Saturday, August 31, 2019

A Very Odd Blessing

Earlier this year, Executive Director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty Amanda Tyler very quaintly remarked

Christians should beware of a political use of the word "savior," which goes to the very heart of our faith. This particular statement is a gross expression of Christian nationalism, which I define as equating Christian and American identities.  People of faith know that God is much larger than any one candidate, party, election or country.

By that old-fashioned notion, there aren't many people of faith (at least among whites) left.  It appears she was responding to Donald Trump's campaign manager:
We've learned recently how thoroughly self-serving Parscale's claim of divinity for Donald Trump is.  On Friday, ABC News reported

A digital data firm connected to President Donald Trump’s campaign manager has received more than $900,000 in business from a pro-Trump super PAC, a low profile financial entanglement that could renew questions from critics about whether the senior advisor, Brad Parscale, found discreet ways to profit from his work for the president.

Parscale told ABC News that the contractor, called Red State Data and Digital, LLC, was not a secret and that the firm complied completely with election laws and was primarily working to support congressional candidates during the 2018 midterms.

“Complaints about Red State are simply another attempt to smear President Trump by attacking those who work for him,” Parscale said.

Just last week, the Trump campaign objected angrily to a tabloid news report indicating Parscale was using the spoils of his political work to purchase millions of dollars in real estate and luxury cars. The campaign said Parscale’s wealth began to accrue from work that predated the launch of Trump’s 2016 presidential bid.

Obviously, President Trump is smeared repeatedly by his own words and behavior. But Christianity is also being smeared, by Trump himself and periodically by people such as Parscale who are associated with him.

Jesus reportedly stated "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." However, if Christian leaders do not accept responsibility that Tyler has to speak out against Brad Parscale, Donald Trump, Franklin Graham (who vehemently condemned President Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky) and other poseurs, there will be ever fewer people interested in reading any words of Jesus.

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Friday, August 30, 2019

The Time Has Come

On Thursday's "Dateline White House," Nicole Wallace, White House communications Director for George W. Bush, led a discussion about an upcoming book by James Mattis. Mattis tendered to President Trump his resignation as Secretary of Defense late last year and part of the excerpt-which bears upon the role(s) of Wallace's former boss and his successor- shown by Wallace read

Nations with allies thrive, and those without them wither. Alone, America cannot protect our people and our economy. At this time, we can see storm clouds gathering. A polemicist's role is not sufficient for a leader.

Well-meaning, Wallace remarked

It is abundantly clear, if you take that statement from Mattis at the beginning with Mattis' letter- he resigned in a policy dispute with Donald Trump over the precipitous withdrawal of troops from Syria.... With that excerpt from the book, you have to me perhaps the most subtle but the most stinging rebuke of Donald Trump.

Yes and no, respectively. The American people, aside from a portion of individuals which voted against Donald Trump in 2016, do not do subtle. After Eugene Robinson (who mailed it in years ago) responded "exactly" and went on to say whatever he said, it was left to MattMiller to explain

I hate to be a contrarian. I have a great deal of respect for General Mattis; he's a great patriot. That essay left me thoroughly unimpressed, probably for the word you used- it was too subtle.

There are a lot of reasons that Donald Trump is President today. But one of the reasons is there are too many people that decided "it's not my fight to take him on: and I think Jim Mattis has decided it's not his fight to take him on.

Everyone in this country who knows how unfit Donald Trump is for this office has the responsibility to say something about it and do something about it but that responsibility is higher for those who served in that Administration and really know- really saw first-hand just how unfit he is for that office And I don't think this is the time for Jim Mattis to be subtle. I think this is time for him to tell the American public this man is not fit to be President and I know he probably thinks it inappropriate for him as a former military leader, and I know he's been marshaling his credibility, and his reputation, his integrity his entire life and this is the time to use it.

Miller was talking about James Mattis- but he might as well have been referring to someone else additionally. Wallace responded

Someone asks me once a week the same question about George W Bush- where's George Bush and why doesn't he same something? And I'm sure they ask Valerie Jarrett about Obama, too. And I mean, I take your point about people who have seen him up close- but you could say the same thing about HR McMaster, Dina Powell, Rex Tillerson ....

Bush is a former President and thus bears some responsibility. But it has been nine years since he left office, and President Trump's every move is not predicated on "what did President Bush do and how can I undo it?"

The Trump Administration has rolled back regulations on methane-emission rules. Predictably and justifiably, environmentalists and climate activists have denounced the move.  However, reaction from the fossil fuel industry has not been universally positive because it is a boon to oil and gas interests at the expense of natural gas. It is

the latest in a series of aggressive moves by the administration to roll back regulations imposed by the administration of former President Obama.

The EPA in June finalized plans for replacing Obama-era regulations on emissions from coal-fired power plants. Administrator Andrew Wheeler also signed the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, which gives individual states wide discretion to decide whether to require limited efficiency upgrades at individual coal-fired power plants.

Why, of course: Obama did it, and so it must be undone.  It's not enough for Barack Obama that candidate Trump and his surrogates routinely denounced the 44th President during the presidential campaign and that Trump's Administration, in its ideological extremism and commitment to corruption stands in stark contrast to "no-drama Obama."

