Sunday, June 23, 2019

Threaten And Win

Police procedures vary widely depending on circumstances. Understandably

Seventy people were arrested outside of The New York Times building in Manhattan on Saturday, according to a New York Police Department spokesman, during a protest to call attention to the way news outlets cover the climate crisis.

Charges against the protesters are pending, an NYPD spokesman told CNN.

The protesters were affiliated with a group called Extinction Rebellion, which describes itself on its website as an "international movement" aimed at combating climate change through nonviolent protest and minimizing the "risk of human extinction and ecological collapse."

Those protesters were peaceful, however. The outcome is not as predictable when, as reported by Williamette (Oregon) Week

Oregon Senate Democrats hastily cancelled a planned Saturday floor session late Friday afternoon, citing reports that right-wing militia members were planning to rally at the Capitol.

Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D-Portland) posted on social media a text message from Senate leadership, stating that the Saturday session was cancelled.

 "The State Police Superintendent just informed the Senate President of a credible threat from militia groups coming to the Capitol tomorrow," the message says. "The Superintendent strongly recommends that no one come to the Capitol and President [Peter] Courtney heeded that advice minutes ago."

First: these extremists were not members of a "militia." They want the media and the public to label them "militia" because the Second Amendment grants to "a well-regulated Militia" the right "to keep and bear arms." Nonetheless, as this tweeter notes, "they're not the militia. They're an armed mob. The militia, as legally defined in Oregon State Law, consists of the organized militia (Military Dept) & the unorganized militia, the latter of which can only be mobilized by the governor."

If that sounds to you like the Oregon State Police were intimidated by threats of violence, you're paying attention. Willamette Week continues

"The Oregon State Police have advised us that there might be a militia threat tomorrow, so the Capitol building will be closed," said Carol Alice McCurrie, Courtney's communications director. "We don't have any details beyond that one."

The cancellation comes on the heels of right-wing militia members offering armed protection to Republican Senators who have denied Democrats a quorum by disappearing, probably across the Oregon border into Idaho.

Republicans left the Capitol on Wednesday, trying to block the passage of a cap on carbon emissions. Sen. Brian Boquist (R-Dallas) implied that he would shoot and kill any Oregon State Police officer sent by the governor to retrieve him.

That outburst seemed to embolden right-wing militia groups, which pledged Thursday to protect the Senate Republicans while they fled the Capitol. Those groups included members of the Three Percenters, an anti-government militia.

Boquist had told a local television station "Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I'm not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It's just that simple."  Emboldened right-wing radicals got the State Police to shut down the Capitol and the session to consider the climate bill was cancelled. Mission accomplished.

While in New York City dissidents who posed no immediate threat to the public order were arrested, extremists in Oregon threatening violence were pacified when the Oregon State Police turned tail and ran. The latter might be a harbinger of things to come, with a President who has informed the public of his intention:
So if and when Donald Trump loses in 2020, he'll claim the election was "rigged" or fixed, and his supporters, like the "armed militias" in Oregon, will get the message. Then if federal law enforcement authorities demonstrate the same (lack of) backbone that the administration of the Oregon State Police has, we're in trouble, where "we" is spelled "this republic."

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Saturday, June 22, 2019

Echo Of The Past

In August of 2016 Politifact noted that Donald Trump had "tweeted about dead voters delivering President Barack Obama’s victory in 2012, floated charges about multiple voting in the primaries, and suggested that undocumented immigrants "just walk in and vote" in some polling places." It rated the charge of election rigging as "pants on fire" but Trump kept on lying.

However, if Trump meant that someone, such as, oh, maybe his own party, was trying to rig the election, he was not far off the mark. Ari Berman, who has been following GOP voter suppression efforts for several years, in January 2018 wrote

Across the country, from Arizona to Ohio to North Carolina, people had trouble voting as a result. According to a study by MIT, an estimated 16 million people – 12 percent of all voters – experienced at least one problem voting in 2016. There were more than 1 million lost votes because eligible voters didn’t have the right ID or they encountered long lines at the polls or couldn’t register. Trump won the election by a combined total of 78,000 votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

No one, to my knowledge, ever thought to ask candidate Trump the question of which party was "rigging" the election. Presumably he would have claimed "the Democrats" but, given Trump's habit of psychological projection, he may have been aware that the door was swinging the other way.

Now writer E Jean Carroll has made a very credible claim that Donald Trump raped her in the dressing room of a Bergdorf Goodman department store in 1995 or 1996. Carroll even still has the garment, presumably with Trump's DNA, and never has had it cleaned. However, when asked whether she would bring a charge of rape against Trump

No," Carroll said. "I would find it disrespectful to the women who are down on the [Southern] border who are being raped around the clock down there without any protection. They're young women, they, you know, try to come here - as you know, they are there by the thousands. The women have very little protection there; it would just be disrespectful."

"Mine was three minutes; I'm a mature woman, I can handle it. I can keep going," she added. "You know, my life has gone on, I'm a happy woman. But for the women down there - actually, around the world, you know in every culture this is going on. No matter if you are high in society, low in society, this is disrespectful. It just doesn't make sense to me."

If that makes sense to you, you're a smarter person than I am.  (You probably are anyway, but this would almost prove it.)

Trump has denied the accusation, even claiming that he never knew Carroll, belied by a photograph in which the future businessman, actor, and president and his then-wife are seen together with Carroll and the man she was married to at the time. Now, however,  the President has gone further, issuing a statement which includes

If anyone has information that the Democratic Party is working with Ms. Carroll or New York Magazine, please notify us as soon as possible.  The world should know what’s really going on. It is a disgrace and people should pay dearly for such false accusations.

