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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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

No Excuses

Whether for ethnic or professional reasons (or both), Sean Hannity, Corey Lewandowski, Geraldo Rivera, and Anthony Scaramucci stoutly defended the CNN host when Chris

Cuomo, the host of the eponymously named "Cuomo Prime Time," went viral Monday night when a conservative provocateur posted a video of him online. In the video, which is shot from a low angle, Cuomo erupts after being called “Fredo” by a heckler who claims not to know the anchor’s name. Cuomo says that the term, a reference to the mafia movie "The Godfather," is “an Italian aspersion,” comparing it to the racial slur used against African Americans. “It it’s like the n-word for us,” Cuomo said.

The conversation captured in the video deteriorates quickly, with Cuomo threatening the heckler, at one point warning him, “I’ll f---ing throw you down these stairs.”

If it is, it's news to Wikipedia, and also to myself, though not Italian-American but reared in quasi-northern New Jersey.

But of course, that's not the issue.  Cuomo's well-known heavyweight (scoundrels they are, but heavyweight)  defenders are not keen on the possibility that publicly confronting celebrities of the political world become a thing. 

It probably was, as CNN put it, "an orchestrated set-up." However, Cuomo's response was pitch-perfect:

I should be better than what I oppose. Cuomo was condemned by President Trump who, if he had 10% of the class the anchorman displayed, would be- well, would not be Donald J. Trump.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Guns Don't Kill People. People With Guns Do.

A few days ago, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist, immigration rights attorney and forced-birth advocate Christine Flowers commended Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, who has remarked

..... only a fool can believe that ‘gun control’ will solve the problem of mass violence. The people using the guns in these loathsome incidents are moral agents with twisted hearts.

And the twisting is done by the culture of sexual anarchy, personal excess, political hatreds, intellectual dishonesty, and perverted freedoms that we’ve systematically created over the past half-century.”

Flowers complains "talking about expanding mental health support doesn’t advance the guns-and-racism narrative deployed to make this a partisan issue." We get a rare glimpse of the motivation of some proponents of the mental health dodge when Flowers adds

....the point of (Chaput's) comments was that the real problem in society is a complete abandonment of clear moral standards, and our increasing disrespect for human life. Guns are a part of that conversation. So is racism. So is mental illness. So, for that matter, are abortion, euthanasia, the over-sexualization of children, family breakdown, and all of the things Chaput mentions.

Abortion, euthanasia, over-sexualization of children, and family breakdown have little or nothing to do with gun violence, any more than such ridiculous assertions besmirch Philadelphia Catholics or forced-birth fanatics. (The macho male subculture does pertain, and obviously so, but that is a subject for another time.)

Flowers, Chaput, and others unwilling or unable to confront the problem with firearms will not be reassured of their misconceptions, however, in the most recentoutbreak of violence which may have been induced by mental illness:

A man who allegedly stabbed a woman to death in Sydney’s central business district before attacking others on a busy city street with a butcher’s knife was arrested carrying information about terrorist attacks and extremist ideologies on a USB drive.

But police say the man did not have any known links to terror groups, and that he acted alone. The attacks are not being treated as a terrorist attack, the New South Wales police commissioner, Mick Fuller, said on Tuesday night.

The 21-year-old man from Marayong, near Blacktown in western Sydney, jumped on cars and yelled at bystanders to “shoot me in the fucking head” before being restrained by members of the public – later lauded as “heroes” by police – who used cafe chairs and a milk crate to pin him down.

About an hour after the man’s arrest, the body of a 21-year-old woman was found inside an apartment in Clarence Street, in central Sydney. It is understood she had suffered multiple stab wounds.

"Shoot me in the f_ _ _ _ _ _ head" said the man, who exhibited a reckless disregard for human life, and may have been determined to kill anyone and everyone he could.

He wounded one person and killed none, just as some of the twenty children wounded by a knife-wielding assailant in January in Beijing probably are alive only because they weren't shot.  In the United States, that mentally deranged (or not) man probably would have wielded an assault rifle and had the time and means to murder several individuals- maybe even 21.

He did not, however. He had a knife, and there appears to be a lot of people in Australia now alive because the knife wasn't an AR-15.

