with The Guardian. He called the findings “troubling” but also “hopeful,” because they represent an opportunity to lower deaths from heart disease by reducing lead exposure of adults.

Of course, this story is very unlikely to have a happy ending.  It does not have the immediacy, the shock value, or the implications to national security of, for instance, nearly 3,000 Americans being murdered in attacks on September 11, 2001.   Nor does it grab the attention even of the (now nearly routine) episodes of mass shootings in American schools, which has resulted in exactly one (1) piece of national gun safety legislation, a ban onbump stocks.

By contrast, the impact of lead upon the human body is insidious, slow-acting, and difficult to dramatize, rendering unlikely a major investment in its removal. However, when in some future year there is a major effort to improve the nation's infrastructure, officials should speak to public officials and residents in places such as Martin County, Kentucky and Flint, Michigan. And Chicago. And Detroit. And Baltimore. And Milwaukee. And Newark, NJ.





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This blog will be on (short) hiatus through Saturday, May 11. Please return late on the following day, and often.




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Trumpian Characteristics


On May 5

Palestinian American congresswoman Rashida Tlaib criticized The New York Times for a headline on a story about the recent violence on the Israel-Gaza border, saying it promotes a “lack of responsibility on Israel.”

The headline read “Gaza Militants Fire 250 Rockets, and Israel Responds with Airstrikes.”

“When will the world stop dehumanizing our Palestinian people who just want to be free?” the Michigan Democrat wrote on Twitter. “Headlines like this & framing it in this way just feeds into the continued lack of responsibility on Israel who unjustly oppress & target Palestinian children and families. #FreePalestine”

The headline was objective, accurate, and fair, but was only the catalyst for Tlaib's beef against the only democratic state in the Middle East. Tlaib aimed to emphasis the "lack of responsibility on Israel" (on Israel's part?) and refers to Israel as "who unjustly oppress & target Palestinian children and families."

I'll assume that Tlaib was referring to the governments of Israel rather than to its people, though she refers not to "Israel, which unjustly" but instead to "Israel, who unjustly." It may be a simple error of syntax on the part of someone angry and careless rather than an attack upon Jews generally.  A different view, one more grounded in reality, suggests that accusing Israel, rather than Hamas, as irresponsible ignores the reality that

Each new attack on Israeli communities forces Israel to adopt more restrictive measures on imports to Gaza to prevent the illicit transfer of goods that could be used to build and expand the militants’ arsenals. The international community donated funds for reconstruction of homes, but Hamas diverted these supplies to build the infrastructure for war instead of schools and hospitals.

Examples abound. Cement for building homes, schools and hospitals was diverted to build and reinforce tunnels under the boundary between Gaza and Israel that terrorist groups use to carry out attacks. When concrete was limited, wooden pallets were used instead. Pipes were used to manufacture rockets instead of improving the water distribution systems. Chemicals for bottling and canning were diverted to create rocket fuel. Electrodes for rockets were reportedly smuggled in butter containers and concealed in shipments of marble slabs.

Perspectives on the competing responsibilities of Tel Aviv and Hamas can legitimately vary.  Not so the assertion that "Israel target(s) Palestinian children and families," a lie unbecoming anyone not named "T-r-u-m-p."  Responding to a more typical Israeli attack

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday fiercely denounced Israel for the bombing of a building housing Turkey’s state news agency Anadolu in Gaza.

The bombing came amid heavy fighting on Saturday, as Gazan terrorists fired over 250 rockets at Israel and Jerusalem responded with airstrikes on the Strip....

Anadolu reported that the building collapsed after being hit. The IDF said the eight-story building was used by the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups to conduct terrorist activities.

Staff were evacuated shortly before the strike which was preceded by a warning shot, the agency said, adding that none of its journalists had been hurt.

"Preceded by a warning shot."  Before a cease-fire was reached, the Israeli military had reportedly killed "at least" 25 Palestinians in its attack, which would be extraordinary malpractice were women and children targeted. However, it is not surprising that Tlaib, a sworn opponent of the President, nonetheless would mimic Trump's habit of psychological projection, attributing to her enemy- Israel- a characteristic of her ally, Hamas.

And the congresswoman has made clear her opinion of Israel and her propensity to lie about it. Prior to Tlaib's victory in August in the Michigan Democratic primary, her candidate page on the website of J Street (the dovish, pro-Israel group which had endorsed her) assured potential donors that she

believes that the U.S. should be directly involved with negotiations to reach a two-state solution. Additionally, she supports all current aid to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, particularly to fund initiatives that ‘foster peace, as well as economic and humanitarian services.’ Tlaib does not support the expansion of settlements and believes that they make it difficult to reach a sustainable two-state solution.

In a post-election interview, however, she reversed course, stating

One state. It has to be one state. Separate but equal does not work. I’m only 42-years old but my teachers were of that generation that marched with Martin Luther King. This whole idea of a two-state solution, it doesn’t work.

She added

Americans should not be aiding any country that doesn’t support human rights. I’ve been very clear. I will not support racist countries that pick and choose who gets access to justice.

Tlaib has to get out more often. Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews are not fighting because of their racial composition- whatever that may be- but because of competing historical claims to the same land.   Even though fostering bigotry while spreading falsehoods and misrepresenting one's own position is far more the brand of the President, Tlaib's practice has the potential to harm the Democratic Party considerably if it is not curbed.









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"And Then He Had The Meeting After"

In a " conversation " published by Salon on May 22, Malcolm Nance suggested "it turned out that (Special Counsel Robert)...