This past week Iran, we are told by intelligence officials, downed a USA drone with a missile in international waters. We were "cocked and loaded," the President said, with a retaliatory strike planned and aborted at the last minute once he was told people would die. Unsure of himself, Trump looks like a fool.

And then this accusation, likely factual and capable of being substantially proven, emerges but the accuser refuses to proceed for reasons she does not clearly explain.   The President, with overtones of his accusation of election rigging by Democrats (while any rigging was going in reverse), accuses Democrats of working with the alleged victim.

Twenty-four hours later, the accusation has gone nowhere, we hear little of Iran, and Donald Trump's strategy has succeeded again.

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Friday, June 21, 2019

McConnell Speaking For Many

On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell responded at a news conference to a question about reparations by stating

Yea, I don't think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for which none of us is currently living are responsible is a good idea. We've tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. Uh, we've elected an African-American president. I think we're always a work in progress in this country but no one currently alive was responsible for that.

There is a lot, a very lot- as the cliche goes- to unpack here.

But the most intriguing point to me is the suggestion that electing an African-American president was one way in which we've tried to "deal with our original sin of slavery."

(Two notes here: That latter point was made in a separate sentence, separated by an "uh" and thus McConnell did not explicitly attribute that election to the original sin of slavery. Additionally, he did not say that we have "dealt" with the sin, only that we've "tried" to deal with it. However, no one else has noticed this, so we'll assume mine is a distinction without a difference.)

At 1:17 here, The Atlantic staff writer Vann Newkirk remarks

The thing that really gets me is the comment about President Obama, the fact that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems to believe that Obama was reparations. That's a tough one for me. I think it was a big thing for African-Americans, uh, 40 acres and a Barack Obama (last phrase barely distinguishable, perhaps "that's not how it works.")

He's right: McConnell does seem to believe that the election of Obama was reparation; it was a big thing for African-Americans; 40 acres and a Barack Obama is not reparation.

But the statement by the second most powerful Republican in the land reflected what a lot of Republicans (and many Independents) believe. Now that Barack Obama was elected, the thinking goes, African-Americans have been paid back. And as a plus, we have proven that America is not racist.

Oh, you protest, most of those people did not actually vote for Obama, but I am not a social psychologist, though sometimes I play one here. But many individuals unsympathetic to demands of minorities for equality believe- nay, feel- that it is done and accomplished.

Of course, the election of Barack Obama to the presidency did no such thing The "original sin" was not wiped out because white America had allowed (as is the perception) a black President. However, it was nearly inevitable that many whites would believe it was.

It is thoroughly understandable especially given  Newkirk's comment "I think it was a big thing for African-Americans." If blacks believe the election of a black President was of tremendous significance, it should not be surprising that whites- who live in the same country- would labor under the misconception.

The attribution of awesome, historic importance to that election is misplaced.  It's misplaced by blacks, by whites who voted against Obama, even by some whites who voted for Barack Obama.

Events of recent years make that clear. Moreover, Joe Biden, currently way out ahead of his rivals in South Carolina (in which approximately half of Democratic primary voters are African-American), says "thank you very much." Although a little harsh about Biden's record and rhetoric about race, Emma Vigeland nevertheless beginning at 1:33 of the video below recognizes the danger posed by the Biden-Obama connection as she remarks

The Democratic front-runner now, someone who's polling well with black Americans, especially older black Americans, is someone who was supportive of segregation at the outset of his career as a legislator. And so we have to have a reckoning, we have to have a conversation about why that is and why maybe name recognition and association with Barack Obama is winning out over his very disastrous rhetoric at the current moment.

If Biden had not been Vice-President to Barack Obama (for whom he professes undying love and loyalty), he would have been rudely escorted from the race by now. That would have occurred even before he bragged about having palled around with white segregationists in the good 'ol days. And his relationship with those rascals was not as congenial as that he has had with the creditcard industry and other powerful financial interests.

The election of Barack Obama did not significantly alter the power structure in government or even in society. But it has had a powerful impact on the attitude of both black and white Americans, a dirty little secret which few very few in the political set are willing to acknowledge. 

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Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Real Problem With Joe Biden

One almost has to feel sorry for Joe Biden. Almost.

The former Delaware senator (sorry, Joe, you're not in any meaningful way from Pennsylvania) recently reminisced about the cordial working relationship he had as legislator with two segregationist colleagues when

“I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” said Biden, reportedly imitating Eastland's southern drawl. “He never called me 'boy,' he always called me 'son.'” Talmadge, he said, was "one of the meanest guys I ever knew."

But according to Biden, despite these differences, "At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don't talk to each other anymore.”

Pulitzer Prize- winning journalist Connie Schultz, wife of Democratic senator Sherrod Brown, denounced Biden's remark, commenting in part "That segregationist never called you “boy” because you are white."  "Joe Biden speaking nostalgically about working with segregationists is halfway to Trent Lott behavior," maintained the New York Times' Jamelle Bouie.

New Jersey senator Cory Booker, like his target a candidate for President, commented "You don't joke about calling black men 'boys.'"  Candidate Bill de Blasio charged "Eastland thought my multiracial family should be illegal &  that whites were entitled to 'the pursuit of dead n*ggers.'"  

Yet another presidential hopeful, Kamala Harris, charged "to coddle the reputations of segregationists, of people who if they had their way I would literally not be standing here as a member of the United States Senate, is, I think, it's just misinformed and it's wrong." (He did coddle their reputation and Harris is a member of the US Senate, but never mind.)