President Trump seeks to implement policies through regulation and deregulation, Executive Orders and legislation as a means to rebuke Barack Obama. He is authorized to do, constrained only by constitution and law, and will do so, unconstrained. 

In an interview for the October issue of The Atlantic, James Mattis stated "There is a period in which I owe my silence. It’s not eternal. It’s not going to be forever." As Matt Miller told the MSNBC audience, "this is the time" for Mattis. But it's time also for someone else who has been  marshaling his credibility, reputation, and integrity, and it's a former President who is not short, a Texan, and bearing the name "Bush."

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Thursday, August 29, 2019

As Usual

In Tuesday's crossover from The Rachel Maddow Show to The Last Word, Lawrence O'Donnell stated

And this single source close to Deutsche Bank has told me that the Trump-Donald Trump's loan documents there show that he has co-signers. That's how he was able to obtain those loans. And that the co-signers are Russian oligarchs.

That would explain, it seems to me, every kind word Donald Trump has ever said about Russia and Vladimir Putin, if true, and I stress the if true part of this.

Trump family attorney Charles Harder on Wednesday threatened to sue the network unless the latter chose to "retract, correct and apologize for" what he contended were completely false remarks. In response, or simply because MSNBC is a credible news organization, O'Donnell later led his program with

Last night on this show, I discussed information that wasn’t ready for reporting. I repeated statements a single source told me about the president’s finances and loan documents with Deutsche Bank, saying “if true” as I discussed the information was simply not good enough. I did not go through the rigorous verification and standards process here at MSNBC before repeating what I heard from my source.

Had it gone through that process, I would not have been permitted to report it. I should not have said it on air or posted it on Twitter. I was wrong to do so.

This afternoon, attorneys for the president sent us a letter asserting the story is false. They also demanded a retraction.

Tonight, we are retracting the story. We don’t know whether the information is inaccurate. But the fact is, we do know it wasn’t ready for broadcast, and for that I apologize.

Harder had demanded not only a retraction and apology but also a correction. Instead, the undoubtedly carefully vetted statement included "we don't know whether the information is inaccurate." Though a lawsuit, judging by the lawyer's threat, should be forthcoming, it will not ensue. Trump has made a cottage industry out of threatening to sue one entity or another, and then backing off.Also

Discovery can be a real bitch.

O'Donnell (presumably) told the truth: one of his sources had told him that Russian oligarchs co-signed for a loan Trump received from Deutsche Bank.  After the MSNBC host issued the retraction, however, the President posted a tweet denying- falsely or otherwise- that there were Russian co-signers, but also lying:

As usual, he lied not because he is unable to do otherwise. He lied because there is no reason not to. Thursday's focus, predictably, was on O'Donnell rather than on the deceit of Donald J. Trump, holder of the position previously known as Leader of the Free World.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Denouncing Voters

I truly don't know what Joe Biden meant when on Tuesday hetold reporters that racism is

real. It’s there, and the only way — from the founding of this country to today — you deal with it is you attack it. You expose it. You embarrass it. You put people in jail when they engage in things that are illegal when they’re doing it — you call them out. And most of all, you call it out to our children.

It may have been a reference to overt discrimination, hate speech, or something else entirely when Biden said "you put people in jail when they engage in things that are illegal when they're doing it."  But then, the guy believes also that Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated in the 1970s, so there is that.

But Biden was clear when he stated institutional racism "is a white man's problem."

Even clearer was Pete Buttigieg, who on July 20 maintained

The key to dealing with racial discussions in the country is honesty. And that means honesty about how we got here. It means honesty about what we are up against.

Also, in my view, it means treating racial inequality as a specialty issue, as an issue to be talked about with audiences of color only -- but as something that frankly white Americans need to take more seriously.

The sit down and shut up request aimed at whites is not a great general election strategy.  Buttigieg wants to talk about this problem with "audiences of color only," without engaging with the group responsible for it, which might provide insight into motivation and be disabused of its bias. He also doesn't explain why white racism has been experienced equally, in kind and degree, by blacks, Latinos, and Asians. (Of course, maybe "audiences of color" was a reference only to blacks or to blacks and Asians. No translator was provided.)

Disturbingly, it may be the best primary strategy for a centrist candidate such as Buttigieg or one such as Biden, running on the "everything will be fine once Trump is removed from office" platform.  Unlike senators Warren and Sanders, neither offers the hope of necessary structural change, leaving them only the option of distracting primary voters by propagating the myth that race is at the core of America's problems in 2019. It is an approach similar to that of Kamala Harris, who denounced Biden for (of all things) opposing a policy 35-40 years ago which she herself now opposes.

There are Democratic candidates who appear convinced that the route to the presidential nomination is to be more outraged than any other about white racism- to the exclusion of other issues- and to be  perceived as most committed to offer it as a blanket condemnation of whites. It is not likely to be a winning strategy in the general election, in which there are votes cast by individuals other than those blacks and whites deeply invested in ending all vestiges of racist or insensitive thought.

The general election electorate is diverse- not only ethnically- and with it, voters possessing the spirit of E Pluribus Unum. It is a sentiment not inconsistent with facing problems honestly and when necessary, attributing responsibility to specific individuals. It is the sentiment expressed by President Lyndon Johnson, in an appeal for passage of the Voting Rights Act, when the 36th President (with outdated terminology) explained (emphasis mine)

There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem. And we are met here tonight as Americans—not as Democrats or Republicans—we are met here as Americans to solve that problem.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Immigration Enforcement

This is for the twenty-seven of us Americans who support neither open borders nor a wall, decriminalizing illegal immigration nor separating immigrant children from their parents.