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Monday, August 12, 2019

Simple Suicide: A Political Loser

At least one journalist/newspaper columnist understands

But frankly, conspiracy theories about Epstein’s death needed no push from the Oval Office. Conspiracy theories are the voice of the ungoverned. The road that started in 1963 in Dealey Plaza -- in an ancient time when people had unbridled faith in their leaders and their institutions as a force for good -- finally came to its inevitable terminus, at the end of a rope in a cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. Americans are bitter, confused, and most of all angry. And they have absolutely no faith in the people who are in charge. I know I don’t.

Will Bunch clearly understands that Americans are bitter, confused, angry, and cynical about people in power. So, too, ironically, does right-wing President Trump, who retweeted
Bunch recognizes the absurdity of believing the Clintons, out of power and out of favor, engineered a murder while Donald Trump's Roy Cohn- Attorney General William Barr- stood helplessly by. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide without the act aided, abetted, or condoned by anyone in authority.

Some people have more faith than Bunch, President Trump, or very likely the vast majority of the American people. Spurred by elite anguish about a need for criminal justice reform, there seems in the media to be a developing story line that jails and prisons are unable or unwilling to prevent the grossest abuses and tragedies, including suicides. Mother Jones' Madison Pauly writes

Epstein may have been be vastly more famous than (Sandra) Bland,  (Jiancarlo Alfonso) Jimenez, and (Damien) Coestly, but the circumstances of his death, as reported by the Times and Reuters, seem to fit the same pattern: a known suicide risk, carelessness by guards, and a lapse in detention practices.

It was very likely more than "carelessness" or a "lapse," though we may never know for sure, just as the truth about the most famous death in custody, that of Lee Harvey Oswald, has never been fully or definitively determined.

Donald Trump knows this, and that is why he was able to leap onto the longstanding Clinton Is A Murderer conspiracy, albeit indirectly by retweet because in doing so more directly he might have been held accountable for spreading a damnable lie. Courage has never been his forte.

Having a finger on the pulse of the American people is his specialty, however, and he realizes the American people are susceptible to believing the Clintons were behind it all because coincidence seems increasingly absent in American life and politics. The alternative narrative will be that the death of Jeffrey Epstein was an innocent suicide, which will be accepted by the few voters who still have the unbridled faith in the system that Will Bunch realizes has considerably dwindled..

The silence of the presidential hopefuls regarding Epstein’s death is both regrettable and reversible, and leaves a vacuum which Donald Trump has demagogically filled. However, Bunch has inadvertently pointed the way forward in which Epstein's death is linked to an effective, broader ideological message:

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Sunday, August 11, 2019

Perp Walk Requested

After raids carried out Wednesday in Michigan in which Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested approximately 680 allegedly illegal immigrants working in poultry processing plants, President

Trump told reporters at the White House that the raids dissuade immigrants from entering and residing in the country illegally.

“I want people to know that if they come into the United States illegally, they’re getting out. They’re going to be brought out. And this serves as a very good deterrent," he said.

Four days later on CNN's State of the Union, Acting Director of the US Customs and Border Protection Mark Morgan was interviewed by Jake Tapper, who beginning at 13:01 in the video below notes

So it seems like undocumented workers, the dad of that little girl and the like, often bear the brunt of these raids and not the employers that hire them. Isn't it important to hold businesses responsible for this? Syracuse found, researchers at Syracuse University, found that from April 2018 to March 2019 the Trump Administration prosecuted zero companies and only eleven individuals for employing undocumented immigrants. Obviously, hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants have been targeted.

After Morgan makes a comment, Tapper clarifies, asking "What I'm saying is why aren't you focusing more on the companies and the business owners?" and the Acting Director replies "they are- again, this was a joint criminal investigation between ICE and the Department of Justice which was targeting the companies that were hiring illegal aliens."

Tapper responds "are there any charges against the companies and the business owners?" and Morgan maintains

It's a pending investigation right now. There's a criminal search warrant to go in there, to collect more information, more intelligence and that investigation is ongoing. But that's the intent of that investigation.

Morgan insists there is a "pending investigation" and time, and good journalism, may prove the accuracy of his claim.  However, while there always has been a suspicion- or perhaps assumption- that while the Trump Administration wants to intimidate, punish, maybe even terrorize illegal immigrants, that it wants to avoid prosecuting their employers, whether from a pro-business ideology or to protect Mr. Trump, himself a prodigious employer of illegal immigrants.