Defiantly, Biden responded "I don't have a racist bone in my body," which probably is true but- notwithstanding what he, Schultz, Booker, de Blasio, and Harris seem to believe- is not the problem with the initial statement, anyway.

Consider Booker's criticism, aside from that of Biden's comedic stylings, that "I have to tell Vice President Biden, as someone I respect, that he is wrong for using his relationships with Eastland and Talmadge as examples of how to bring our country together."

The campaign slogan of Richard Nixon, master of the Southern Strategy, was "bring us together."  Another President promised the night before his inauguration "we're going to unify our country" and in his inauguration speech declared

The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly , but always pursue solidarity.When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.

That man was (and is) Donald J. Trump.

When a politician promises to unify people or the country, hold on to your wallet. He (or she) is coming to fleece you.  The danger posed by the election of Joseph R. Biden is not that he does not want to unify the nation, nor that he doesn't want to do so. It is that it his primary goal.

In early June, the ex-vice president argued "With Trump gone, you're going to begin to see things change. Because these folks know better. They know this isn't what they're supposed to be doing."  This was no slip of the tongue, for a month earlier he had boasted  "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."

Now this week, evidently (to some; see above) hidden in the midst of an arguably insensitive racial remark, the candidate suggests that not only was Senator Biden able to work cordially with political opponents but that President Biden would, also.

Bipartisanship is such a charming concept, one beckoned by the allure of "shame."  Segregationist senators and Senator Biden may have enjoyed, even prospered in, the collegiality of a bygone era. However, it is decades later, and Charlie Pierce recognizes

Here with a rebuttal is an actual concept: President Donald J. Trump. Here with another rebuttal is a sadly imaginary concept: Supreme Court Justice Merrick Garland. Damn, Joe. You were there, my dude. You were doing more than just putting on the Ray-Bans in viral videos.

He is not a racist, but those Ray-Bans appear to have transformed into rose-colored glasses.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Immigration Issues For The Debate

Roque Planas reports in Huffington Post that California senator Kamala Harris "is now a leading foe of President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown." However, when she was state Attorney General

From 2011 to 2013, as pro-immigrant California activists and legislators struggled to pass a trailblazing, statewide sanctuary law called the Trust Act over the objections of then-Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and the Obama administration, Harris remained largely silent.

Harris, however, is currently only one of 23 candidates, albeit one of the five leading Democratic contenders for the presidency. Her ambiguous record toward immigration policy, though, raises a larger issue about immigration (and beyond), one which should be raised by the hosts of the upcoming debates. Planas explains

Under President Barack Obama, deportations from the interior of the country had climbed to the highest levels recorded since the mass expulsion of the 1950s. That increase was driven by Secure Communities, a program that requires local police to share the fingerprints of arrested migrants with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE, in turn, slaps local arrestees with a request to hold them in jail on the feds’ behalf, even if their charges are dropped or they are eligible to bond out.

At the upcoming debates, the NBC/MSNBC moderators can ask general questions, thus soliciting general answers which mean little. Fortunately, on immigration at least, they can ask specific questions. 

One of these would be whether the candidates believe that local authorities should be required to offer to ICE the fingerprints of any individuals who are arrested and/or whether they believe that accused misdemeanants or felons should be held for any length of time for the agency.

But an even more important question, because it suggests a much larger issue, would be the use of private prisons.  The private prison industry has grown substantially in the past two decades, and Mother Jones' Madison Pauly notes that nearly three-quarters of individuals detained for immigration violations now are held in private prisons. Further

Between 2002, when the Department of Homeland Security was created, and 2017, the total number of immigrants arrested by ICE and apprehended by the Border Patrol fell by more than half, correlating with lower levels of illegal immigration. Yet the average daily population of US detention centers nearly doubled.

While profits in the private prison industry have grown because immigrant detainees, it is likely also that the detention of immigrants has grown because of the prominence of private prisons. If Democrats are sincere in wanting to curb the lock-'em-up policy toward immigrants, they need to come out decisively in opposition to private detention.

The issue of private prisons extends beyond immigrants, however. Although employed primarily for (presumably) illegal entrants, for-profit centers are utilized also to house inmates in the general population, thus encouraging Judges to incarcerate defendants. If Democrats are intent on reforming the criminal justice system, they need to advocate the elimination of private prisons, for immigrants and for the native-born population. A debate is a good place to start.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Open Book

It has become famous now, the video in which

Trump, during an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that aired Sunday, was in the middle of telling the journalist about releasing a financial statement when Mulvaney sounded off a cough that can be heard during the President's remark.

"Let's do that over. He's coughing in the middle of my answer," Trump said, pointing toward Mulvaney.

"Yeah. OK," Stephanopoulos said.

"I don't like that, you know, I don't like that," Trump said, as Stephanopoulos notes that the cough is from "your chief of staff."

"If you're going to cough, please leave the room. You just can't, you just can't cough," Trump said, shaking his head. "Boy, oh boy."

The camera then swings around as the crew works to rearrange and restart the shot. A crew member tells the President that "we just changed the angle."

Trump then briefly looks directly into the camera before finishing his answer....

CNN legal analyst Gloria Borger had an interesting take, remarking

this is a reality TV star who became president of the United States....he's used to taping hours and hours of interviews. He did 30 with George Stephanopoulos and having it cut down. So he said, stop. What he didn't expect was for ABC to use that....

Suppose, however, that Borger inadvertently flipped the script (pun intended). Consider the possibility that, as a former (Un)Reality TV star Donald Trump knew exactly what he was doing and how it would be perceived. If so, he would be showing a bad side of himself- a rude, intolerant germaphobe who enjoys humiliating subordinates- and was only too happy to do so.

