Thursday, October 31, 2019

Emerging Pattern

Diversion- and this time it's not by Donald Trump personally.

To be fair, this was not Politico's intent in the article that

A stark generational divide among Democrats has emerged over what, if any, responsibility (Representative Katie) Hill should assume for the firestorm that led to her resignation this week, as well as whether the same standards would be applied to a male lawmaker. Some Democrats are also worried about the potential chilling effect on efforts to recruit younger candidates, particularly millennial women.

Getting it half right, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stated "This doesn't happen to male members in the same way- revenge porn in this respect.... We're talking about a major crime.... being committed against her."

However, Ocasio-Cortez took office only this year (seems like almost a decade ago) and thus might not be fully ware of Al Franken, driven from office two years ago for having been accused of less, and probably having done less than what he was accused of.  It wasn't a case of revenge pornography- but Franken is a male, and that didn't stop Democratic leaders Pelosi and Schumer from encouraging him to take early retirement.  

Nonetheless, it has become clearer that Hill is less perpetrator than victim, as the congresswoman strongly implied. Salon reports

Jennifer Van Laar, a deputy managing editor at the conservative blog RedState, published a nude photo of Hill as part of a report alleging that Hill and a female campaign staffer were in a three-person relationship with her husband. The blog later alleged that Hill engaged in a relationship with a male congressional staffer.

Days later, Van Laar published another nude photo of Hill at The Daily Mail. Hill, who is openly bisexual and is in divorce proceedings with Kenneth Heslep, her husband of nine years, admitted that she had a relationship with the female campaign aide but denied the relationship with the congressional aide, which triggered a House ethics investigation.

Hill announced her resignation on Saturday after blaming her “abusive” estranged husband for the “smear campaign” against her and said it was perpetuated by her “Republican opponents.”

After publishing the photos and shortly before Hill’s resignation, Van Laar posted a tweet urging followers to “help us flip” Hill’s seat by backing Republican candidate Mike Garcia. In a later tweet, Van Laar promoted former Rep. Steve Knight, R-Calif., who lost to Hill in 2018, in hopes that he would run for the seat again.

George Padapoulos on October 29 declared his candidacy for Congress. However
Check it out- in November 2017 The Hill had noted

Former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone appeared to know there were sexual misconduct allegations involving Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) hours before they became public.

Stone has been banned from Twitter, but at 1 a.m. on Thursday morning an account connected to him tweeted a quote from the Republican political operative.

"Roger Stone says it's Al Franken's 'time in the barrel'. Franken next in long list of Democrats to be accused of 'grabby' behavior," read the tweet from Enter the Stone Zone.

QUOTE: Roger Stone says it's Al Franken's "time in the barrel". Franken next in long list of Democrats to be accused of "grabby" behavior.

— Enter The Stone Zone (@stonezonetweets) November 16, 2017
Enter the Stone Zone is an account that claims to share "political commentary" from Stone.

Hours later, Leeann Tweeden, a KABC-AM news anchor, accused Franken of kissing and groping her without her consent in 2006. Tweeden said the incidents occurred during a USO tour to entertain troops abroad. She also tweeted a photograph of Franken as evidence.

It's questionable whether Franken actually was groping her.  Yet, there are parallels with the Hill. In both cases, GOP activist(s) appear to have had advance notice of the accusation. In each, Democrats avoided defending their fellow Democrat. Both individuals, lacking strategic air cover from their own supporters, chose to resign.

And in neither incident there been more than a stray Democrat picking up on the likely Republican strategy behind it.  

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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Communion For Forced-Birth Backers

"Maybe the Catholic Church" maintains  non-practicing Catholic Charlie Pierce , "should worry less about Joe Biden and more about the abuse of children."  He links to the Florence Morning News, which reports

Father Robert E. Morey of Saint Anthony Catholic Church confirmed Monday afternoon that he had denied the presidential candidate Holy Communion because of his stance on abortion. Biden, a lifelong Catholic, had attended the church’s 9 a.m. Mass...

“Sadly, this past Sunday, I had to refuse Holy Communion to former Vice President Joe Biden,” Morey told the Morning News via email. “Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other and the Church. Our actions should reflect that. Any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching.”

