Saturday, October 19, 2019

Unusual Supporter, Maybe

Representative Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez headlined in Queens, NY on Saturday a huge Bernie Sanders rally which included Nina

Turner, a veteran of the 2016 campaign known for her pugnacious style, went on an extended riff blasting both former Vice President Joe Biden and Warren without naming either of them.

“There are some people who sat on the sidelines before and there was only one person who stood up to the establishment and his name is Bernard Sanders,” Turner said, referencing Warren’s neutrality during the 2016 presidential primary.

“There are many copies, but there is only one original,” she added. “I don’t know why you would take the copy, baby, when you can have the original.”

Nina Turner supporting a candidate because he was the only "person who stood up to the establishment' is really rich.  That would be "rich" as in the interests which the then-state senator stood up for only a few years ago in Ohio.  Last month, Rachel Cohen of The Intercept reported

As an Ohio state senator in 2012, Turner played a leading role in shepherding a package of policies through the legislature to bring Cleveland schools under a more robust system of mayoral control, to expand charter schools in the city, and to weaken teacher job protections. The so-called Cleveland Plan was styled off the portfolio-model of school reform pioneered in New Orleans, Denver, and Hartford, Connecticut, and had the backing of business leaders and philanthropic organizations. Both for-profit and nonprofit charters can operate in Ohio.

"Nearly all" the Democratic candidates for president have been moving away from support for the charter school industry but Turner described the Cleveland Plan to The Intercept as

“a way to allow the Cleveland schools to be a little more creative,” at a time when the city was in need of “transformational” changes to the school system. “We had to do some things to help guarantee that the residents would get a big change, and it was kind of hot at first, but at the end all the parties came together,” she said. “The unions were not happy at first, but everyone came together for the betterment of the children, and we ultimately succeeded.”

The original version of the Cleveland Plan, which Turner introduced in the state Senate, included a provision to gut existing union contracts and renegotiate everything from scratch. The “fresh start” provision, as it was known, would have also given the school district the power to unilaterally impose a contract if the two sides failed to reach an agreement.

Advocates of the Cleveland Plan eventually dropped a provision which would have revoked existing union contracts but

along the way pressured the union to agree to a number of other reforms like ending seniority-based layoffs and tying teacher compensation to student test scores. Teachers were “stunned” by Turner’s leadership on the Cleveland Plan, Quolke said, especially since she had played a major role in opposing a statewide bill to weaken public-sector  collective bargaining, which had been overturned by Ohio voters on the ballot only months earlier. “She tried to characterize [the Cleveland Plan] as she pulled the union together, but she wouldn’t even talk to us,” said Quolke, who described Turner as “absolutely unapologetic” and said his union has “a horrible relationship” with her to this day.

Powerful interests committed to the notion that schools should be run for the benefit of profit rather than children recognized her as one of their own and

Turner was lauded by charter and voucher advocates for her work passing the Cleveland Plan. In June 2012, School Choice Ohio, a statewide advocacy group, gave Turner the Fannie M. Lewis Courage Award, named after a longtime city council member who helped establish Cleveland’s private school voucher program, the second of its kind in the nation. The controversial program, which allowed public dollars to flow to private and religious schools, launched in 1996 and was narrowly upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002. Nearly 7,500 Cleveland students used private school vouchers in the 2018-19 school year.

Evidently not comfortable with the wall of separation between church and state

“It doesn’t matter whether our young people go to public, private, religious schools — it is all about choice, and it is all about high quality,” Turner said in her award acceptance speech. “We should demand high-quality schools, no matter how they come. … And to the parents, I want to salute you, because choice is something that God almighty has given us as human beings.”

As a surrogate for Bernie Sanders, the Ohioan now has become a skeptic of the charter school movement, at least in public. However, Cohen notes "Turner referred to herself as 'a public schools person through and through.'”

Referring to oneself as "a public schools person" is a tell. As Turner is doubtless aware, charter schools are technically considered public schools because they are partially funded by the public in the form of taxpayer dollars.  Openly touting "public schools" can be a nod and a wink to the for-profit school industry, and likely is here.

"There was only one person who stood up to the establishment and his name is Bernie Sanders," Turner noted.  Nonetheless, there is only one person in the Obama Administration who stood up to Treasury Secretary Geithner and NationalEconomic Council Director Summers, which proved very discomfiting to President Obama as he prioritized big banks over homeowners facing foreclosure.

Bernie Sanders demonstrated courage, as Turner implied, in running for the Democratic presidential nomination against presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton.  Elizabeth Warren showed a different kind of courage, arguably greater, and is still reviled by some veterans of the Obama Administration because of it.

To Sanders' credit, he gained Ocasio-Cortez's support. However, the more surrogates of his such as Nina Turner swipe at Elizabeth Warren, the more likely it is that the Party will end up with a more centrist nominee as it did in 2016.  Unfortunately, as Nina Turner's work for the for-profit school industry indicates, that might not be an unpleasant outcome for a few of the Vermont senator's loudest supporters.