He might then let it all hang out, be transparently reprehensible, on a different topic. He might even come up with is that at the end of 6 years, after America has been made GREAT again and I leave the beautiful White House (do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? KEEP AMERICA GREAT), both of these horrible papers will quickly go out of business & be forever gone!

Do not avert your eyes or be distracted by the question "do you think the people would demand that I stay longer?" It's entirely rhetorical. Many supporters of his would demand, unprompted, that he stay longer. And strengthened by eight years in the White House- and the disappearance of America's two greatest newspapers- President Trump's bullhorn would be the loudest and strongest in the nation.

The bully pulpit would be maximized and utilized as never before.  And why not? He will have earned it, after eighteen months of (initial) campaigning and eight years of ruling in which he will have made it clear who- no, what- he is.

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Monday, June 17, 2019

Carrying Out Trump's Agenda

Six days before the last presidential election, Mick Mulvaney admitted "yes, I'm supporting Donald Trump. I'm doing so as enthusiastically as I can given the fact that I think he's a terrible human being."

In Mulvaney's defense, he said two accurate and honest things: 1) Donald Trump is a terrible human being; and 2) he was, very likely, supporting Trump as enthusiastically as possible.  That's a reasonable conclusion given that, Mulvaney, head of the Office of Management and Budget, acting White House chief of staff, and director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has

fired the agency’s 25-member advisory board Wednesday, days after some of its members criticized his leadership of the watchdog agency.

The CFPB said it will revamp the Consumer Advisory Board, known as the CAB, in the fall with all new members.

The panel has traditionally played an influential role in advising the CFPB’s leadership on new regulations and policies. But some members, who include prominent consumer advocates, academics and industry executives, began to complain that Mulvaney was ignoring them and making unwise decisions about the agency’s future.

You will be shocked! shocked! to learn that one of Donald Trump's appointees has apparently been playing footsie with the law:

On Monday, 11 CAB members held a news conference and criticized Mulvaney for, among other things, canceling legally required meetings with the group.

On Wednesday, group members were notified that they were being replaced — and that they could not reapply for spots on the new board.

And where "stakeholders" is spelled "banks, mortgage institutions, real estate companies," etc.

In a statement, the agency’s spokesman, John Czwartacki, took a final swipe at the group. “The outspoken members of the Consumer Advisory Board seem more concerned about protecting their taxpayer funded junkets to Washington, D.C., and being wined and dined by the Bureau than protecting consumers,” he said.

Revamping the board is part of the CFPB’s new approach to reaching out to stakeholders to “increase high quality feedback,” the bureau said in an email to the group. The CFPB will hold more town halls and roundtable discussions, the letter said, and the new CAB will have fewer members.

When Mulvaney was Representative Mulvaney, he labeled the CFBB a joke and wanted its activism on behalf of American consumers restricted. And so

“Mick Mulvaney has no intention of putting consumers above financial firms that cheat them. This is what happens when you put someone in charge of an agency they think shouldn’t exist,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who helped conceive of the bureau, said in a statement.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said: “Mulvaney has proven once again he would rather cozy up with payday lenders and industry insiders than listen to consumer advocates who want to make sure hard-working Americans are not cheated by financial scams.”

Mulvaney already had

stripped enforcement powers from a CFPB unit responsible for pursuing discrimination cases and proposed that lawmakers curb the agency’s powers.

Last week, Mulvaney sided with payday lenders who sued the CFPB to block implementation of new industry regulations. The CFPB filed a joint motion with the payday lenders asking the judge to delay the case until the bureau completes a review of the rules, which could take years.

Firing current members of the advisory board is a huge red flag in this administration’s ongoing erosion of critical consumer financial protections that help average families,” said Chi Chi Wu, an attorney for the National Consumer Law Center who has been a board member since 2016.

 The Consumer Advisory Board is required under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial law. Members also included the head of retail banking at Citi, the founder of NerdWallet and a director at Texas Appleseed, a public interest law center. Members of two other boards — the Community Bank Advisory Council and the Credit Union Advisory Council — were also dismissed.

A year ago, Mulvaney declared "we are still Elizabeth Warren's baby. Until we break that we will never be considered a gold standard institution." We have a better idea now what Mulvaney- and Trump- would consider "gold standard." "After Trump's election," Emily Bazelon writes in The New York Times magazine

(Elizabeth) Warren and (Bernie) Sanders said that if Trump followed through on his promise to rebuild the economy for workers and their families, they would help. If Trump had championed labor over corporations, he could have scrambled American politics by creating new alliances. But that version of his presidency didn’t come to pass.

It didn't come to pass with President Reagan nor the presidents Bush and, with Mick Mulvaney's assistance, it's full steam ahead for corporate America with consumers getting run over in the process.

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Sunday, June 16, 2019

Americans Kill Americans

Donald Trump says the USA needs a new President. More, he suggests we need one as soon as possible: Reacting to a 24- hour spree in London of three stabbings and one shooting resulting in three deaths, the leader of the free world has tweeted "LONDON needs a new mayor ASAP. Khan is a disaster - will only get worse!

Trump previously had denounced Mayor Saddiq Khan, not in the least because the latter is a Muslim.  Responding to Trump's remark

In Great Britain, guns don't kill people- and neither do people kill people, generally. Recognizing that the knife is the weapon of choice there, Klass nonetheless further notes

If you just look at the murder rate — regardless of weapon — the murder rate in the US is roughly 5.35 per 100,000 inhabitants. In England & Wales, it’s 1.22. So the UK murder rate is 4.4x lower than the US murder rate. And it’s largely because of easy access to guns.