Morey said that as a priest, it is his responsibility to minister to those souls entrusted to his care and that he must do so in even the most difficult situations. “I will keep Mr. Biden in my prayers,” Morey added.

Would that be as in "I pray Mr. Biden drops dead?"

In Catholicism, the reporter continues,

parishioners receive the Holy Eucharist, a wafer and wine that when consecrated become the body and blood of Jesus, according to Catholic doctrine. In order to receive it, a Catholic must be in the state of grace, have gone to confession since his or her most recent mortal sin, have a belief in the doctrine of transubstantiation (a belief that the wafer and wine become the body and blood of Jesus), observe the Eucharistic fast and not be under censure.

This seems to be accurate, down to the failure to mention abortion.

Protestant practice differs from one denomination to another, but is consistently less exclusive, less demanding. Roman Catholicism- but not Protestantism- preaches transubstantiation, that the bread and wine magically are transformed into the body of Jesus. Though both branches of Christianity consider it a sacrament, in only Catholicism is communion considered necessary for salvation.

However, there is a similarity in the view of the effect of the Lord's Supper.  Interpreting Scripture- believed to be the revelation of Jesus Christ as lord and savior- The Westminster Confession of Faith, a critical guide to reform Christianity, describes communion as "a bond and pledge of their communion with Him, and with each other, as members of His mystical body."

This is similar to the Catholic perspective, in which "Those who receive the Eucharist are united more closely to Christ. Through it Christ unites them to all the faithful in one body - the Church."

Both Protestantism and Catholicism therein teach that the sacrament bonds believers more closely to Jesus Christ. Protestantism adds that it bonds those taking it with all believers; Catholicsm, that it bonds them to all Catholics partaking in it.

"Unites them to all the faithful in one body" (the Roman Catholic Church). Notwithstanding Father Morey's claim, communion (even in his denomination) does not "signify that we are one with the Church." It signifies unity with the members of that church.

Obviously, Morey has a political grudge against Joe Biden. Obviously, Morey should be more concerned with sexual abuse and exploitation in the Church than with Joe Biden. But while he indulges his obsessions, he shouldn't distort the doctrine of his own religion or, as the less charitable might put it, "lie."

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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Right Thing To Do

As hundreds of thousands of people demonstrate in Hong Kong, Santiago, London, and Lebanon, a snowflake is heard from in Washington, D.C.

This did not go well individuals on Twitter. One noted that Hillary Clinton committed no crimes, unlike President Trump, and even was exonerated by the Trump-dominant Justice Department recently. This came six months after Special Counsel Mueller concluded that had he been able to exonerate President Trump of obstruction of justice, he would have.

Other tweets noted that the the chant at Nationals Park arose spontaneously in a public place and were directed at a President under investigation for impeachment. By contrast, the choreographed "lock her up" chant was led by Michael Flynn, now a convicted felon, at the Republican National Convention.

Someone observed that Donald Trump has encouraged the Attorney General, whom he considers his private attorney, to investigate Hillary Clinton, a prerogative not possessed by the fans at the World Series.  An accomplished journalist asks three pertinent questions:
When a tweeter argues "it might be nice if the word saw that most Americans do not support" Donald Trump, she suggests a crucial factor in America's influence in the world. South Koreans heard the President when he said that he was concerned only with Pyongyang having missiles which could strike the USA and not with those which could be launched against South Korea.  When Trump questions Article 5 of the UN Charter, complains that NATO allies spend less than does the USA on defense, threatens privately to withdraw from NATO, or directly cozies up to Vladimir Putin, members of the trans-Atlantic alliance recognize that stability of the continent is threatened.

And when President Trump withdraws soldiers from northern Syria (video from 10/21/19)and welcomes Bashar Assad to "clean out" our Kurdish allies, Kurds realize they must go elsewhere, even to Russia, for an ally.So when fans at the World Series boo Donald Trump or even call for his imprisonment, they are doing us all a favor. Donald Trump is not a king. He is President for now, an aberration. He will not be President forever, and he's not who we are. It's important that the world understands that- and that the United States of America keeps its word- even if Joe Scarborough doesn't.