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Friday, October 18, 2019

Mulvaney Feeds The Fox

George Conway, husband to Kellyanne Conway, is a bold, brave, and well-informed lawyer and Never Trumper. He is, however, wrong:

Understandably, then, he believes also
Donald J. Trump, who got elected President after firmly endorsing sexual assault and is using the presidency to become the billionaire he always has claimed to be, is no fool. The most recent evidence comes by way an incident which at first glance seems to offer further evidence of Conway's assessment. Acting Chief of Staff Mike Mulvaney

made a stunning admission Thursday by confirming that President Donald Trump froze nearly $400 million in US security aid to Ukraine in part to pressure that country into investigating Democrats.

Hours later, Mulvaney then denied ever saying those words.

The dramatic admission came during an afternoon news conference where Mulvaney insisted that he knew only of a US request to investigate the handling of a Democratic National Committee server hacked in the 2016 election, but text messages between US diplomats show efforts to get Ukraine to commit to an investigation into Burisma, the company on whose board former Vice President Joe Biden's son sat. There is no evidence of wrongdoing in Ukraine by either Biden.

"That's why we held up the money," Mulvaney said after listing the 2016-related investigation and Trump's broader concerns about corruption in Ukraine.

We already knew that there was a quid pro quo, that the House of Representatives is very likely to impeach President Trump primarily because of it, and that the Senate will vote to acquit.

Comedian Trevor Noah maintained “It’s like the murder suspect in a Law & Order episode confessing in the middle of the scene." A Fox News host lamented that Mulvaney "stood at the podium and connected the dots for Democrats and said, ‘You are darn right… that we were holding up aid to Ukraine because the president wanted an investigation of corruption!'" House Speaker Pelosi charged "what he said, was of course, a confession, but it's also a cavalier attitude of get over it. It's so disrespectful of our Constitution, and it's just not the way our founders expected."

Mulvaney said nothing that was not already obvious. Further, he did not make the statement under oath (and in fact, recounted shortly afterward).  If he ever actually testifies, he always can fall on his sword, claiming that he had misunderstood the President. And he answers to one individual, one deity alone.

But he got Donald Trump's message out there by stating "Did he also mention to me in passing the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely."

And there you have it, the White House screaming "the Democrats made me do it."  It is part of the GOP's "it wasn't us, it was you" playbook," which neatly folds into the Trump theme that all are corrupt, aiding and abetting his effort to undermine faith in the democratic process. It gives Republicans in Congress and at the grass roots the all-purpose "DNC" excuse for Donald Russia's behavior.

Moreover, planting this theory reinforces the myth to which Trump and many of his die-hard supporters cling to, that the Kremlin did not interfere in the 2016 election.  Why would Trump & Co. even bring up the 2016 election if it were the actual beneficiary of meddling?

Mulvaney announced "It was almost like they built this building"- Trump's Doral resort- to host the G-7 meeting..  That is an obvious violation of the enoluments clause, an invitation to impeachment, unprecedented presidential influence-peddling, and an appeal to other nations to expect a return on their investment at a Trump property.

Of course, that got lost in the other news. It is thus yet another indication that if Donald Trump, whatever his mental, psychological or physical debilitation, is "crazy," it is only as a fox.

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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Outmaneuvered By Centrists

The most controversial health care proposal in the Democratic Party- or either party- is Medicare for All which, as it turns out, Pete Buttiegieg was in favor of before he was opposed. Nonetheless, he now is running against it and so, arguably, the most important remark- directed at Elizabeth Warren- made at Tuesday's Democratic debate was

Well, we heard it tonight, a yes or no question that didn't get a yes or no answer. Look, this is why people here in the Midwest are so frustrated with Washington in general and Capitol Hill in particular. Your signature, Senator, is to have a plan for everything. Except this.

No plan has been laid out to explain how a multi-trillion-dollar hole in this Medicare for all plan that Senator Warren is putting forward is supposed to get filled in. And the thing is, we really can deliver health care for every American and move forward with the boldest, biggest transformation since the inception of Medicare itself.

But the way to do it without a giant multi-trillion-dollar hole and without having to avoid a yes-or-no question is Medicare for all who want it. We take a version of Medicare. We let you access it if you want to. And if you prefer to stay on your private plan, you can do that, too. That is what most Americans want, Medicare for all who want it, trusting you to make the right decision for your health care and for your family. And it can be delivered without an increase on the middle-class taxes.

Warren did not have an adequate response. Nor did Senator Bernie Sanders, who (have you heard?)- wrote the bill!

Buttigieg's Medicare For All Who Want It is at least a little more sophisticated than advocacy by Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar for a "public option," which they've never defined, probably because when pimping for the health care status quo, always say "public option." The tactic worked for President Obama, who in retrospect was wary of offending the insurance companies but would invoke "public option" periodically tokeep the left appeased.

However, Buttigieg's Medicare For All Who Want It may be more regressive than it sounds. Neither Warren nor Sanders appeared to recognize that the South Bend, Indiana mayor clarified Medicare advocacy with "we take a version of Medicare."

But Buttigieg's version, it should be suspected, probably is Medicare Advantage- or some iteration of it- a private add-on to the traditional, immensely popular Medicare. That program is partially publicly-funded; and to the  extent that it is not, is nonetheless not funded by user fees.

By contrast, Medicare Advantage is run through private insurance companies and provides a considerable profit for those insurance companies.  When Amy Klobuchar, arguing as have other candidates, slams "kicking 149 million people off their insurance in our years," she is advocating for maintaining those individuals in the private insurance market and padding the already supple bank accounts of health insurance executives.