Approximately 380 of the individuals arrested were moved toICE detention facilities and roughly 300 released the following day and given a court date. Their (ex-) employers remain at large, however. The ringleaders went home at night, slept in their own beds, and in the case of one of the employers- 14,000-employee Koch Foods- already has scheduled a job fair.

All of this raises the suspicion that employers violate labor standards because "they feel that ICE is going to back them up." President Trump emphasized the importance of the strategy because "this serves as a very good deterrent."

If deterrence is an objective, employers must be prosecuted. And more- they should be arrested at the same time as the workers (some with actual documents, some not) are picked up. They should be led out in handcuffs, so that their families, friends, and fellow executives can see them.

This need not be done out of vindictiveness, but rather because they can be presumed to have committed a felony, or felonies.  An individual worker has (presumably) broken the law himself. But the boss has employed not only him, but a whole lot of people who have presumably broken the law. It's long past time for a perp walk.

Saturday, August 10, 2019


At the National Press Club, On Wednesday, the day after Round 2, Episode 1 of Democrats Debate, Montana governor Steve Bullock remarked

And I listened to that next night. I saw his reelection becoming more likely with each passing month. As someone who comes from a state where a lot of people voted for Donald Trump, someone who knows how hard he is going to be to beat, please permit me take everyone out of the Twitter-verse for at least a minute and bring us back to Earth. Let me put it plainly. We cannot defeat Donald Trump's politics of personal destruction if we practice the politics of self-destruction. The fact is, we are well on our way to losing this election, long before it ever really even started.

He added "extending health insurance to undocumented immigrants is also a surefire loser."

Never mind the irony of someone on Twitter urging his audience to get out of the ''Twitterverse."  A more important irony is that as Bullock decries "the politics of self-destruction," he is practicing it himself.

This appears to be a prime theme. In the debate itself, Bullock had contended

Look, I think this is the part of the discussion that shows how often these debates are detached from peoples’ lives. We got 100,000 people showing up at the border right now. If we decriminalize entry, if we give healthcare to everyone, we’ll have multiples of that. Don’t take my word. That was President Obama’s Homeland Security secretary that said that.

(It came from the Obama Administration, thus from on high.)

But of course, Bernie Sanders a moment earlier had not suggested "we give healthcare to everyone."  CNN's Dana Bash had asked the Vermont senator" you want to provide undocumented immigrants free healthcare and free college. Why won’t this drive even more people to come to the U.S. illegally?" Sanders, who was otherwise effective in the debate, completely whiffed when he responded

Because we’ll have the strong border protections. But the main point I want to make is that what Trump is doing through his racism and his xenophobia is demonizing a group of people. And as president, I will end that demonization. If a mother and a child walk thousands of miles on a dangerous path, in my view, they are not criminals. They are people fleeing violence.

This was an awful answer. A President Sanders want neither to sign an Executive Order granting free health care to illegal immigrants nor to propose legislation granting free health care to them.  Rather, he plans to include immigrants, legal or illegal, in whatever health care program he enacts. That would be, hopefully, his Medicare for All- but might not be.

Alternatively, a health care initiative could exclude persons who are not citizens or legal residents. Care for these uninsured folks would thus fall upon the public; they would become free riders, receiving treatment largely, or fully, for free. That would be worse for both the public and themselves than if they were covered by the same insurance as citizens and legal residents.

This is a presidential campaign, however, and the proper answer to a Bash-like question is "no. They will not get free healthcare" (or free college). Contrary to conservative propaganda, illegal immigrants do not get to vote, and any suggestion they will get something for nothing (as it will be twisted to mean) will merely annoy most other people.

Another way to avoid giving the GOP fodder on health care- or higher education- is to challenge the premise of the question. If Dana Bash or any other interviewer asks a question based on a false premise, the candidate should challenge that- politely (or not) and firmly.

For Bernie Sanders, that would have been to assure the audience that leaving immigrant children to suffer or die would be just as unacceptable to the American people as to himself.

Nor, for that matter, should Steve Bullock (or any Democrat) be given a free pass when he misrepresents his opponents' position. Perhaps then he would understand that if he is exorcised by "the politics of self destruction," he would be better advised to invest in a mirror than in a doomed presidential campaign.

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Friday, August 09, 2019

Salute, Democrats!