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Monday, October 28, 2019

Zero Tolerance For Me, Not For Thee

The last few years have demonstrated that among the most stupid and most harmful remarks made by a celebrity Democrat in recent years was Michelle Obama's "when they go low, we go high."  And so on Friday night, a few minutes before he made a ridiculous remark about Denmark and health care, Donnie Deutsch on Real Times' Overtime recognized (with context beginning at 0:03 of video below) that Democrats

need to play a little dirty. "When they go low, we go high." (Instead) when they go low, go to the side and give them a noogie when they're not looking. I mean, that's the answer. You don't go to a gunfight with a knife. If the other guy's got a gun, you gotta bring a gun. That's it. It's simple.

(Noogie? Well, O.K.)

Nonetheless, if they're true to form, Democrats will disregard that advice in favor of Mrs. Obama's recommendation.  And so it is that

Freshman Rep. Katie Hill is resigning from Congress after facing allegations of inappropriate sexual relationships with staffers in her office and on her congressional campaign.

“It is with a broken heart that today I announce my resignation from Congress. This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but I believe it is the best thing for my constituents, my community and our country,” Hill wrote in a letter announcing the news after it was first reported by POLITICO.

“This is what needs to happen so that the good people who supported me will no longer be subjected to the pain inflicted by my abusive husband and the brutality of hateful political operatives who seem to happily provide a platform to a monster who is driving a smear campaign built around cyber exploitation,” Hill added.

Full evidence is not in but it appears that Hill, though acting inappropriately, is more the victim than the perpetrator. Nevertheless

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has taken a hard line in sexual harassment cases, said in a statement that Hill had made the right decision in stepping down.

"[Hill] has acknowledged errors in judgment that made her continued service as a member untenable," Pelosi said on Sunday night. "We must ensure a climate of integrity and dignity in the Congress, and in all workplaces.”

Hill was under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for allegations of an improper sexual relationship with a male congressional staffer, a claim she denied. Hill admitted to and apologized for an “inappropriate” relationship with a female campaign staffer earlier this week.

Conservative news outlets, pandering to their "family values" voters," responded as expected as

In a statement earlier this week, Hill blamed the ongoing scandal — which included several nude photos of the lawmaker published in conservative online news outlets — on an “abusive husband” whom she is in the middle of divorcing.

Hill's resignation may not have been necessary if Speaker Pelosi and other Democrats had not established a de facto zero-tolerance policy, which is helpful when one wishes to ignore facts of a matter. However, it appears the "climate of integrity and dignity in the Congress" applies only to one party:

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Saturday, October 26, 2019

Niche Issues

In Bill Maher's "New Rule" segment on Friday, he argued, persuasively and correctly that too few Democrats understand that politics is "binary". If you understand that Donald Trump is a danger to the USA, the only choice is to vote for his Democratic opponent. However, on the way there, he knocked two- Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren- of the party's leading presidential contenders for foolish policies when, beginning at 1:01 of the video below, he maintains

The question Democrats must ask themselves is "What would make a voter say "Trump's right- I don't like him, but I don't have a choice?"

Well,let's go down the list. Bernie Sanders says we should let the Boston Marathon bomber vote. Why? Is there a great clamor to give deranged serial killers more of a voice in civil society? Is Hannibal Lechter thinking "I love Trump for his narcissistic personality disorder but Sanders really gets voters like me?

Now, I'm sure you can make an argument for this but we're trying to win an election here and this just feeds into what Trump is selling.

(Plays video of Trump on three occasions calling Democrats "crazy.")

Hey, Democrats, don't make Trump believable on that, and you win.

Elizabeth Warren has not come out in favor of imprisoned serial killers voting but she does want taxpayers to cover sex-change operations in prison- which brings up the question, if you tried, could you come up with a policy with more third rail buzzwords in it? Let's see: taxpayer sex change funded for prisoners.

I don't think you could. And again, where are the votes in this? You know how many transgender people there are in federal prisons in America? 473. And they can't vote.