Both Sanders and Warren understand that.  Yet, they are playing defense, largely standing by as the warriors for the health insurance attack with virtual impunity Medicare for All. 

When Senator Sanders unveiled his single-payer health care bill, he wisely called it "Medicare for All," riffing upon one of the most popular government programs ever. If Medicare for All is a good idea, Medicare for all who want it must be at least a good idea, it would appear. As in so many cases, however, appearances are misleading.   Now Buttigieg slickly calls his program "Medicare for everyone who wants it" and Sanders, along with Warren, is stuck.

Both senators probably realize that the mayor's proposal is dependent upon the private insurance market and therefore would do little to alleviate the nation's health care crisis, but cannot afford to criticize directly a scheme with "Medicare" in it. They're in a bind.

Of course, the only two candidates with a clearly progressive view of health care have been trapped throughout the campaign by a perception not of their making.  "Build on Obamacare, add a public option," Joe Biden said Tuesday night, echoing Klobuchar's bizarre claim "the best and boldest idea here is to not trash Obamacare but to do exactly what Barack Obama wanted to do" (oh so bold). 

Neither Sanders nor Warren, mindful of the Democratic electorate's adoration of Barack Obama, has been able to utter something akin to "Obamacare was not perfect."  While that is an albatross around their neck, they should not underestimate the danger to their candidacies posed by the candidates who want to protect the private insurance industry with misleading calls for a public option or Medicare for some.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

"Regime Change"

This is a great question, and it's not rhetorical:
It could be because Representative Tulsi Gabbard is not considered a serious threat to attain the nomination, an explanation suggested by the fire aimed at Senator Warren, who has steadily been gaining momentum and is considered by betting markets to be the most likely nominee. Or there could be an additional, or different, reason. 

Nevertheless, while unfortunately no candidate in Tuesday's Democratic debate dared bring up Gabbard's association with Assad, Anderson Cooper's failure to ask an obvious question of the Hawaiian was, in a different way, at least as egregious. Cooper asked

Congresswoman Gabbard, last week you said that American troops should get out of Syria now. You don't agree with how the president handled the withdrawal. What would you have done differently? How would you have pulled out troops without the bloodshed we're seeing now?

Gabbard responded

Well, first of all, we've got to understand the reality of the situation there, which is that the slaughter of the Kurds being done by Turkey is yet another negative consequence of the regime change war that we've been waging in Syria.

Donald Trump has the blood of the Kurds on his hand, but so do many of the politicians in our country from both parties who have supported this ongoing regime change war in Syria that started in 2011, along with many in the mainstream media, who have been championing and cheerleading this regime change war.

Not only that, but the New York Times and CNN have also smeared veterans like myself for calling for an end to this regime change war. Just two days ago, the New York Times put out an article saying that I'm a Russian asset and an Assad apologist and all these different smears. This morning, a CNN commentator said on national television that I'm an asset of Russia. Completely despicable.

As president, I will end these regime change wars by doing two things -- ending the draconian sanctions that are really a modern-day siege the likes of which we are seeing Saudi Arabia wage against Yemen, that have caused tens of thousands of Syrian civilians to die and to starve, and I would make sure that we stop supporting terrorists like Al Qaida in Syria who have been the ground force in this ongoing regime change war.

After Elizabeth Warren took a shot at the question, Pete Buttigieg (figuratively and literally) confronted Gabbard, and it was on, with

Well, respectfully, Congresswoman, I think that is dead wrong. The slaughter going on in Syria is not a consequence of American presence. It's a consequence of a withdrawal and a betrayal by this president of American allies and American values.

Look, I didn't think we should have gone to Iraq in the first place. I think we need to get out of Afghanistan. But it's also the case that a small number of specialized, special operations forces and intelligence capabilities were the only thing that stood between that part of Syria and what we're seeing now, which is the beginning of a genocide and the resurgence of ISIS.

Meanwhile, soldiers in the field are reporting that for the first time they feel ashamed -- ashamed -- of what their country has done. We saw the spectacle, the horrifying sight of a woman with the lifeless body of her child in her arms asking, what the hell happened to American leadership?

And when I was deployed, I knew one of the things keeping me safe was the fact that the flag on my shoulder represented a country known to keep its word. And our allies knew it and our enemies knew it....You take that away, you are taking away what makes America America. It makes our troops and the world a much more dangerous place.

Responding, Gabbard contended

Yeah, absolutely. So, really, what you're saying, Mayor Pete, is that you would continue to support having U.S. troops in Syria for an indefinite period of time to continue this regime change war that has caused so many refugees to flee Syria, that you would continue to have our country involved in a war that has undermined our national security, you would continue this policy of the U.S. actually providing arms in support to terrorist groups in Syria, like Al Qaida, HTS, al-Nusra and others, because they are the ones who have been the ground force in this regime change war? That's really what you're saying?

It continued with

COOPER: Mayor Pete -- Mayor Buttigieg?

BUTTIGIEG: No, you can embrace -- or you can put an end to endless war without embracing Donald Trump's policy, as you're doing.

GABBARD: Will you end the regime change war, is the question.

BUTTIGIEG: What we are doing...

GABBARD: What is an endless war if it's not a regime change war?

COOPER: Allow him to respond. Please allow him to respond.