Led by David Farenthold, The Washington Post has run several articles about President Trump's business interests, including "employment" of illegal immigrants at his golf courses.  On August 9, Farenthold and colleague David Partlow wrote

For nearly two decades, the Trump Organization has relied on a roving crew of Latin American employees to build fountains and waterfalls, sidewalks and rock walls at the company’s winery and its golf courses from New York to Florida....

President Trump “doesn’t want undocumented people in the country,” said one worker, Jorge Castro, a 55-year-old immigrant from Ecuador without legal status who left the company in April after nine years. “But at his properties, he still has them.”

He speaks the truth. Although Trump claims he does not want illegal immigrants to come to the USA, he surely doesn't want them undocumented. We know that in part because

Another immigrant who worked for the Trump construction crew, Edmundo Morocho, said he was told by a Trump supervisor to buy fake identity documents on a New York street corner. He said he once hid in the woods of a Trump golf course to avoid being seen by visiting labor union officials.

In some instance(s), Donald Trump probably wants even undocumented illegal immigrants in the country. We return to three years to this month when candidate Trump maintained

that his wife will hold a news conference "over the next couple of weeks" to address reports that she violated immigration laws when she first came to the U.S.

Trump said his wife would prove that "she came in totally legally."

The New York Post last week published nude photos of Melania Trump in 1995, quickly raising questions about whether the former model had obtained the appropriate visa to work as a model in the United States.

And so later campaigning in North Carolina

Donald Trump added that he advised his wife to "let it simmer for a little while" before holding a news conference to correct the record.

"Let them go wild. Let it simmer, and then let's have a little news conference and have some fun," Trump said.

Of course there was no news conference, and both the details of Melania Trump's legal status and of the visa system remain murky.

For some people, these events are not a problem. But if you believe, as a few of us do, that the nation's immigration system should be humane while illegal immigrants should not get a free pass, you might wonder about those workplace raids, including those in which

About 680 immigrants believed to be working without legal documentation were taken away on buses by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents during the coordinated sting on Aug. 7. The operation, which might be the largest work site enforcement action ever in a single state, focused on plants run by five companies: Peco Foods, Pearl River Foods, Koch Foods, A & B Inc. and P H Food Inc.

The New York Times reports affidavits "filed by federal agents supporting the raids"

show that the agents believe that the companies were “willfully and unlawfully” employing undocumented immigrants.

In some cases, the affidavits say, the companies employed people who would show up to work wearing ankle monitors that are part of a federal program to make sure undocumented immigrants appear at court proceedings....

The P H Food Inc. and A & B Inc. plants are owned by the same person, according to the affidavits. A confidential informant said that a woman who prepares the payroll for both of the plants and another employee who works with payroll companies knew about the undocumented immigrants working there, the affidavits say.

One employee at the A & B Inc. plant who was in the country illegally said that the plant manager had never required him to provide any identification documents to work there and only asked for his name, an affidavit says.

The affidavits say some of the companies had access to E-Verify, but did not use it for dozens of undocumented employees. E-Verify is an electronic system that checks documents provided by newly hired workers against Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security records to identify fakes.

In other cases, the affidavits implicate managers. For example, at the Peco Foods plant, an employee told a confidential informant that one worker presented a different name on the two occasions she was hired.

For what it's worth, the stakes for the employers are high because the maximum punishment is a $3,000 fine and six months in prison for each illegal immigrant employed.

Nonetheless (or maybe therefore), no one yet has been indicted and 

Prosecutions are not common, said Kimberley Best Robidoux, a business immigration lawyer in San Diego who specializes in compliance. According to data compiled by Syracuse Universityand released in May, only 11 people were prosecuted from April 2018 through March 2019 for employing immigrants who did not have proper documentation. No companies were prosecuted during that time, according to the data.

This was only one day of raids and immigration cases against employers are difficult to prove, The Times points out. However, these took place against seven plants and resulted in the arrest of approximately 680 immigrants. It therefore can be viewed as a test case for the US Justice Department and USA law. 

It is bad enough that approximately 680 workers, presumably in the country without authorization, were led out in handcuffs while no manager or employer was. If no one in a position of authority receives any period of incarceration, the notion of equal protection and the rule of law will have taken another hint. Moreover, the commitment to curbing illegal immigration, with the President's companies routinely profiting from the work of illegal immigrants and his wife currently and/or at one point residing in the country illegally. will become another cruel joke played on us by Donald J. Trump.

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Monday, August 26, 2019

Really, Not So Bad

And at $21,500,000, Falcon Matt Ryan will receive less this year than seven other NFL quarterbacks, including the salary leader, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, who will pull down $71,000,000, and the Patriots' Tom Brady (who, paired with head coach Bill Bellichick, will earn $23,000,000). Quarterbacks of the Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings, and Arizona Cardinals, and Jacksonville Jaguars also will make more than will Ryan. One quarterback will be paid less than him, but more than the $20,000,000 cited. (The quarterback who has played the position better than anyone ever- see below- comes in at a relatively paltry $15,000,000.)