That actually is close to Warren's pledge to

direct the Bureau of Prisons to end the Trump Administration’s dangerous policy of imprisoning transgender people in facilities based on their sex assigned at birth and ensure that all facilities meet the needs of transgender people, including by providing medically necessary care, like transition-related surgeries, while incarcerated.

That is probably a bad policy. Moreover, Maher nails it when he notes that more significantly it favorably affects virtually no one- 473 at the most, he contends- and gives Donald Trump an opening to claim she is "crazy." There simply is no upside.

Similarly, Sanders' support for allowing the Boston Marathon bomber to vote has no constituency.  At an April town hall, the Vermont senator was asked whether such individuals as sex offenders or terrorist Dzokhar Tsarnaev should be allowed to vote, wherein he responded

Yes, even for terrible people, because once you start chipping away and you say, 'Well, that guy committed a terrible crime, not going to let him vote. Well, that person did that. Not going to let that person vote,' you're running down a slippery slope.

When Americans hear "sex offenders," they don't think of victimless crimes. And they do not envision prostitutes or someone caught exposing himself in the vicinity of an adult. They think of rapists and child pornographers. So if asked whether inmates should be allowed to vote- which generally they should- there is no reason not to respond "yes, except for murderers, rapists, terrorists, and sex offenders." Details can be worked out by a President Sanders. But there is virtually no constituency crying out for incarcerated terrorists, sex offenders, or trans-gendered individuals to vote. 

There are other issues on which Democrats have foolishly stuck their necks out, including reparations for slavery. The nominee will be running against an incumbent whom most blacks believe is a racist and whom roughly 10% support. Any black voter who would be eager to vote for the Democratic candidate because he/she supports reparations already is determined to vote against Donald Trump.

There are bold initiatives, such as on health care, which Democrats- such as Sanders and Warren have- can advocate, and which would benefit a very wide swath of voters. However, on boutique issues, such as those Bill Maher cites, Democrats should not be crazy, or appear to be. They also should not be foolish, nor appear to be.

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Friday, October 25, 2019

Not So Congenial

From Slate:

Disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who faces a rape trial in New York City in January, was confronted when he showed up at an event for emerging actors and artists in Manhattan Wednesday night. Weinstein attended the monthly Actor’s Hour event at a Lower East Side bar, alighting at a table with an entourage as stand-up comics performed sets. The comedians were reportedly instructed not to mention Weinstein, who has been accused of rape and sexual assault by dozens of women, many of them young and aspiring actors.

Comedian Kelly Bachman, however, confronted what she referred to “the elephant in the room” and “Freddy Krueger.” “I didn’t know we had to bring our own Mace and rape whistles to Actor’s Hour,” Bachman said from the stage, to boos from what sound like men in the audience, one of whom shouted, “Shut up.” “Sorry, that killed at group therapy for rape survivors,” she continued. “I have been raped, surprisingly not by anyone here, and I’ve never been able to confront those guys, so just a general ‘fuck you.’ ” “At one moment during her comedy set, which is about sex, she yelled ‘consent is important’ and stared directly at Weinstein,” BuzzFeed reports.

A male comedian succeeded Bachman, after which each of two women, one an actress and the other a comedian, directly confronted Weinstein and were "escorted out" of the bar.

Things having not gone well

Alexandra Laliberte, the organizer of Actor’s Hour, explained to BuzzFeed News the reasoning behind allowing Weinstein to attend an event of the very sort he once specifically preyed on. “I welcome all walks of life into my space,” she said. “I protect them by freedom of speech.” The organization, however, later issued an apology via Facebook, saying it “apologize[s] wholeheartedly for the way the situation was handled.”

It appears that Laliberte has not stated how she thinks the matter should have been handled, whether she would bar Weinstein or a similar man in the future, or what she would expect from comedians performing there. But she should not have instructed- or even merely urged- the performers to ignore him.

One person on Facebook maintains that on Instagram Laliberte has stated that Weinsten was "not invited by the organizer or anyone associated with this organization." Not having been there, I don't know any more of the interaction between Weinstein and the women than the Slate writer noted, and thus don't know whether they should have been tossed out.