BUTTIGIEG: What we are doing -- or what we were doing in Syria was keeping our word. Part of what makes it possible for the United States to get people to put their lives on the line to back us up is the idea that we will back them up, too.

When I was deployed, not just the Afghan National Army forces, but the janitors put their lives on the line just by working with U.S. forces. I would have a hard time today looking an Afghan civilian or soldier in the eye after what just happened over there. And it is undermining the honor of our soldiers. You take away the honor of our soldiers, you might as well go after their body armor next.

This president has betrayed American values. Our credibility has been tattered.

Nonetheless, Buttigieg acquitted himself well in the manner of optics. Understanding that an empty attempt to appeal to patriotism can be the last refuge of scoundrels, he claimed Gabbard chose to "take away the honor of our soldiers, you might as well go after their body armor next." No one ever lost a vote by wrapping himself in the flag of "the troops."

Substantively, on seven (7) occasions, Tulsi Gabbard mentioned "regime change war" and once "regime change wars." Once she charged "Donald Trump has the blood of the Kurds on his hand, but so do many of the politicians in our country from both parties," The mayor might have criticized her for the moral equivalence of equating American politicians with Bashir al-Assad, but with bothsiderism a crucial part of the centrist creed, that was not tempting for Buttigieg.

Yet, Cooper was not quite up to the challenge, failing to ask Gabbard what she meant by "regime change" or "regime change wars."  Fact-checker Daniel Daleassessed the accuracy of the congresswoman's claim here, summarized as

The story of American involvement in the Syrian civil war is complicated and difficult to assess. The US military intervention in Syria has been debated since it began -- but Gabbard's claim that American forces were engaged in a "regime-change war" cuts against what US officials have said about American policy in Syria. Some US-backed militias have fought the Syrian government, but US troops were there to help defeat ISIS.

A candidate for President whom some people have attacked as being cozy with Assad maintains that the USA has conducted a war which "has caused so many refugees to flee Syria" while a fact-checker writes "there is no evidence to suggest that American forces were engaged in an effort to overthrow Assad." There should have been a further examination of Gabbard's view, which contrasts radically with that of the American military and political establishment and would prompt a dramatic restructuring of Mideast policy.

Admittedly, that would have taken a few minutes away from the discussion, closing the debate, of how everyone should be given a hug, maybe hold hands, and be nice to each other:

 Next up: how Warren and Sanders are failing.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

LeBron James, As He Is

On Christmas Day, I wrote that Huffington Post had reported the previous day

The Los Angeles Lakers star apologized Sunday for sharing a “getting that Jewish money” lyric from the rap song “asmr” by 21 Savage.

“We been getting that Jewish money / Everything is Kosher,” (LeBron) James typed onto his Instagram story entry.

“Entourage” producer Doug Ellin and others online took offense, informing the superstar that the words reinforced a harmful stereotype.

In his mea culpa, James said he thought the words were positive.

Mr. James, it was clear, was either stupid or a bigot and I suggested that he is not stupid. I still believe that. However, whatever his unfortunate thought processes

“I don’t want to get into a word or sentence feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand and he spoke,” James said before a preseason game Monday. “And so many people could have been harmed not only financially, physically, emotionally, spiritually.”

His comments come less than two weeks after Morey tweeted an image captioned: “Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong.” He quickly deleted it and apologized, saying he “did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China.”

However, backlash toward Morey and the NBA has continued. Chinese fans and the team’s partners in Beijing have expressed outrage at the NBA executive for backing the Chinese-ruled region, where protesters have for months been holding pro-democracy demonstrations that have led to violent clashes with police.

James later clarified in a tweet that he was not commenting on Morey’s tweet itself ― or “the substance” of the tweet ― but rather on the GM tweeting something political without thinking about the consequences.

“I believe nobody stopped and considered what would happen,” James said in a two-part tweet. “Could have waited a week to send it... I do not believe there was any consideration for the consequences and ramifications of the tweet.”

Shorter James: maybe Morey is right but it doesn't matter. I have a swoosh to protect.

Or maybe James isn't motivated by his ability to reap hundreds of millions of dollars more through his association with Nike. In December LeBron promoted the song with lyrics including "We been gettin' that Jewish money, everything is Kosher (On God), bought myself a 'Ventador and bought my bitch a Roadster(Straight up)."  Now he is defending against criticism a government which has placed an estimated one tothree million Uighurs, most of them Muslims, into concentration camps.

It is not a good look for LeBron James, an apologist for anti-Semitism and concentration camps. Also not a good look: if of twelve Democrats on the stage tonight in Columbus, no one speaks out against the regime in Beijing.

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Monday, October 14, 2019

Turn The Tables

And the winner of the Democratic debate on Tuesday night will be..... the candidate who (almost) follows Jennifer Rubin's advice. The pro-Biden, pro-Buttigieg neo-conservative columnist writes

Biden’s campaign has yet to call for the Trump children to take the same pledge as Hunter Biden, but it really should consider going on offense. Ivanka, Jared, Eric and Donald Trump Jr. are the poster children for familial corruption.