Whatever other reasons there might be for disinclination of Britons to shoot each other

Great Britain has some of the most stringent gun control laws in the world.  The main law is from the late 1960s, but it was amended to restrict gun ownership further in the latter part of the twentieth century in response to massacres that involved lawfully licensed weapons.  Handguns are prohibited weapons and require special permission.  Firearms and shotguns require a certificate from the police for ownership, and a number of criteria must be met, including that the applicant has a good reason to possess the requested weapon. Self-defense or a simple wish to possess a weapon is not considered a good reason.

Admittedly, Great Britain has an unfair advantage over the United States. It has no Second Amendment to misinterpret, as we have done routinely in the USA.   And knives are simply not as efficient at killing strangers, acquaintances, and loved ones as are firearms.  So if Sadiq Khan needs to be replaced as mayor of London, surely the inadequate and pathetic Donald Trump is  no more as a President than he is as a human being.

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Saturday, June 15, 2019

Weak And Wrong Thus Far

Watch Bill Maher on Real Time make a very bad point (Democrats can impeach President Trump merely because he said he would take dirt about a campaign opponent without reporting it to the FBI) and later a very good point.

Listen as New York Times editorial board member Bari Weiss, evidently pining for the days of the Tip and Ronnie show and never having noticed Mitch McConnell, remarkably comment "let's focus on restoring the country, not tearing it apart." Watch conservative Republican and Never Trumper Charlie Sykes recognize the Democratic Party as "feckless" and "gutless," noting "if you're not potted plants, if you're serious about your constitutional responsibility, you need to have this impeachment."

Most of all, view former New York State Attorney General recommend Democrats not begin impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump, afterward inadvertently making a particularly strong argument in favor of doing just that.

The fun begins at 18:03 of the video below. But at 18:37 Spitzer intriguingly comments

I want to make a different point. I was a prosecutor for a lot of years. I wouldn't want to bring a case I wasn't going to win and the House can vote for impeachment (but the Senate wouldn't convict).

They are not analogous situations, especially because impeachment is both legal and political in nature, but the argument is not without merit.  However, a few moments later (at 23:59), Spritzer would undermine his own argument by maintaining

You're right about all that. So let's vote an article of impeachment. Pass a budget. Pass a gun control bill. Pass a good environmental bill. Pass an infrastructure bill. Pass a tax reform bill. That's- the House should do stuff that affects votes in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Then we have a policy to run on. Then we win.

They've done that. As of late May, the Democratic-controlled House had passed 49 bills, resolutions, and suspensions. But Senate Majority Leader McConnell is the self-proclaimed "Grim Reaper" and virtually everything has died in the Senate.

Nonetheless, House Democrats have continued, will continue, and should continue to legislate. It's not only right and proper, but also good politics. Similarly, initiating impeachment activity in the House is not the right thing to do only because the standard for lawlessness should not be set in the White House. Democrats also must demonstrate to voters that they are not going to sit on their hands, and that when they control one-half of one branch of government, they will not shrink from doing what has to be done.

If an impeachment resolution is approved, it very likely will die in the Senate. However, the public will have viewed- endlessly- witnesses in the House Judiciary Committee describing deep and extensive lawbreaking and abuse of power in the presidency. Watching Senate Republicans condone a president demonstrated to have committed obstruction of justice to cover up collusion with a foreign enemy would be quite entertaining. If Majority Leader McConnell short-circuits the process in the Senate, it will be clear he has subverted the will of the people. The public will see Democrats acting and Republicans sabotaging.

That is how "we win."  And that is why Maher (though he meant "change" rather than "lead') was dead-on when he noted of avoiding an impeachment inquiry is folly because

We don't know what the right politics is because they go by the polls and again, Republicans lead polls, Democrats follow polls.  If they would do that, maybe they would change the polls because because it (i.e., dodging impeachment) looks weak and the problem is the Democrats always look weak. 

Bill Clinton believed voters respond to politicians who are "strong and wrong than someone who's weak and right." Strong and right works, too.

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Friday, June 14, 2019

Don't Call It Treason

Circumstances change so quickly in the Trump era that by the time something is published, it's almost out-of-date.  Scholars at Stanford University have issued a report citing methods which could be used to protect the democratic process and on Tuesday the Washington Post editorial board wrote

Measures also could be taken to hamper Russia’s efforts to manipulate the American public online. Foreign states and individuals should be barred from purchasing online advertisements intended to influence the electorate, even when they are not expressly advocating for or against a candidate. Something like the Honest Ads Act is also necessary to require that platforms reveal who paid for political ads that do run — using the names of responsible individuals, rather than only opaque organizations. Social media sites should establish an official body to coordinate with each other and the government about threats, which might require a law lowering the barriers to sharing information.

All this is only a start, and it represents but a handful of those 45 recommendations the Stanford report authors have to offer, yet it is still bounds beyond what the government has managed so far. The United States has not given Russia or any other would-be meddler any real reason to stop meddling. It would help, of course, to have a president willing to admit the problem instead of papering it over with the chief perpetrator. It is a dereliction of duty for Congress and the administration not to take up on a most urgent basis the defense of the nation’s democratic process.

The President is no longer "papering it over." The very next day we learned that President Trump, asked by ABC News' George Stephanopoulos whether he'd take information offered to him about a campaign opponent by a foreign nation, had stated

It's not an interference, they have information -- I think I'd take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I'd go maybe to the FBI -- if I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, 'oh let's call the FBI.' The FBI doesn't have enough agents to take care of it. When you go and talk, honestly, to congressman, they all do it, they always have, and that's the way it is. It's called oppo research.