Nonetheless, I've never been one to support blacklisting, and I won't start here. Unless an individual presents a threat to the safety of anyone at the venue, he or she should not be barred from attending.  Still, a comedian- in this case, Bachman- must be free to respond to any person in the audience, assuming it's not a private individual.

Weinstein should not have been blackballed, and at least on Wednesday night was not. However, you pays your money and you takes your chance. He paid his money (presumably), took his chance, and may regret that he did.

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Thursday, October 24, 2019

Other Questions

The Intercept reports

A group of formerly incarcerated men and women will moderate a presidential town hall for the first time ever next week, questioning candidates about their positions on the U.S. justice system before an audience made up exclusively of people with firsthand experience of the country’s prisons and jails.

The event, to be held on October 28 at the Eastern State Penitentiary, a historic former prison in Philadelphia, aims to put questions of mass incarceration, broken courts, and racist policing at the forefront of the debate in an election season that has largely seen them eclipsed by other issues. So far, only Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker have committed to be there.

Questions of mass incarceration, broken courts, and racist policing at the forefront.  Certainly sounds objective to me.

Sarcasm, aside, however, the courts are broken- although sometimes in the manner perhaps not considered by the Intercept's reporter and those former inmates. And as luck would have it, that is demonstrated by a case from that very city, Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Inquirer explains

A Philadelphia jury on Thursday found Michael White not guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the fatal stabbing of real estate developer Sean Schellenger during a scuffle near Rittenhouse Square last year, a case that attracted widespread attention for seeming to exemplify the city’s long-standing tensions over race and class.

The panel of eight women and four men deliberated for about eight hours over two days before announcing the verdict. The jurors voted to convict White, 22, of tampering with evidence but cleared him of obstruction and possessing an instrument of crime...

White and Schellenger did not know each other before their chance encounter July 12, 2018, but came face-to-face just before 11 p.m. during a traffic dispute at 17th and Chancellor Streets.

White was delivering Popeye’s chicken for Uber Eats on his bicycle; Schellenger had been with friends at the nearby restaurant Rouge when they left to drive to a different bar.

White testified that he stopped his bike at the corner after being blocked by a black Mercedes-Benz driven by Norris Jordan, Schellenger’s friend and the co-owner of the restaurants Lou Bird’s and Happy Rooster. Jordan’s vehicle was stuck behind another car on 17th Street.

White said he witnessed Jordan utter a racial slur toward the second car’s driver — an allegation that Jordan denied on the stand — then saw Schellenger get out of the Mercedes to confront the other motorist. White said he told Schellenger he didn’t need to be a “tough guy.”

More than most cases, White’s trial seemed to touch on issues that have long affected the city, such as money, race, and opportunity.

White, a black man who had performed slam poetry and was working as a food courier on the night of the confrontation, testified that Schellenger — the white owner of a real estate company — said, “I’ll beat the black off you” before charging at him and trying to tackle him, causing him to fear for his safety.

Inquirer reporter Chris Palmer noted "No one else who took the witness stand during the three days of testimony reported hearing Schellenger utter a racial comment. And one of Schellenger’s friends on the scene that night — whom White also accused of using a racial epithet before the stabbing — vehemently denied using such language." However, Chief Defender Keir

Bradford-Grey, during her closing arguments Wednesday, did not shy away from the explosive themes of the case. In addition to telling jurors that White had acted in self-defense, she said: “This case has many undertones, and race is one of them.”

That infuriated some of Schellenger’s supporters.

Mark Schellenger, the victim’s father, told reporters after the verdict that his son “wasn’t perfect, but he was no racist, and to have him smeared like that just to save the murderer, that’s despicable.”

This wasn't the first time that a defense attorney invoked race to inflame passions and gain an acquittal. Traditionally, it was on behalf of a white defendant accused of killing a black man but, hey, times have changed, sometimes going from bad to bad. After the racial slur(s) which was or was not uttered

According to White, Schellenger then walked toward him and uttered the racial insult, and White pulled out a knife to scare him away.