Tuesday’s debate is the perfect forum for Democrats to end the double standard that serves to shelter the Trump clan from scrutiny for continuing to perpetrate massive conflicts and self-dealing while targeting Joe Biden and his son, who have done the right thing in promising to raise the bar on ethics if Biden wins. It would be a good idea for all the Democratic candidates to promise that their own adult children will follow Hunter Biden’s example. Most important, it is time to shame the media and Congress into investigating the corruption going on as we speak. Ivanka, Jared, Eric and Donald Trump Jr. have been given the kid glove treatment by the media and Congress (the latter for fear of generating sympathy for the Trump offspring!). That needs to end.

Rubin is responding to the report from Bloomberg that "Hunter Biden is stepping down from the board of a Chinese-backed private equity company and promising to forgo all foreign work if his father, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, is elected president in 2020.”

Before we lionize Hunter (or Joe) Biden, we must acknowledge that Hunter, a lawyer and hedge fund manager, had no experience pertaining to Ukraine when he took the $50,000 per month position as a member of the Board of Directors of a fossil fuel company.   He was tapped for one reason and one reason only and thereby jammed up his father, who had not foreclosed the possibility of running for President of the United States of America... against a guy who rails about "the swamp."

Nonetheless, GOP charges against Joe Biden pertaining to Burisma are false and reprehensible, and demonstrably so. Thus, it is time for the Democratic candidates, and the debate an ideal time for one Democratic candidate, to support the Bidens. That would not be Hunter Biden,  who was no juvenile, and while children are not responsible for the sins of their fathers, a father is not responsible for the sin of his adult son.

The candidate would benefit by promptly, at the earliest possible moment, making it clear that he (or she, of whom there are fewer) differs on several matters with the former vice-president but not on this. It would be done- as Rubin seems to understand- not by playing defense but by going on offense. Hunter Biden may be a bad seed- but Donald Jr. and Ivanka are definitively stinking, rotten seeds.

As Rubin implies, the Trump family has set records for greed, self-dealing, and endangering national security by pursuing business ahead of the national interest. Additionally,  she argues, the Trumps "have been given the kid glove treatment by the media and Congress (the latter for fear of generating sympathy for the Trump offspring!). That needs to end."

Go ahead, Democrats: criticize the media.  It's a classic of the GOP playbook, a tried-and-true strategy. Observing this, Democrats have been conned into thinking that journalists and media personalities are their own friends.  Perhaps in part for this reason, the Democratic National Committee, stung by criticism that it put its thumb on the scale for its leading candidate in the 2016 primary season, has been largely,unforgivably, silent.  

But when thrown a hanging curve, swing. Criticizing the media simply is not done by Democratic politicians or interests groups. There is a hungry constituency, one waiting for Democrats to stand up for themselves as a party, a unit, and in this case, a family.

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Sunday, October 13, 2019

Donald Russia Acts Again

Maryland senator Chris Van Holland and South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham (two days before video below)

released a bill Wednesday that threatens a series of economic sanctions against Turkey for its incursion, and Van Hollen claimed Sunday that “momentum is building for the Congress to act” amid the dayslong Turkish assault.

“Congress is going to first call upon the president to do the right thing, but since we can't count on that, we will have this bipartisan legislation that will impose very stiff sanctions on Turkey until they stop their aggression and withdraw their forces,” he said.

Van Hollen also blasted Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s announcement Friday that Trump would sign an executive order granting the Treasury Department, in consultation with the White House and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “very significant new sanctions authorities” against Turkey.

While Mnuchin warned the administration “can shut down the Turkish economy if we need to,” he stressed that “there are no sanctions at this time” against Ankara.

“For God's sakes, what are they waiting for, right? People are being killed right now,” Van Hollen said Sunday.

It took a while for some of us to figure it out, but now we have a pretty good idea what they were waiting for because  
We are capable but Donald Trump is not willing, and that commander probably realizes by now that the President of the USA is eager to expand Russian influence in the Middle East. Speaking on Wednesday, the President 

seemed unconcerned by warnings that thousands of other ISIS fighters — and thousands of their family members who are held in separate facilities in the region, including many who still sympathize with the extremist group — could escape amid mounting chaos.

"Well they're going to be escaping to Europe, that's where they want to go, they want to go back to their homes," Mr. Trump said at the White House.

That should do wonders for the European security.   It's as though Vladimir Putin, always on the lookout to bust up the European Union, had suggested to his Washington friend that there is no better way to punish European nations, a prime aim of President Trump, than to invite ISIL terrorists to travel west into the European mainland.

Trump's motivation is increasingly becoming clear.  But even during campaign 2016, Slate's Franklin Foer recognized

Having a friend in the Kremlin would help Trump fulfill his longtime dream of planting his name in the Moscow skyline—a dream that he pursued even as he organized his presidential campaign. “Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment,” he once said. “We will be in Moscow at some point.”

The next thing you know, he'll get himself photographed in front of a Russian battleship. Oh, wait- he took care of that on Sunday morning:

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Saturday, October 12, 2019

Suddenly, Now Is Time To Keep Silent

Steve Kerr was trying to avoid being controversial when, drawing a false equivalence between the use of the AR-15 for murder in the USA and the mainland Chinese regime, he excused the latter.

But when guys are outspoken, court controversy, and go on the offensive, they leave no doubt, and who they stand with.

Houston Rockets' general manager Caryl Morey simply tweeted "fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong" and veteran sports journalist Stephen A. Smith, aghast at Morey's public support for liberty, vigorously remarked

What happened to us as a society? I'm talking about this addictive, insatiable appetite to express every damn thing. What were we doing before Twitter? I got a damn cold. I'm sick and it still drives me crazy. What the hell were we doing before Twitter?