Owning an NFL team is not only a lucrative investment, but a safe investment, owing to its socialistic practice of revenue sharing, which provides the vast majority of revenue for the teams. In 2017, the 32 teams thereby (a little more from other sources) gained approximately $250 million each, and their profit is not declining.

Seen in that context, it's slightly discouraging to read of the  "$20 million fund to be made available immediately to Amazon countries to combat forest fires and to launch a long-term initiative to protect the rainforest."  So there was no joint communique, little consensus, and a relatively small investment to fight the environmental disaster in South America. Given that it was a meeting involving Donald J. Trump, that would count as a success.

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Sunday, August 25, 2019

Jesus Christ, For A Few Days

Washington's most prominent stand-up comedian was at it again when

President Trump said he was being sarcastic after he was asked about his remark that he was “the chosen one.”

“Let me tell you, you know exactly what I meant,” Trump told a reporter Friday night when asked about his comment. “It was sarcasm. It was joking. We were all smiling. And a question like that is just fake news. You’re just a faker.”

The president made the controversial comment Wednesday while defending the trade war with China.

According to CNBC, Trump said at the time: “This isn’t my trade war, this is a trade war that should have taken place a long time ago. Somebody had to do it…I am the Chosen One.”

Donald J. Trump does not joke around. Normal people (admittedly, not the best description of the President) somehow signal their sarcastic intent when they employ sarcasm. And when Trump stated "I am the chosen one" and looked skyward, there was no smile, ironic or unironic, sincere or insincere.

Trump's behavior is far better explained by educator and former actress Janet (not Angela) Lansbury, who without thinking about Donald J. Trump and possibly not even being aware of the future President, in 2013 wrote

Children will often push our limits simply because they haven’t received a straight answer to the question, “What will you do if I do such-and-such?” And then they might need to know, “Will it be different on Monday afternoons? What about when you’re tired? Or I’m cranky? If I get upset will you do something different?”

Like the child he often is accused of being, Donald Trump will continue to push limits, to make outrageous comments to determine if this, finally, is one step too far.

It was a little too far in this case, judging by the widespread ridicule he received, and he temporarily backed off, even to the point of claiming he was being sarcastic.  But that was not before the President had reinforced to his base evangelicals-  which, as usual , were pleased that he was making light of their religious convictions- that he is on their side. Further, Trump made it clear yet again that he will brook no criticism during a second term. Opposition to his will be equated with opposition to the will of God.

He has told us so. We have been warned.

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Friday, August 23, 2019

(Don't) "Do The Hustle"

I have not come to bury professor and author Michael Eric Dyson, who really is not the issue.

When in June 2017 comedian Bill Maher used the "n" word- in the same context as did Malcolm X- Dyson defended him, boldly and properly. When earlier this month, he appeared on MSNBC's The Beat and defined "racism" as "the belief in "the inherent superiority of one group on the other or other," Ari Melber should have stopped the show, stood up, and given Dyson an ovation.

But transparency was in order when after Jay-Z received a little criticism for entering into an agreement with the NFL, Dyson appeared with Brianna Keilar on CNN (good sound on video here) and stated

Jay-Z's portfolio, Jay-Z's profile has been there. He's the one who said "God forgive me for my brash delivery but I remember vividly what these three did to me. Imagine me allowing you to nitpick at me and portray me like a pic-a-ninny. That's not me."

So Jay Z has entered the game and he has social justice agendas that are relevant and we can agree or disagree. But we shouldn't name-call...

You can still have Colin Kaepernick protest- you can still have players on the teams who are saying "we are tired of injustice and you can have Jay Z doing what he does. In football, everybody can't be the quarterback, somebody's gotta be the running back, somebody's gotta play offense and defense.

(If Dyson sounds like a preacher, it's probably because he's an ordained Baptist minister.)

In a team game, however, there should be no doubt as to which team the quarterback is playing for. Nor should there by any doubt as to the objectivity of the guy or gal calling the game. Yet there was no mention that due out this fall is "Jay-Z: Made in America," written by Dyson, a book which the publisher maintains will present "an in-depth analysis of some of this remarkable artist's most beloved lyrics." (It may not be completely objective.)

Despite the evident foolishness of deeply analyzing the lyrics of Shawn Carter, it may be a good book, but one of which viewers should have been informed by someone.

That would have given the audience at least an inkling that Jay Z/Shawn Carter is not completely focused on truth, justice, and the American way. Or maybe, sadly, it is the American way that he is most determined to replicate.  Sports journalist Dave Zirin explained

None of this is about social justice. It’s not about, as Shawn Carter put it, “helping millions and millions of people.” This partnership is happening because Shawn Carter is a billionaire who wants to be an NFL owner, and erasing Colin Kaepernick is the price of admission. Now Shawn Carter gets to multiply his fortune, and the NFL believes they will no longer be branded as racist, or have to schedule skim-milk Super Bowl halftime shows headlined by Maroon 5.

Jay-Z is a boss. Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid are workers. It is the interest of workers in the NFL to unite and say that blackballing people for their political beliefs is never going to be OK. It is in the interest of workers to stand up for their colleague. It is in Shawn Carter’s interest to stand up for himself. It’s not “millions and millions” who are going to be helped. It’s one person. It’s Jay-Z’s ultimate hustle—a hustle he told us, over 20 years ago, we were never to knock.