The socialist magazine Jacobin noted a few months ago that

it was (Rahm) Emanuel who, while serving in the Clinton administration, helped write NAFTA, the trade agreement which fueled offshoring of jobs, wage stagnation, upward redistribution of income and the collapse of the US manufacturing sector. He similarly helped push through welfare reform, legislation that spiked extreme poverty and cut off a lifeline for millions of working-class Americans, as well as the 1994 crime bill which incited the mass incarceration crisis.

After leaving the White House in 1998, Emanuel entered the world of investment banking where, over the course of four years, he made a staggering $16 million — more than ten times what an average American will earn over their entire lifetime.

During his time as head of the DCCC in the late 2000s, Emanuel focused on pushing the Democratic Party further to the right, recruiting conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats who worked to implement austerity, deregulate Wall Street and oppose healthcare expansion. Later, while serving as President Obama’s chief of staff, Emanuel took a hard line against union workers during the auto bailout and worked diligently to convince Obama not to pursue Obamacare — a plan that, while far from perfect, did ultimately provide healthcare coverage to millions of Americans.

And as mayor of Chicago, Emanuel has continued his lifelong political project of advancing corporate-friendly policies while ignoring the needs and demands of the poor and politically unconnected. He closed down public schools and mental health clinics, oversaw a police department rife with abuse, fought public-sector unions, lavished corporate giants with tax breaks while raising regressive fines and fees, privatized public services, presided over horrific levels of gun violence, and locked community groups and neighborhood leaders out of democratic decision-making in favor of his friends in high finance and corporate America.

So it shouldn't be surprising that Emanuel, who made $16 million dollars as an investment banker in the 2+ years after he left the Clinton White House and is currently working in private equity while a contributing editor at The Atlantic, would complain in an article written for Politico magazine

I don’t know what prompted so many Democratic candidates to throw Obama under the bus at the debates—but it was something to behold. If you’d predicted a week out that several wannabe Democratic standard-bearers would attack the first African-American president while the Republican incumbent was spewing racism right from the Oval Office.

Rhetorically asking "why would you think attacking the first African-American president was going to inspire more people of color to cast ballots," Emanuel claims "Donald Trump’s populism were born in reaction to Obama’s legislative triumphs—and also as a response to the president’s race (read: birtherism)."

No one decided to "throw Obama under the bus" (such an imaginative phrase!). The sharpest criticism of the ex-President came from Bill de Blasio, who had the temerity to ask Joe Biden about "all those deportations" which occurred while the latter was vice-president, doing so without mentioning "Obama" or "the former President."

Emanuel is right about birtherism. However, given his stint at the White House, it constitutes humblebrag to contend that Trump's populism was a response to President Obama's "triumphs." Bailing out banks at the expense of providing mortgage relief, holding virtually no one in the real estate or financial industry accountable for the Great Recession, and implementing a health care plan which has left tens of millions of Americans insured or under-insured in a welter of bureaucratic regulations while income and wealth were further pushed upward were not triumphs.

Several of Obama's policies did not endear Rust Belt voters to the President's chosen successor, and Hillary Clinton's dream of a third Obama term was thwarted.

Noting  "Clinton and Obama were the first Democrats to win reelection since FDR (emphasis his), Emanuel argues "it’s not just that repudiating the most important parts of the progressive legacy is a fool’s errand—it’s a lousy electoral strategy as well. " He must inform presidents Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, and Hillary Clinton, all of whom predicated their general election campaign on being moderate, technocratic, or repudiating their liberal/left record.

Though everyone is entitled to promote policy and strategy which coincides closely with his own economic interests

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Thursday, August 08, 2019

Racialism On Steroids

As seen in The Young Turks video here, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently made a well-intentioned, eloquent and impassioned- though doomed to failure- plea to white supremacists

What I want to say to the young men and increasingly to the young women in this country that are falling into the grip of white supremacy that find themselves getting radicalized in a funnel of vitriol towards Latinos, toward immigrants, toward African-Americans, towards all people black, towards all people Jewish, towards all people of different faiths,what I have to say to you is "come back because there is a mother waiting for you. I know it. I know there's a teacher waiting for you, saying 'what happened to my kid'"?

The "kid' at the end kind of ruins the spirit but as Cenk Uygur remarks, "We also, eventually, have to reach out to them and bring them back. So it's bold at this moment for AOC to say "remember, we'll also going to this second part," the first part being condemnation of the words of the likes of Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson.