You mumbled something under your breath in the privacy of conversation with friends or whomever. Does it have to be disseminated to millions? What the hell is wrong with us? I don't understand it. And anybody who curtails your speech, they're like an oppressor, right?

Well, if they're so oppressive, what the hell are you taking their money for?

But Morey is not taking their money, any or all of which would be taken by the guy Morey works for, the team owner:

That is the fellow who wouldn't mind a little blood money from the Communist- uh, er- mainland Chinese.  Yet, Smith continued

This is the thing that drives me nuts. I had one idiot stop there and say to me "I mean, years ago you wasn't comlaining when Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fist." I said "wait a minute. First of all, they were black.  Secondly....

Wait right there. "Houston, we've had a problem here" and it's not Morey, though later he deleted his tweet under pressure.

The issue should not have been how Smith and Carlos were born- black- but what they were doing and the values it reflected. The Morey/China matter may have been the first time that the outspoken Stephen A. (as he is affectionately known to many admirers) had any problem with an individual "express(ing) every damn thing."  Over the course of his career on radio, ESPN, and as a newspaper columnist, Smith has assertively given, usually shouted, his opinion with no reluctance that it be "disseminated to millions." 

More quietly, with the eloquence of a trained actor, in 2014 the sports personality would not have his speech curtailed when Donald Sterling, then the owner of NBA's LA Clippers, expressed racial bigotry in the privacy of a conversation with a friend, as Smith now advocates.  After explaining why Sterling's remarks would have bothered and offended blacks, on ESPN he argued (beginning at 4:41 of the video below)

You have a head coach who is now also in control of basketball operations, who is black.  You have no problem saying these things because they're making you money.  But you don't really want them around. They're basically labor to you. It's been validated. It's been substantiated forever. He has to go. He cannot be an owner in the NBA.

Back then, Stephen A. Smith had no problem with publicizing his opinion to a large audience in opposition to a guy who made reprehensible remarks privately.

His perspective obviously has changed radically. It may be because, as he himself put it, "first of all, they were black." (That applied to Tommie Smith and Juan Carlos, also to the subject of Sterling's comments.)  Though race- an inherited characteristic- is likely a factor, there may be others, such as an antagonism toward Twitter, on which he appears to be fairly active, privately mumbling with 13,800 followers and others.  

Steve Kerr made a foolish remark. However, you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, and with Stephen A. Smith it blows toward hypocrisy.

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Friday, October 11, 2019

The USA Is Not Mainland China

Formerly a good off-guard in the National Basketball Association, Steve Kerr is currently a good head coach with many championship rings from the Chicago Bulls (as player) and Golden State Warriors (as coach).  The son of a man murdered by Islamic terrorists, he is anti-Trump, thoughtful, and somewhat of a gun safety activist. However, that does not make him immune from espousing moral equivalence as when, in an otherwise very civil and reasonable news conference, he responded to the umpteenth question about mainland China and the NBA by stating (beginning at 12:24 of the video below)

But people in China didn't ask me about, you know, people owning AR-15s and mowing each other down in the mall.

I wasn't asked that question, so we can play this game all we want and go all over the map- and you know there's this side of the issue and that issue. The world is a complex place and there is more gray than black and white. I realize what's popular these days is to make it black and white and you're either good or you're evil and it's convenient to do things that way.

There is a lot of murder in the USA, mass murder, murder among close relatives, and murder in the streets. But that partly comes not from a restriction of freedom but from an excess of freedom, or at least a misinterpretation of one among the Bill of Rights.  Condoned by some in government, it is not carried out by the state. But when it comes to the ethics of the regime in Beijing, it is largely black and white, and it comes down on the side of evil. And for the government which has made concentration camps a thing again

.... the vision of high-tech surveillance — precise, all-seeing, infallible — that China’s leaders are investing billions of dollars in every year, making Xinjiang an incubator for increasingly intrusive policing systems that could spread across the country and beyond....

Developed and sold by the China Electronics Technology Corporation, a state-run defense manufacturer, the system in Kashgar is on the cutting edge of what has become a flourishing new market for technology that the government can use to monitor and subdue millions of Uighurs and members of other Muslim ethnic groups in Xinjiang...

A New York Times investigation drawing on government and company records as well as interviews with industry insiders found that China is in effect hard-wiring Xinjiang for segregated surveillance, using an army of security personnel to compel ethnic minorities to submit to monitoring and data collection while generally ignoring the majority Han Chinese, who make up 36 percent of Xinjiang’s population.

It is a virtual cage that complements the indoctrination camps in Xinjiang where the authorities have detained a million or more Uighurs and other Muslims in a push to transform them into secular citizens who will never challenge the ruling Communist Party. The program helps identify people to be sent to the camps or investigated, and keeps tabs on them when they are released.

This is not Luxembourg or the Netherlands, Japan or even Botswana. It is despotic mainland China, and the allure of mass profits has proven too powerful for Ivanka Trump and numerous western corporations to resist. In the annals of villains in this story, Steve Kerr is only approximately 997 out of 1,000 (Ivanka in the top 10) and would deserve the benefit of any doubt there is. And if Steve Kerr has not been up to the task of speaking truth to power, time is running out for someone in the NBA to do so.  