It's not "papering over" when a candidate practically begs a foreign power for dirt on a political candidate. Similarly, Congress cannot be cited for "dereliction of duty." On Thursday, Republican senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee stated “All of us know, if you were to ever be contacted by a foreign entity, your first call is the FBI. I don’t care if it’s Russia, Norway, China, whomever."
If it is Donald Trump receiving the information, however, the above is inoperable. Then she

blocked an effort to pass a bill requiring political campaigns to report to the FBI any offers of foreign assistance.

After President Donald Trump said he would welcome information from a foreign government about his opponents in the 2020 election, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) tried to pass the bill on the Senate floor via unanimous consent. Blackburn prevented unanimous consent by raising an objection to the measure....

It’s already illegal for electoral campaigns to knowingly accept help from a foreign entity or power. Warner’s bill would also mandate that campaigns report such an offer of foreign assistance to federal authorities.

Blackburn objected to the legislation, however, arguing that it would pose an “overbroad” burden on campaigns. The senator claimed that it would apply to campaign workers on “so many different levels” ― from vendors to door knockers to phone bankers. And she said she worried about how the bill would affect Dreamers ― undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children ― who sign up to volunteer for political campaigns.

Blackburn added that, of course, “no one wants foreign interference of any type” in U.S. elections.

Warner responded by calling his colleague’s reading of the bill “not accurate.”

“The only thing that would have to be reported is if the agent of a foreign government or national offered something that was already prohibited,” he said.

Can you imagine a GOP politician lying?  Donald Trump has set the standard and it's going to be impossible for a member of his party to catch up. That applies even to Marsha Blackburn, who has a questionable history, having probably met with Alexander Torshin and other Russian nationals in her home state, and not to discuss the Tennessee Titans defensive line.

It's time for The Washington Post or other news outlets to recognize that "fair" no longer is balanced or accurate. One party in Washington condones foreign interference in American elections.  One politician in Washington, supported wholeheartedly by his party, asked Russians to interfere with the last presidential election and on Wednesday invited them to do so again.

It's not as if the Republican officials are committing treason. They are not giving aid and comfort to an enemy, because Russia is not a declared enemy of the USA. But they've decided that they cannot, as the USA currently is constituted and increasingly will be constituted, win free and fair elections. They are not traitors, merely proxies for Russia.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Evolving Into Falsehood

The Hill reports

A Democratic Nevada lawmaker is defending former Vice President Joe Biden after the 2020 White House hopeful flip-flipped on a controversial measure that blocks federal funding for certain abortion services.

“Like any politician, the vice president has evolved in his positions and reconfirmed his commitment to woman’s right to choose and has reaffirmed that he wants to work with women to craft the best policies for women’s reproductive health rights,” Sen. Yvanna Cancela (D) told Hill.TV in an interview that aired Tuesday in response to a question over Biden's decision to renounce his past support for the Hyde Amendment.

“I believe in his sincerity and wanting to do what’s best for women as they make decisions over their bodies,” Cancela added.

There is nothing that says "sincerity" better than a politician with a 47-year career in and about Washington, D.C. opposing Medicaid funding of abortion one night and announcing the next night that he has discovered there are states trying to block a woman's choice.

But in a larger sense: can we have done with the  "evolve" dodge? To his credit, Biden did not claim to have "evolved" on public financing or abortion in the manner that Barack Obama suddenly "evolved" into supporting same-sex marriage three days after Vice President Biden came out in favor. However, the former vice-president admits neither that his previous position put him at odds with Democratic voters, nor  that he had been wrong for so long.

Evolution is "a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better state." More simply, it is "the gradual development of something." It is not something which happens in the space of 24 hours, as in the case of Biden, or in the case of Obama, probably an opinion he had held for many years.

Whenever a candidate or his/her campaign has claimed the candidate has "evolved," the timing must be questioned and explored. And if that's too much effort, pundits can characterize it, almost certainly accurately, as a "lie."

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Re-Election Critical

Steve M. believes Donald Trump

wants to win because he wants to win. He doesn't want to win because he wants to do the job of president. He just wants to be president, because if he's president, that means you're not. If he won reelection, that means some loser lost to him.

There is only one thing, Steve seems to understand, that Donald Trump likes better than winning- seeing someone else lose. That may be because, as this twitterer points out, "the thing about Trump is he believes morality is a con and no one is any better than him, not really, not deep down."

Psychoanalysis aside, the major reason that Donald Trump wants to be re-elected is that it is the only way to assure (virtually) that he won't land up in prison..

Kim Wehle, a law professor and former associate independent counsel in the White water investigation, has explained

there is, in general, a five-year statute of limitations for federal crimes. It’s not hard to do the math. If Trump fails to win a second term, he will become a private citizen the day he leaves office. Federal offenses committed within the five preceding years could still be charged. This period of time would include the months leading up to the 2016 election during which Russians, Wikileaks and people connected to the Trump campaign took steps to collaborate around election-related data that would damage Hillary Clinton and help Trump....

Based only on the thin slice of publicly available facts, it’s possible the Department of Justice has amassed sufficient evidence to charge Trump with additional crimes relating to:

-Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, including conspiracy to defraud the United States
obstruction of justice regarding special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation

-campaign finance-related crimes stemming from the Trump inaugural committee
witness tampering in connection with congressional investigations

-financial crimes relating to Trump’s personal taxes or the Trump Organization, including possible tax fraud, bank fraud or money laundering

Although Wehle wrote this four months ago, nothing in the Mueller investigation diminishes the likelihood of mounting one or more strong cases of criminal prosecution against private citizen Donald J. Trump.