And so the failure of either Dyson or CNN to inform the viewers that the guest has a conflict which might interfere with an objective analysis goes beyond transparency. It interferes with an understanding that the motives of the famous businessperson may go beyond the interplay of race and criminal justice and into the realm of the mundane. It may be simply the oldest motive of them all: looking out for #1.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

There Is Always An Argument For Evil

Now that President Trump has anointed himself "The Chosen One" and "King of Israel," it may be time to revisit some of the Christian right explanations of Donald Trump. In March, 2018 Jane Coaston explained

The story of King David, a sinner who remained beloved by God and favored by his people, has been a favorite of evangelical Christians who support Donald Trump, even during the Republican primaries. Their reasoning is that like King David, Donald Trump has committed adultery, and like King David (or President Franklin Roosevelt, as one columnist wrote), Trump can be a great (and moral) leader even after having committed adultery.

This isn’t new. GOP donor Foster Friess compared Trump to King David in January 2016, saying, “[A]ll throughout history, God has harnessed imperfect people to fulfill his perfect will.”

After the Access Hollywood tape became public, right-wing talk-show hosts Sean Hannity and Dennis Prager echoed this amateur analysis.

The King David story rivals the story of King Cyrus, who 

was born in the sixth century B.C.E. and became the first emperor of Persia. Isaiah 45 celebrates Cyrus for freeing a population of Jews who were held captive in Babylon. Cyrus is the model for a nonbeliever appointed by God as a vessel for the purposes of the faithful.

This theory was promoted in October 2018 with release to theaters of "The Trump Prophecy," which told of a firefighter who alleges he was told in 2011 that Donald Trump would become president, and which

was produced with the help of professors and students at Liberty University, whose president, Jerry Falwell Jr., has been instrumental in rallying evangelical support for Mr. Trump. Jeanine Pirro of Fox News has picked up on the meme, as has Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, among many others.

This notion is conveniently reinforced each time the President sins and/or acts outrageously, for "Cyrus is the model for a nonbeliever appointed by God as a vessel for the purposes of the faithful."  A major proponent is this author, who claims Trump is "God's chaos candidate," whom God has said is a "wrecking ball to the spirit of political correctness."

There also is the notion that Donald Trump is the "wolf-king," who has come for wolves and not the sheep. It was promulgated by the late Doug Coe, head of The Family, whose members in Congress conduct what has been described as "a kind of shadow diplomacy, a secretive 'unofficial' and unaccountable outreach to foreign officials." (Its most prominent member is Mike Pence. I'm sure you're shocked.)

According to CBN News, the president of legal advocacy organization Liberty Counsel maintains that President Trump "has fulfilled about 90% of the goals on a list that Staver and other conservative leaders compiled." "In the first two years of his administration," Matt Staver states, "he's achieved more than all of the presidents combined since Ronald Reagan. He's been the most pro-religious freedom and pro-life president in modern history."

So maybe the real motive is advancement of conservative political principle. Even more likely, it is a triumph of power politics over morality. Whatever the base motive, when the dust clears and the Trump family has left a lasting stain upon the nation, there will be fewer Americans than ever before willing to identify as Christian, an understanding which leaves these religious leaders unfazed.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Article II Is Just The Beginning

The money quote comes at the end when Donald Russia remarks "and I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty." Individuals cannot be disloyal to any person or institution to which they're not related and as in this case, to any country in which they're neither citizens nor residents.

And so New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg tweets out a screen shot of the "NYT right now (which) looks like one of those pre-election parodies about what a Trump administration would be like," which includes "Trump Accuses Jewish Democrats of 'Disloyalty,' Inciting Fierce Backlash"." Also: "New Rule Would Let U.S. Hold Migrant Families Indefinitely;" "NRA Gets Results in One Phone Call With the President;" and "Mr. Trump also canceled a meeting with Demnark over its refusal to sell Greenland. The rare snub drew condemnation."

With a few exceptions, The New York Times has been fulfilling its vital role, as has The Washington Post, and probably a few other newspapers with national, or at least regional, reach. At least if Donald Trump is re-elected, they will not have contributed to the tragedy, unlike Saturday Night Live and some of the other sources of the parodies in the 2016 election cycle which only made Trump appear more likable to voters.

Maybe it's time to recognize that racism, misogyny, and anti-Semitism, though reprehensible, are symptoms of a larger narrative continually being played out. On Wednesday morning, Trump sent out a series of three tweets quoting a supporter of the ultra-right conspiratorialist set:

Donald Russia does not himself believe that he is Jesus Christ, A/K/A the Son of Man, Son of God, Bread of Life, Redeemer, Chief Cornerstone (not St, Peter, take note), Risen Lord, the Resurrection and the Life. He merely is glad others do so, and hopes to normalize the sentiment. He already has cornered the secular market on power, for four weeks ago

Trump lamented the duration and cost of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, which he has repeatedly said found “no collusion, no obstruction.”

“Then, I have an Article II, where I have to the right to do whatever I want as president,” he said. “But I don’t even talk about that.”