Next up: someone who deserves no benefit of the doubt.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Social Responsibility Lacking

There was a time when NBA players cared about injustice,such as when

Several players on both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets, including LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Kyrie Irving and Deron Williams, wore black "I Can't Breathe" T-shirts during pregame warm-ups Monday, following in the footsteps of Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose who wore the same shirt in a game Saturday to show support for the family of Eric Garner.

A couple of years earlier

It was the morning of Game 5 of the Warriors' 2014 first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers. Four days earlier, TMZ had published voice recordings of then-Clippers owner Donald Sterling making racist statements to his mistress, V. Stiviano, throwing the NBA into a tailspin....

The NBA's players were appalled. They threatened to boycott playoff games if new NBA commissioner Adam Silver didn't get rid of Sterling quickly and definitively.

"There's no room for that in our game," LeBron James, then of the Miami Heat, said the morning after the tapes were released. "Can't have that from a player, we can't ever from an owner, we can't have it from a fan, and so on and so on. It doesn't matter if you're black, white, Hispanic or whatever the case may be. We can't have that as part of our game."

Sterling was forced to sell his team and was banned from the the league for life. However, social activism goes only so far with multi-millionaire athletes when the NBA has billions of dollars riding on its deals with the nation popularizing the concentration camps. Now massive protests by Hong Kong residents rile mainland China and

As the dispute between the NBA and China escalated, one of the first on-court stars to speak publicly was 2018 most-valuable player James Harden.

“We apologize. You know, we love China. We love playing there,” Harden said from a Houston Rockets practice in Tokyo. Standing next to All-Star teammate Russell Westbrook, he added, “For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most important love.”

The athletes are not the primary forces which are enabling and bolstering the Beijing butchers. Activision Blizzard and Apple are more worthy of condemnation, and the NBA's office itself bears responsibility for the league's response to the hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents demanding greater liberty. Still, as Donald Sterling learned, when King James (LeBron) and other superstars- such as Adidas spokesperson and NBA offensive juggernaut, James Harden- speak, commissioner Silver and the owners listen.

Which is only one reason this is disgusting:
Whatever isolated tweet there may be in a nation of 350 million people, there have been relatively few about the apathy of black athletes; only about athletes.  Black NBA players have been criticized because they are the majority of the players in the NBA and, to an even greater extent, the majority of the superstars. The media asks them about trending topics because fans and the general public wants to know what they believe.  Nobody cares what DonteDiVincenzo thinks.

When the roster of companies which profit off their business with China include Boeing, Proctor & Gamble, General Electric, Visa, Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, Johnson & Johson, Ford. GM. Starbucks, and Papa John’s, things must be kept in perspective. NBA players can be only a part of the solution but have considerable influence, when they assert it, over league policies. And ascribing racial motivation to their critics only strengthens the regime in China and excuses their enablers in the USA's corporate sector.

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Wednesday, October 09, 2019

The War Trump Wants

The nearly inevitable has taken place as

a long-planned Turkish military operation in north-east Syria has begun, as Kurdish forces which currently control of the area reported widespread airstrikes and “huge panic”.

The move was triggered by Donald Trump’s announcement at the weekend that US troops would withdraw from the area, where thousands of captured Isis fighters and their families are held by Kurdish forces, and threatens to open a bloody new front in the Syrian war.

It was likely, but a little less likely, until

Recep Tayyip Erdogan may be a ruthless dictator, but he knows when someone has dared him to act by poking him in the eye. And act he has done, Kurds be damned or, as he and his buddy Donald Russia would prefer, slaughtered.

Of course, to be fair to Donald Russia, he said only that if Ankara's move were off-limits "in his estimation," he would destroy the nation's economy. Still, Trump either has goaded Erdogan into acting or believes that foreign policy is akin to the real estate business in New York City. There, 
 "nice little company you have there- it would be a shame if something happened to it" was spoken quietly, behind closed doors, advantage to the extortionist. However, "invade and you will be obliterated" is spoken publicly and Erdogan unfortunately couldn't resist the challenge.

Admittedly, Trump long ago gave a green or at least not red, light to Turkey:

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Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Rational Calculation

Nate Silver and Ned Price disagree as to whether Times reporters Michael Schmidt and Nicholas Fandos correctly portray the White House as "calculating" because

The Trump administration directed a top American diplomat involved in its pressure campaign on Ukraine not to appear Tuesday morning for a scheduled interview in the House’s impeachment inquiry.

The decision to block Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, from speaking with investigators for three House committees is certain to provoke an immediate conflict with potentially profound consequences for the White House and President Trump. House Democrats have repeatedly warned that if the administration tries to interfere with their investigation, it will be construed as obstruction, a charge they see as potentially worthy of impeachment.

Democrats from the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees did not immediately respond on Tuesday.

But in making the decision, hours before he was scheduled to sit for a deposition in the basement of the Capitol, the Trump administration appears to be calculating that it is better off risking the House’s ire than letting Mr. Sondland show up and set a precedent for cooperation with an inquiry they have strenuously argued is illegitimate.