He's not stupid, as recent events have demonstrated. President Trump now has either leveraged a threat of imposing tariffs against Mexico to gain concessions on Mexico or instead "cut a vague, imperfect or constitutionally questionable deal at the last minute, claiming victory and savaging the critics."

Whether a strategic victory or one of his many cons, the President accomplished what he set out to do. Someone able to pull that off is smart enough to know that it's better to win and be considered immune from prosecution than to lose and be prosecuted, probably not living long enough to be justly sentenced to prison.

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Monday, June 10, 2019

Confiscating Illegal Firearms

The New Republic's Alex Shephard notes

In broad strokes, Democratic candidates tend to support universal health care, large investments to fight the oncoming climate catastrophe, increasing taxes on the wealthy, and democratic reforms aimed at guaranteeing broad voter access.

In the broadest of strokes, Democratic candidates support also gun safety legislation.Removing firearms from individuals who should not be in possession of them should be a major priority of presidential candidates. 

At first glance, it is. On National Gun Violence Awareness Day, twelve Democratic candidates tweeted out their opposition to people being killed by firearms.  (If this seems like the least they can do, consider that President Trump was silent.... and that there actually are 23 Democratic presidential candidates.)

Proposals could include expansion of background checks; raising the minimum age for purchase; a ban on assault weapons; "red flag laws"; and licensing of gun owners, as recently advocated by Cory Booker.

And at least one other thing, which never will be recommended: stop-and-frisk.

The federal government could encourage jurisdictions, perhaps with grants, to implement stop-and-frisk policies for the sole purpose of confiscating illegal weapons and the individuals who possess them.

There must be two conditions, however. The procedure would have to include measures to ensure that it does not violate the US Constitution by being racially discriminatory. Additionally, it must preclude any arrest or summons for violation of any law, most notably for possession and/or distribution of illegal drugs.

Determining which areas are subject to stop and frisk can be determined objectively, considering such factors as the rate of gun violence and the prevalence of street gangs.  Nonetheless, the program should be monitored to ensure that within any one area, individuals are stopped and searched randomly or in some such manner so that it doesn't involve a disproportionate number of individuals of any ethnic group, unless there is an awfully good reason related to public safety.

Nor can the program be perverted or distorted to be an anti-drug initiative or even one directed toward crime in general. It would be a gun safety measure, with the goal of getting illegal firearms out of the community with the ancillary aim of arresting and prosecuting individuals who have violated gun laws.

Republicans are frightened, or supportive of, the National Rifle Association, and confiscation of guns from dangerous persons is not something that organization would tolerate.  And Democrats have de facto sworn off any policy which can be legitimately or illegitimately criticized as racist. Alas, the latter includes any policy which could disproportionately inconvenience young black males, even while it probably would disproportionately benefit African-American neighborhoods.

It won't happen. But it should.

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Sunday, June 09, 2019

Be Not Proud Of Heart

It is Sunday, a day for a Sunday-style post.

A few months ago, Trivago magazine listed eleven gay pride parades "where you can be loud and be proud" (also, Warsaw).  On Friday, Red State's Brandon Morse maintained of the "Straight Pride Parade" being planned for later this year in Boston

You can have a parade for all sorts of reasons, and having one to celebrate heterosexuality isn’t a horrible reason to have a parade. A lot of people are straight and like being straight. They may want to celebrate the idea of two members of the opposite sex coming together to form a union that has the potential to create life. It’s a common phenomenon, but it’s still pretty amazing when you think about it.

Therefore, it might- but shouldn't- surprise you that Morse maintains "I don’t care if someone legally organizes a parade around being homosexual. As long as I’m not forced to attend it or promote it, then have at it."

So Morse is down with both a gay pride parade- now  commonly known as "pride parade" ("gay" being redundant, apparently)- and with parades boasting heterosexuality.

Wrong on both counts, guy.

Until a few years ago, there existed a common- and largely winning- argument that gay people should not be denied the rights of straight people because sexual orientation was not a choice. Virtually no one chose to be gay any more than one chose to be straight.

Now we apparently are to believe otherwise.  Being "proud" of a sexual orientation- homosexual or heterosexual- one did not choose but had imposed upon him or her belies the concept of pride.

One can be generally proud of a son, a daughter, a parent, or any relative upon whom he or she has had an impact. And it is legitimate to be proud of personal accomplishments such as earning a college degree, being promoted at work, scoring 40 points in a basketball game, or losing the weight the doctor recommended.

But if you are proud because of the way you were born or, as Jeremiah had it, as you were formed in the womb (best anti-abortion rights argument; not good enough), you are distorting the concept of pride.

Endorsing an Old Testament proverb, James, probably the brother of Jesus and son of Mary, asserted "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." But now we are to credit an individual, a mere mortal, with being gay or alternatively, with being straight. Our sexual orientation, most scholarship confirms, is a status assigned to us by biology, or to many Bible-believing Christians, God.  It is not a choice or decision, thus rightfully denying us grounds for pride.

Unsurprisingly, Morse believes "straightness" is "just a sexual preference." However, "preference" is the "power or opportunity of choice." But I no more chose to be straight than participants in any of those eleven (or more) pride parades chose to be gay. 

If they did, then they should celebrate their accomplishment while straight men and women can celebrate their own. Otherwise, there is no cause for pride- or shame- on the part of either heterosexuals or homosexuals.