However, there is now even less reason to exercise powers he imagines he is given by the framers of the constitution, who were mere men, thus mortals. He has warned us, foreshadowed the powers he expects to assume if and when he is re-elected.  He will no longer be acting only under the authority of a a 350-year old fallible document. Rather, the voters will have given him the mandate to claim all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

A Bad Egg Returns

If history is our guide, a moderator of a presidential general election debate (if any is held) will ask each candidate to say something positive about the other. The Democratic nominee should turn to Donald Trump and remark "you kept Chris Christie from the presidency."  (New Jersey viewers would cheer.)

It's not primarily because the ex- New Jersey governor is opening The Christie Institute of Public Policy, described here as "a non-profit, nonpartisan institute in part with his alma mater, Seton Hall University School of Law."

Christie promises "we're going to focus on national issues and on having nonpartisan conversations and research on national issues and international issues." He stated also "unfortunately, our politics have gotten so ugly and divisive in the country that people are not having civilized conversations." Yes, he went there. As a devoted resident of the greater New York area, Christie know doubts understand "chutzpah" and realizes how hypocritical he is.

But Trump's value was not in keeping this ghastly individual from the GOP nomination, hence the presidency. It was in keeping this governor from national office. Under his leadership, local government budgets were squeezed of funding, leading to property tax increases; slashed aid for women's health; cancelled the Access to the Region's Core tunnel project, connecting commuters to New York City, NY; legalized gambling spread; a bridge was partially closed to pressure a mayor to support the governor's re-election bid; the state's pension shortfall shot upward; growth in the state paled in comparison to that in the region and the nation; and more.

Chris Christie wanted to be President of the United States of America. He first had to gain the nomination of an increasingly right-wing party, and governed accordingly to the extent possible in a relatively liberal, Democratic state.All he got out of it was a job at a law firm, a gig with ABC News, and now a non-profit institute. It's at least three things too many.

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Monday, August 19, 2019

The Plan To Make America Great Again

One man's opinion of a trade war, probably waged with an intended consequence:

Well, that's the point, isn't it?  For a piece about a Trump rally in Cincinnati, Matt Taibbi garnered a lot of quotes from the Trump faithful. He observes that the President typically

creates controversies so quickly that no one can keep track of them all. When the dust settles, everyone is covered with welts and King Donald is bragging about having done it all on purpose, which he may have. In the end, what everyone remembers is Trump antagonists tying themselves in knots over his whims.

Taibbi notes

When everyone from the American Academy of Pediatrics to his wife to Lindsey Graham expressed revulsion — dude, kids? — Trump finally signed an executive order reversing the policy. He then characteristically blamed the mess on Democrats. By then, the situation had become a fiasco and, like all things in the Trump era, a media goat rope of monstrous proportions.

But the best example of creating disaster to blame others was flagged by St. Louis-based Sara  Kendzior, she of "The View from Flyover Country: Dispatches from the Forgotten America." (She even posted this twice on her Twitter feed; not enough.) 

Beginning at 2:02, Donald Russia comments

Now, you know what solves it? When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell, and everything is a disaster, then you'll have a, you know, you'll have riots to go back where we used to be, when we were great.

Taibbi quotes one Trump rally goer as remaking "the cool thing about Trump is that it's just about being an American." For the President, the cool thing is attempting to fulfill his ultimate wish, that America "goes to total hell," because he may have unique, intimate knowledge of that special location.

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Sunday, August 18, 2019

Lesson Learned

Well-respected yet underrated former journalist:
Crowds of an indeterminate size defied rain to gather in Hong Kong's Victoria Park on Sunday.

The government of the United States of America should stand with them, as Dan Rather argues. But it won't. And it won't because, though possibly the manifestation of Satan on earth, Donald Trump is not stupid. 

In autumn of 2017, PBS' Frontline televised an investigation of "the epic, inside story of (Vladimir) Putin's revenge." The following is a portion:

NARRATOR: Playing a role in Gaddafi’s downfall, the American secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

HILLARY CLINTON, Secretary of State: Gaddafi must go, and the Libyan people deserve to determine their own future.

NARRATOR: And in Russia, as massive protests broke out just outside the Kremlin walls, Putin believed America had crossed the line, and he blamed Hillary Clinton.

HILLARY CLINTON: The Russian people deserve the right to have their voices heard and their votes counted.

YEVGENIA ALBATS: Putin said it was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who provided funds and means to the Russian opposition and made them to get out of the—on the streets.

PETER BAKER: No question he’s looking at revenge at Hillary Clinton. There’s no question that he sees Hillary Clinton as an adversary. And he wanted to, like— you know, he wanted to get her back.

NARRATOR: Putin would wait for the right moment to strike back at Clinton and the United States.

We've known for a long time, but were reminded by Robert Mueller's report, of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election with the intent of electing Donald Trump President. However, it began with an effort at smearing Hillary Clinton and preventing her election, irrespective of Mr. Trump.

President Trump probably does not know all the details revealed in PBS' investigation of some 22 months ago, including the genesis and development of, and actions arising from, Vladimir Putin's long-held resentment of the USA. But it's very likely that he knows both that Putin has disliked Hillary Clinton for a great while, that he was annoyed that Clinton's State Department approved of the demonstrations against his regime, and that the Russian President worked to defeat her.