Uygur acknowledges, though, that Ocasio-Cortez can say such things without the backlash which likely would result from a similar comment by any Democratic presidential candidate with a chance at securing the party's nomination.

That would, of course, exclude the ridiculous Marianne Williamson, who  with her call during the second round of debates for reparations. She makes a splash, Steve M notes, in the media which is "culturally liberal but don't like actually existing liberalism, with its concrete ideas and policies (accompanied, in many cases, by upper-bracket taxes); Williamson's content-free oratory is liberalism without all that icky stuff."

Three years ago, Williamson presaged her call for reparations, sadly within the mainstream of today's cultural liberalism, with a dramatic performance in which she told (at 10:14 of the video below) her rapt audience she would "lead us in an apology from white Americans to African-Americans on behalf of our country."

It is presumptuous of almost anyone, perhaps especially a self-help author, to lead a group of people in an apology for something so serious; doubly so when the apology purports to be for an entire nation of 350+ million people.  Furthermore, some individuals, including those among the Founding Fathers who were slaveholders, were rather more responsible, than, say, white babies born in June, 2019. Nonetheless:  "white Americans to African-Americans on behalf of" everybody.

There you have it: we're all guilty, all to the same extent, whether we've held political or economic power, whether a corporate executive living in Greenwich, Connecticut or a single woman taking care of her elderly mother and who is herself mother of a young man addicted to opiods in southeastern Ohio. And when everyone is responsible, no one is responsible- or at least held accountable.

We're all the same in Williamson's telling, in which is everyone is either a creature of Satan or has been equally and fatally victimized.  It's the sins of the father, judgement falling upon us because of our parents.

Williamson never will be nominated, let alone be elected President, nor hold any elective office. Such individuals who believe they are ordained to lead an apology for 300+ years of sin would not deign to run for a lesser office. However, she can do real damage to the Democratic Party.

Ocasio-Cortez and Uygur recognize that not all whites are created equal; or, rather, not all develop equally. The white supremacists among us are the minority- even the current President was elected with a minority of the two-party vote.  

That is something Marianne Williamson does not, or will not, understand.  However, if the Overton Window is allowed to move starkly in her direction among Democratic candidates, it will further alienate the vast majority of American voters, prompting an issue clearly in Donald J. Trump's wheelhouse.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

At Least He's Not Dan Quayle

The Mayo Clinic explains that dementia

describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with your daily life. It isn't a specific disease, but several different diseases may cause dementia.

Though dementia generally involves memory loss, memory loss has different causes. Having memory loss alone doesn't mean you have dementia.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of a progressive dementia in older adults, but there are a number of causes of dementia. Depending on the cause, some dementia symptoms may be reversible.

The leading Democratic candidate for President does not have dementia. However
The avidly populist and anti-Obama Stoller is not the most objective individual to speculate openly that Joe Biden is senile. However, Merriam-Webster defines senility as "the physical and mental decline associated with old age; especially : the deterioration of cognitive functioning associated with old age."

Therefore, the answer, is "yes." Barely reported, but telling, was that

Former Vice President Joe Biden misstated the locations of mass shootings in El Paso,Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, while speaking to donors at a high-dollar fundraiser in San Diego on Sunday night.

Biden, 76, mistakenly referred to the shootings as “the tragic events in Houston today and also in Michigan the day before," but later corrected himself, according to a pool report. Biden seemingly confused Houston for El Paso and Michigan for Ohio when speaking to donors about the shootings.

One mistake- or two mistakes in one remark- does not alone prove that an individual is senile. Senility is hard to pinpoint; President Trump, for instance, may be suffering from senility, mental illness, drug addiction, bad eyesight, or he might simply may saying as many destructive and evil things as possible.

However, Joe Biden is not mean-spirited or especially impulsive, and there is no hard evidence of physical deterioration. Yet, his performance in the first debate was terrible, and in the second, decent only by comparison.

It's undetermined what Biden meant when in the 8/31 event he remarked "The fact of the matter is I call for the immediate action to be taken. First of all, one of the things that - we're responsible for 15 percent of all the pollution in the country."