I'm throwing in with Price. As Lawrence O'Donnell's guest James B. Stewart, lawyer, NY Times columnist, and author of the intentionally ironically titled "Deep State" explains, then-Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein twice raised the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment to rid the nation of President Trump. He even approached Attorney General Sessions and Chief of Staff Kelly in the  effort and (as seen beginning at 3:37 of the video below)

....the Justice Department was drafting the press release that he was fired when he went over there (summoned by Trump). He was being taken to the woodshed. Everybody knew, the New York Times had printed that he was going to wear the wire. Trump was ready to fire him.

Somehow, he left with his job intact.What did he do to keep his job and reassure Trump? And then, in turn, what did he do to keep Mueller in the job? I mean, he was Mueller's boss. What did Muellerhave to do or not do in order to keep from being fired by Rosenstein?

Now, Rosenstein's colleagues say to me, in his defense, that his sole mission was to protect Mueller. He did what he had to do to get Mueller over the finish line.

But if the price of getting him over the finish line was to clip his wings, to not let Mueller insist on getting testimony from the President (as every prosecutor I now believes he should have done), then for Mueller to have ignored the whole story of Rosenstein in his report- which I report in my book but he didn't put in the report- and I now he knew it because Rosenstein was one of the first people he interviewed, why that wasn't in there remains very baffling and I think leads to legitimate suspicion that Mueller was influenced to, you know, pull some punches there.

In turn. Whatever it was that got Mueller "to pull some (extremely important) punches," the President knew what it was. This is not the portrait of someone stupid, crazy, out of control, or even more than reasonably panicked. It is someone whose instincts of self-preservation are very much intact, just as they were when he or his lawyers decided Tuesday morning that it would not be wise to have Gordon Sundland spill his guts, or even some of them.

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Monday, October 07, 2019


In February, CNN Money wrote

Just two months into his new job he was forced to navigate a major controversy, issuing a lifetime ban against then-Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was caught on tape making racist comments.

Two years after that, Silver denounced the state of North Carolina's controversial transgender bathroom law and pulled the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte.

Those decisions have become hallmarks of Silver's tenure, and their impact is still being felt.

Many people believed that Silver forced Sterling to sell primarily because of a dedication to civil rights, while a few of us thought that the commissioner was making a business decision, bowing to the wishes of superstars (most of them black), who could make life very difficult for Silver if they wished.

Silvers' motivation there was debatable. But here, it is not:

The National Basketball Association (NBA) came under fire on Monday for its response to a tweet by a Houston Rockets official in support of Hong Kong protests for democracy, the latest overseas business to run afoul of political issues in China.

The Rockets’ general manager, Daryl Morey, apologized on Monday for the tweet he swiftly deleted on the weekend, but his support for the protests in the Chinese-ruled city angered Beijing, Chinese fans and the team’s partners in a key NBA market..

The"Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong" remark was deleted and the Rockets' owner cowardly tweeted Morey “does NOT speak for the” franchise, adding "we “we are NOT a political organization. The NBA then released a statement reading

We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable. While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals’ educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them.

If it had any decency, the NBA would have pulled out of mainland China once reliable reports surfaced of the network of concentration camps Beijing established for the mostly-Muslim, Turkish-speaking Uighurs, concentrated in the totalitarian state's Xinjiang region.. Instead, the Butchers of Beijing have become a major cash cow for the league, and its profits stand to soar as it stands hand-in-hand with one of the most repressive regimes in the world.

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Sunday, October 06, 2019

The Daughter As Reprobate

President Donald Trump has announced that he's going to open a federal investigation into Ivanka Trump.

There is no chance of  the President doing that, of course, unless it's a probe into why Ivanka prefers Jared to himself. However, last week he did argue "China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine" and on Sunday morning....

(Actually, that was $50.000 per month, he didn't get $1.5 billion from China- and what is "plus, plus?" A takeoff on covfefe?)

So if Donald Trump weren't a flaming hypocrite, he'd be asking China to take on Ivanka Trump Kushner, whom we learned in January had been granted by Communist China five trademarks, six months after she announced that she was closing her fashion brand.

Ivanka has learned to diversify, however, and her income does not come only from expanding manufacturing opportunities for Chinese workers. A few months ago we learned that she had

made nearly $4 million from her father's Washington DC hotel in 2018, NBC news reported, citing new financial disclosures released by the White House on Friday.

In total, the historic post office turned hotel brought in $40.8 million for President Trump and his family in 2018, up about half a million from 2017.

But the hotel is also a source of headaches for the Trump administration, the Associated Press reported. It's top spot as a haunt for foreign diplomats and lobbyists has resulted in two federal lawsuits which claim the President is violating a constitutional ban on foreign government payments to the commander in chief.

Ivanka, while not an official White House staff member, also saw family income in 2018 from her husband and Senior White House advisor, Jared Kushner's real estate holdings.

The AP reported that the Kushner Co's slate of apartment buildings and commercial properties in New York generated $1.5 million, while another holding for commercial buildings brought in $6 million.

The sun rises in the east, sets in the west, July is hot in Miami Beach, and members of the Trump family are using the White House, and Americans, to increase their personal fortunes. We've known it for years, but it's always useful to remember that Donald Trump is not the only Trump setting records for conflicts of interest, greed and corruption.

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Unusual Supporter, Maybe

Representative Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez headlined in Queens, NY on Saturday a huge Bernie Sanders rally which included Nina Turn...