He probably knows also that the USA intelligence community has identified three threats from Russia and China, comprising

cyber attacks against critical infrastructure, online influence and misinformation campaigns on social media designed to destabilize American democratic institutions, and direct interference in U.S. elections (including the upcoming 2020 presidential election).

Donald Trump knows he already has Putin's approval, and probably his willingness to assist Trump's re-election.  If I were sufficiently well-placed and conservative to be offered, and unethical enough to accept, a position as a campaign strategist for President Trump, I would tell him two things.

He needs to be aware of the possibility that Beijing could thwart the will of the American people in the 2020 presidential election. I would tell him additionally that he could do the right thing and stand with the protesters in Hong Kong. Or he can apply to mainland China the lesson that Hillary Clinton learned of Russia the hard way- anger an authoritarian superpower at your own political peril.

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Saturday, August 17, 2019

Barring Death, It's Trump

Asked by Vanity Fair whether there is a chance President Trump will drop out of the 2016 race, Anthony Scaramucci replies

Yes. He’s gonna drop out of the race because it’s gonna become very clear. Okay, it’ll be March of 2020. He’ll likely drop out by March of 2020. It’s gonna become very clear that it’s impossible for him to win. And is this the kind of guy that’s gonna want to be that humiliated and lose as a sitting president? He’s got the self-worth in terms of his self-esteem of a small pigeon. It’s a very small pigeon. Okay. And so you think this guy’s gonna look at those poll numbers and say—he’s not gonna be able to handle that humiliation. And by the way, he is smart enough to know that that entire Congress hates his guts.

Scaramucci deserves credit for making a bold, unpopular prediction. It also is inaccurate.

It doesn't matter that the entire Congress hates Donald Trump. He hates the members of Congress, too, just as he dislikes, or has contempt for, immigrants, blacks, veterans, evangelicals, and women (unless they spell their name "I-v-a-n-k-a.")

Donald Russia won't drop out because if he does, he's likely to be prosecuted. He almost certainly will if he is succeeded by a Democrat, a likelihood if he doesn't run. A Republican president might pardon him, but can do so only for federal crimes, and would face the near-certainty that his political future would die with its issuance.

He won't drop out because if he loses, he will blame the defeat on a) the Electoral College (whatever the margin of defeat there or in the popular vote); b) "fake news"; c) voter suppression (irony notwithstanding); d) voter "fraud"; e) foreign interference (irony notwithstanding, again); f) Hillary Clinton.   (I know what you're thinking: what would Hillary Clinton have to do with it? Answer: "Clinton."); g) any combination of the preceding.

He won't drop out because it's never "gonna become very clear that it's impossible for him to win." The low-hanging fruit explanation: nearly everyone counted him out in 2016, from announcement of his candidacy till Election Eve, and he still won.  The politically incorrect explanation: if the economy tanks, pundits everywhere will maintain that he cannot win and will be wrong.

Approval of Donald Trump's performance would be enhanced by a strong economy in the fall of 2016. However, his popularity depends less on the state of the economy than would the approval of any other President. He was elected even though the economy- at least by traditional and conventional standards- was fairly strong in November 2016.  His ceiling always low, his cellar remains unusually high.

There were many reasons Donald Russia captured the nation's zeitgeist three years ago.  It was primarily the veneer of authenticity as he expressed the hostility, bitterness,and rage of whites- especially but not exclusively male- toward any one of a number of groups of Americans.  (Look angry, bluster, yell loudly, swear a little for extra points, and you must be sincere.)

We haven't yet hit the bottom of that well of resentment, and might not until and unless voters believe their financial situation is so endangered that they are even more vulnerable than at present to targeting of scapegoats. And there is no one who can fill that need better than Donald J. Trump.

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Friday, August 16, 2019

"Bend To My Will"

He may be a scoundrel, but when even a former member of the Irgun doesn't like your attack on perceived enemies of Israel, you don't really have a case:

It was not a total loss for the Likud government running Israel, however. It at least made one of the congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib, cry uncle.  NPR reports that Israel has (barely) partially relented after the Michigan Representative sent Israel's Interior Minister a letter whose contents read in full

I would like to request admittance to Israel in order to visit my relatives and specifically my grandmother, who is in her 90s and lives in Beir Ur el-Fouqa. This could be my last opportunity to see her. I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit.

Nor was the concession extracted probably an empty gesture, given that the visit by Tlaib and Omar to the West Bank and (presumably East) Jerusalem was "under the auspices of" a nongovermental organization staunchly committed to an independent Palestinian state. Now, however, Tel Aviv has gotten one of the congresswomen (Tlaib) to make a concession she probably did not want to make- that she would "not promote boycotts against Israel during" her visit.

Nonetheless, Israel has suffered a net loss, having bought itself some distrust within both the American Jewish community and the Democratic Party for its refusal to concede that all members of the US Congress can travel freely to Israel.

Not so President Trump, however.  Tel Aviv initially extended permission to the two Democrats, only to reverse itself when

This is what Donald Trump calls "winning." He blocked two political foes from performing an official duty, also bending an entire nation to his will.  Obviously, his action was reprehensible, and not only because an American president (successfully) recommended that a foreign government deny admission of duly elected members of a branch of government (constitutionally) equal to the presidency.