What or who is "we?" And that was before Biden in his closing statement, invited viewers to "go to Joe 33030," unaware that it is not a website address


Some people are still mentally sharp at age 76 and some are in steep decline by that point.  "What a waste it is to lose one's mind," Dan Quayle once commented.  Some people are in steep decline at age 76 while others are still mentally sharp. Democrats must convince themselves the latter is the case with Joe Biden before they select him to go against Donald Trump.

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Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Obama Being Obama

Name names. Three top Washington Post reporters write

Former president Barack Obama issued a forceful call Monday for the nation to “soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments.”

In a statement posted to his Twitter and Facebook accounts, Obama warned that such language has been at the root of most human tragedy, from slavery to the Holocaust to Rwandan genocide.

Although Obama never mentioned Trump by name, the statement amounted to a tacit rebuke of the president by a predecessor who has largely kept himself out of the public eye since leaving the White House.

Barack Obama, the last Democrat elected president, beloved by Democrats, pop culture elites, and mainstream media personalities everywhere, can do no better than a "tacit" rebuke?

He can, but he won't. In his defense, the former President did remark "no other developed nation tolerates the levels of gun violence that we do" and gave a shout-out for "tougher gun laws."

But then he went wobbly,  suggesting the need to prevent "every deranged individual from getting a weapon," thereby subtly adopting the GOP myth that mass shootings are conducted by deranged, or mentally ill, individuals. Obama noted "while the motivations behind these shootings may not yet be fully known," he should have stopped there. Instead, he continued

there are indications that the El Paso shooting followed a dangerous trend: troubled individuals who embrace racist ideologies and see themselves obligated to act violently to preserve white supremacy.

Nonetheless, there was mass homicide this past weekend also in Dayton or, as the candidate touted as the Democrat most likely to defeat President Trump put it, "Michigan."  While the motivation behind that crime is still unknown, there is no evidence yet that Connor Betts is a white supremacist. Although he may still be found to have embraced a racist ideology 
It got worse as Obama continued

But just as important, all of us have to send a clarion call and behave with the values of tolerance and diversity that should be the hallmark of our democracy. We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments....

Some of "us" have done so; including most prominent Democratic politicians, a few Republican politicians, journalists and others.   Add "soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments," and virtually all but the Republicans have done so.

It's not "we," Mr. ex-President. It's rejected by Republicans, party officials, elected officials, and the 80-90% of Republicans who approve of the President the reprehensible language. The tip-off in Obama's statement should have been the "any of our leaders," which effectively removes particular accountability from the incumbent. If he intended to do otherwise, the unusually careful and eloquent former President would have replaced "of any of our leaders" with "of our leaders."

But even that does not get to the crux of President Obama's weak critique. Until November 3, 2020, it will not be the primary responsibility, nor the responsibility primarily, of the general electorate (even of the Republican rank-and-file) to reject soundly hateful or racist sentiments. It is the responsibility of the people who hold power.

It was a responsibility Obama characteristically shirked as President during his "make me do it" presidency. Completely in character, he now puts the onus on "the overwhelming majority of Americans of good will, of every race and faith and political party." But some already have responded, and some of them have been bold enough to utter the two words Barack Obama rarely does: "Donald Trump."

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Monday, August 05, 2019

Two Creeps Warning Of An Invasion

Comedienne Sarah Silverman was wrong:
Only six days later, Silverman was off by at least two, with the shootings in El Paso, Texas, Dayton, Ohio (only one person killed in three incidents in Chicago). However, she did correctly blame the outbreak of mass shootings on the unwillingness to pass gun safety legislation.

That is, as one would assume, far better than the President's reaction on Sunday.  Speaking from yet another taxpayer-paid vacations at at one of his golf courses, he stated "Hate has no place in our country, and we’re going to take care of it,” though not by suicide (fortunately).. He remarked also that the shooters are "really very seriously mentally ill," a bold assessment by someone who never has conducted a psychiatric or psychological examination of anyone.  

It appears, however, that Patrick Crusius lived in the town of Allen in a state with an open-carry law, drove to El Paso with an assault-style weapon similar to an AK-47 and murdered 20 people in a Wal-Mart which permits open carry. Shortly before the shooting, he had posted online a manifesto which, The New York Times reports, "spoke of a 'Hispanic invasion of Texas, (which) detailed a plan to separate America into territories by race. It warned that white people were being replaced by foreigners."

Sound like anybody we know?



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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 somethin...