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Saturday, June 08, 2019

Deeply Religious On Wednesday

Nate Silver tweets "it's kinda weird for left-wing pundits to drag Biden for flipping toward the positions they wanted him to adopt."

So let me say: good for Joe Biden to reverse his position on the Hyde Amendment. As a fine reporter with (virtually) no vowels in her surname has recalled

Biden voted against a 1977 compromise that allowed Medicaid to fund abortions that included exceptions for victims of rape and incest in addition to concerns for the life of the mother. While the rape and incest exceptions passed in that case, Biden voted in 1981 to again remove them, in what was the most far-reaching ban on federal funds ever enacted by Congress.

On Wednesday night, campaign co-chairperson Cedric Richmond told Chris Cuomo

I think the Vice President (has) been very consistent over his career in the sense since 1976 when the Hyde Amendment became law that he is a deeply religious man- I think everyone knows that- and he's got it by his faith. And his position on the Hyde Amendment has been consistent.

In 2012, V.P. candidate Joe Biden maintained "I accept church rule personally, but not in public life."  By stating the candidate "is a deeply religious man" and "he's got it (opinion of the Amendment) by faith," Representative Richmond was accurately transmitting the Biden stance toward abortion rights.

Although the Church's position has evolved toward a more hostile view of abortion rights over the centuries, it has in the recent path taken a fairly consistent position toward of abortion rights. It has variously been seen ungenerously as anti-woman- or extremely generously as promoting a "seamless garment" reflecting a "consistent life ethic."

However the Church is viewed, if a politician maintains (as does Biden) that he or she is  personally pro-life, it suggests a conviction that the fetus is worthy of protection against a woman's decision to end its life. 

As of Thursday night, in Joe Biden's case, not so much. Twenty-four hours after Richmond attributed opposition to the Hyde Amendment to the candidate's religious faith, Biden pleaded "If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone's ZIP code."

Conventional wisdom and the law of parsimony would have it that Biden's epiphany smacks of opportunism. It may indeed but, counter-intuitively, that may be overly generous to the former Vice-President.

It could be something else, which few would be so ill-mannered as to dare broach. If Biden's view of abortion were informed by his religious faith, that faith seems to have dissipated in the course of approximately 24 hours.

Perhaps it was not his faith after all, but by something else. It may have been the instinct of a man who has through much of his political career believed that touching a woman (occasionally a man) whenever he wishes was his natural right. Or it simply may have been from ideological conviction, as it is with many people.

We cannot perfectly discern Biden's motivation, then or now, and his newfound faith in a woman's right to choose should be welcomed.  But we can question motivation when someone's stated opinion changes abruptly, especially when the individual has in the past attributed his feelings to religious faith. If we do not, we trivialize religious faith- in this case, Roman Catholicism- as much as Joseph R. Biden inadvertently has done.

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Friday, June 07, 2019

"Never Send A Marine To Do A Hit Man's Job"

Like any would-be fascist, Donald Trump can sense weakness.On Monday, Michael Wolff, author of "Siege- Trump Under Fire," told Lawrence O'Donnell (in the first part of a two-part interview) that President Trump

thought from the beginning he could take Robert Mueller.  He says I know this guy.  I know this kind of guy.  You know, he`s too separate as I said, he said he`s got no game.

And I think he sensed that.  He sense this had as a weakness in the special prosecutor.  He sensed that he could be – you know, by saying a witch hunt, witch hunt, witch hunt, he could be the person that Robert Mueller was essentially would say, you know, this is a crazy man and how to predict what a crazy man will do.  And that`s a scary thing.

Asked by O'Donnell about Steve Bannon, Wolff replies

And he says never send a marine to do a hit man`s job.  I think he sees this as Steve understood, you know, Robert Mueller is there as to – as an institutional guy to protect an institution.  And Donald Trump is perfectly willing to destroy an institution.

Robert Mueller played right into the President's game. The next evening, Ari Melber reported that according to "Siege," the Special Counsel's office had investigated whether the President could directly (as well as indirectly) fire the Special Counsel and whether he could dismiss the Special Counsel if the purpose were to impede an investigation. The staff concluded that the President could do either or both.

Wolff had told O'Donnell

What happens to the work product they ask if they are fired?  Well, the chances that it could be – the possibility is it could be completely destroyed.

They go through one of these one after another of these contingencies, nothing with a positive result.  And one of the things that I think happened here or one of the things that I feel might well have happened here is Robert Mueller looked at this and said, you know, this guy, Donald Trump could bring the house down,  could bring the temple down.

Describing the Special Counsel as an institutionalist concerned with the house burning down is fairly generous. The intrepid, courageous Marine was intimidated by a President who realized that was his only way to head off a report that would lead to removal from office, if not prosecution. As Elie Mystal explained to Melber

It's like the old Mike Tyson thing, where he would win the fight before he got into the ring because people were scared of him. Mueller- and I think this gets to this institutionalist aspect of Mueller's investigation- he was more concerned with the institution, with his own part of the store, than he was with the rest of the house burning down.

 Mystal noted that Mueller had forgotten the advice traditionally given to football players by their coaches: "stop worrying about what they're going to do to you and start worrying about what you're going to do to them." Instead, Robert Mueller was cowed by a President who knew only intimidation of the Special Counsel stood between him and report which would lead to his removal from office and/or prosecution. "Mueller," Melber recognized, "clearly played the game not to lose." In so doing, he made sure Donald Trump would win, and the suspicion grows that that was no accident.

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Threaten And Win

Police procedures vary widely depending on circumstances. Understandably Seventy people were arrested outside of The New York Ti...