Medical records subsequently showed that Schellenger had a blood alcohol level twice the legal driving limit and traces of cocaine in his system during the confrontation. When he charged White and wrapped his arms around him, White plunged the knife — which had a 6-inch blade — into Schellenger’s back.

The two men collapsed to the ground, and White pulled the knife out.

Schellenger was pronounced dead that night. White ran from the scene and threw the knife onto the roof of a house in West Philadelphia — the basis for the charge of tampering with evidence. He turned himself in the next day.

Within limits, defense attorneys will do what they must to gain an acquittal and invoking racial motives is legitimate when their client- as in this case- claims there was bias, and it cannot easily be disproved. However, if the former inmates coordinating the forum at Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary truly are exorcised about a broken, or failed, criminal justice system, they will address instances in which a prosecutor's office acts against the interests of the state and a victim's family.   We learn

White initially was charged with first-degree murder, in which the offender intends to kill the victim. But last fall, Krasner withdrew that count, saying prosecutors did not have evidence to support it. The decision allowed White to be released on bail and eliminated the potential for an automatic life sentence.

This was reasonable and justified because it was not a case of premeditated murder. White then faced counts of third degree murder, carrying a maximum prison sentence of 20 to 40 years, and voluntary manslaughter, which maximum penalty is 10 to 20 years in prison. However

Earlier this month, Krasner again said he wanted to modify the charges and drop a count of third-degree murder. In a motion filed on the eve of trial, he said pursuing only voluntary manslaughter — often called a “heat of passion” killing or unjustified self-defense — would be “the most likely way to secure a just conviction.”

That hot sensation on your backside is of a career public defender and defense lawyer blowing smoke.  It doesn't take a degree from a prestigious law school to recognize that juries like to split the difference.

The best way to get a guilty verdict of some sort is to charge a defendant with both offenses (in this case, 3rd degree murder or voluntary manslaughter), then watch as the jury selects the lesser of the two. That way, jurors need not feel bad for the guy in front of them or fear their friends and relatives later will complain that they let a murderer get away with, well, murder. Call it "compassionate conservatism" if you wish.

Understandably, Krasner's "decision incensed several of Schellenger’s relatives, who pointed out that White had been facing counts of both third-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter and said a jury should have been able to decide if either count applied."

So Philadelphia will be a near-perfect venue for presidential candidates to address victim's rights while discussing criminal justice and police reform.  It also will be a propitious time to consider the proper role of a prosecutor (or her office) as the defense attorney argues aggressively for acquittal of her client.

Moreover, in a political campaign in which firearm possession has drawn attention, the White-Schellinger case should prompt someone to inquire about weapons of violence generally. Knives don't kill as easily as guns and the assailant needed to be close to the victim to have fatally injured him.

But he did kill him, which oddly did not prompt testimony as to whether other food couriers carry knives with them in Philadelphia, nor whether Mr. White had been the victim of violence in his duties, hence possessing legitimate reason to carry a knife in self-defense.

We do not know if the knife actually was carried for self-defense. We also don't know whether amidst the pandering there will be brief consideration of the rights of crime victims, nor of the public of which they are a part.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

No Sweat, No Fuss

I was all set to post this day about one of Monday's tweets from the self-proclaimed "least racist person anywhere in the world":

History professor Jason Morgan Ward recognizes, "By co-opting the word "lynching" to mean anything unpleasant or objectionable, and deploying the term for political expediency or more dangerous ends, the speaker, writer, or, in this case, the tweeter, diminishes lynching's power in American history. "

Trump's remark was  tasteless and- more importantly- ahistorical, nearly as degenerate (no, not really) as the man himself. However, Trump is convinced that any criticism of him is unpatriotic and thus feels beset upon because of a (completely justified) investigation. Moreover, "what they are witnessing here (is) a lynching" does not create a visual image, hence lacks the impact created when an unqualified job applicant 28 years ago charged that a congressional investigation of his past was "a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves."

That characterization was a powerful, completely dishonest statement from Clarence Thomas, whom we later learned was probably a pervert, and (due in part to Senator Joe Biden) now has a lifelong position on the United States Supreme Court.  It was not a comment made- unlike in the case of Donald Trump- an individual who was elected to a position he currently holds. Rather, the charge was made by an individual who wouldn't concede even the legitimacy of the job interview which the Senate Judiciary Committee was required to undertake.