It might not have worked had this saga remained in the news for several days. However, it did not, with the Administration cleverly floating the idea of buying Greenland, thus diverting attention from an act of bigotry and hostility toward Americans, sentiments shared by many Trump disciples.

The President of the USA challenged a foreign government to say "no" to American citizens, yet another instance in which Trump has demonstrated his contempt for Americans.  And he prevailed. He again demonstrated what passes for "strength" in his eyes and those of his supporters by hitting back at the people they hate.

Opposed by Rahm Emanuel, AIPAC, and supported by virtually no one, the tactic viewed in isolation may have been a (very slight) net loser. However,it was a fine addition to Donald J. Trump's overall strategy.

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Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Real Undead

Maryland Public Television, as reported by Media Matters, has announced

on August 12 that it will relaunch The McLaughlin Group in the Maryland and Washington, D.C., area in September. MPT also plans to expand the program nationally in January 2020 “through an agreement with American Public Television.” The program was briefly relaunched last year on WJLA, Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s D.C. station. The weekly program will feature host Tom Rogan and panelists Buchanan, Eleanor Clift, and Clarence Page, as well as guest panelists. Clift, Page, and Buchanan were panelists on the original McLaughlin Group, which was hosted by the late John McLaughlin.

This displeases Media Matters considerably, as it doesCharlie Pierce, who remarks

At a time in which white-supremacy and outright racism is pouring out of the White House, and a time in which these forces are literally getting people killed, a public television station has decided to roll back the stone and bring back Pat Buchanan, who is responsible more than most people for injecting this poison into the body politic generally and into the Republican Party in particular.

As MM notes, Buchanan is a "white supremacist" though more accurately a Christian supremacist, with a Catholic emphasis.  Buchanan was the forerunner to Donald Trump, as Pierce explains

You can trace many of the horrors of our current moment—from new-wave protectionism to un-camouflaged racism—all the way back to Buchanan's campaign against George H.W. Bush. (Bill Clinton once told me and Mark Warren of this magazine that he thought the Buchanan campaign was the moment in which the GOP decided to lose its mind.)  

Unfortunately, Pierce then gleans the wrong lesson when he concludes

Now, with all of these issues at a serious flashpoint, these public-television dopes decide to give Buchanan, who is somewhere between 80 and 400 years old, and who's never been sure that the right side won World War II, another crack at spreading aged-in-the-wood venom on TV. Clift and Page should not be a part of this fiasco, either. The conservative Undead never will leave us.

Who else is somewhere between 80 and 400 years old (aside from Joe Biden)? That would be the President of the United States of America, one Donald J. Trump, who also would not be sure the right side won WWII, if in fact he knew who had won World War II.

Although Buchanan has much in common with Trump, that does not include ignorance of history (or general ignorance), a preference for profanity, nor the attraction to a kind of secular and empty (and non-Catholic) Christianity.  But if not for Buchanan, there probably would not be a President (or nominee) Donald Trump, and for that alone Buchanan should rank as an important historical figure.

Maryland Public Television wants a reprise of The McLaughlin Group, impossible without at least one conservative.  It has hired, Media Matters complains, a "white supremacist who has pushed virulently racist rhetoric."

Presumably, it could have gone a different direction in selecting someone from the right. We could have gotten Charlie Sykes or someone else from the Never Trump vault. With a few exceptions here and there, though more reasonable than other conservatives, they are of a certain type.

They hate the vulgar, divisive Trump. They are tolerant of immigration, even illegal immigration, skeptical of a border wall, and can compete with every liberal and progressive in their sadness at the treatment of migrants at the border.  Same-sex marriage is perfectly acceptable, and the President's contempt for foreign allies is not.

Yet, they will not criticize the forced-birth movement, deregulation or privatization, or tax cuts for the wealthy, and the free trade which has hollowed out the core of the middle class in America's heartland remains one of their gods.

They deserve a voice, as does everyone, and are welcome to ride- but not drive- the anti-Trump bus. However, the Trump revolution (as Pierce has well expressed previously) began not with the likes of Pat Buchanan but with Ronald(6) Wilson(6) Reagan (6),  hostile to civil rights while quite congenial to the forced-birth movement and everyone and everything with economic clout.  President Donald Trump has learned well as he banishes the US Department of Agriculture to Kansas City, Mo., recognizing that most of its employees will quit, and agribusiness will have its way.

Pat Buchanan was not responsible for the devolution and destruction of government. Erosion of the belief that we owe something to us, that the mighty should use its power for the benefit of those left behind tracks back to Reagan, not to Buchanan. Still, Trump owes much to Buchanan.

Most Never Trumpers (common on not-Trump cable television) question little of the core values of modern conservatism, opposition to reproductive freedom and support of economic policies which favor the wealthy over the remainder of society. If Trump is upended in November, 2020, they will return to, or  remain in, their home base- the Republican Party- and promote the myth that the core ideals of the GOP were sound, that the Party merely had a case of pneumonia brought on by a venomous phony from New York City.

We can't bring back the late Ronald Reagan. But public television can bring back Pat Buchanan, more coherent and literate than the current President, yet also resentful and belligerent, and a reminder that Donald J. Trump didn't just come out of the blue.

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The husband-wife (or, rather, wife-husband) duo of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and Martha-Ann Alito nee Bomgardner flew an upside do...