Further, if you believe that President Trump's lynching tweet was unusually reprehensible, don't take it only from me that it wasn't. Take it from a more powerful entity, one we might (in our naivete) believe would have been outraged by the President's ridiculous assertion.  

President Trump had accepted an invitation to be the keynote speaker at a criminal justice forum, at which ten Democratic presidential candidates also are expected to speak, at historically black Columbia College in Columbia, South Carolina on Friday. Notwithstanding a barrage of criticism from South Carolina Democrats about Trump's tweet, the show must go on, it appears, and the invitation to the President stands. Politico reports

“I definitely think that those comments were in poor taste, and they were inflammatory, and I think he should apologize,” said Tishaura Jones, St. Louis’ city treasurer and Democratic co-chair of the host group, the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center. “But we’re never gonna get an apology from the president.”

So if Trump's statement had been a one-of, completely completely out of character from a person generally tolerant toward minorities, it would have been unacceptable. However, because he already had proven to us that he is a bigot and continues to appeal to the darkness lurking within (many) Americans, he can still be honored.

Politico notes that it

reached out to representatives of at least a dozen historically black colleges and universities across the country and spoke to nearly a dozen Democratic leaders, strategists and HBCU advocates, who described the president’s use of the term “lynching” as not only incorrect but also an erasure of the violence black Americans have experienced over generations.

Most HBCU leaders or their spokespeople either did not respond to a request for comment or declined to antagonize the president. The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

There was little pushback from leaders of most of the historically black colleges and universities who were contacted. Presumably, they disapproved of equating an impeachment inquiry with stringing up innocent human beings because of the color of their skin, much like many GOP members of Congress disapprove of the unpatriotic and corrupt behavior of the White House but remain mum.

They disapprove- but money talk.Conscience and decency can take a seat in the back of the bus.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Trouble Ahead

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson opened a cabinet meeting on Monday with a prayer which was mostly boilerplate and anodyne, monotheistic theology. Without invoking the name of Jesus- perhaps to avoid alienating the president for whom Jesus Christ is a stumbling block- Carson stated " We ask you give him strength to endure and wisdom to lead and to recognize you as the sovereign of the universe, with the solution to everything."

There is little to be offended there but it was preceded with "We thank You for President Trump, who also exhibits great courage in face of constant criticism." That opinion is valid only if "exhibits great courage" is spelled "capitulates to evil dictators" but your mileage may vary.

Not only was the prayer more nationalistic than humble, it thanked God not for the person of Donald Trump (as bizarre as that would have been) but instead for "President Trump." And thanking God for the election of Donald Trump reinforces Trump's belief that every knee should bow to him.

This argument has been made more explicitly by Dr. Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist Church (SBC) minister and pastor in Dallas who reportedly told the actor in January 2016 "Mr. Trump, I believe you’re going to be the next president of the United States. And if that happens, it’s because God has a great purpose for you and for our nation.” Paula White, the corrupt prosperity gospel preacher (but I repeat myself) who is Donald Russia's spiritual adviser, in June 2017 claimed the President has been  "authentically raised up by God" to lead.

Hear enough of these things and anyone, let alone a narcissist such as Trump, will believe that he is more than all and above all or as he put it himself, "the Chosen One." More likely, he will try to convince others that he was chosen by God to lead the nation.  It is central to his mission.   Two journalists understand. The first:

I know he burbled on about George Washington and Barack Obama and Netflix and how unprecedented it is that he's not taking a salary. (Herbert Hoover didn't, nor did JFK.) But I think I briefly went to another place when he said that thing about the Emoluments Clause. How about the Bill of Rights? How about the powers of Congress? How about the impeachment provisions? What other parts of the Constitution does he consider "phony"?

All of them, Katie.

When the history of this era is written, the historians will note the individuals, including Ben Carson and many members of the clergy, who aided and abetted President Trump's effort to destroy democratic values and institutions.  Whether their effort will succeed depends upon the judgment of the voters and of the Electoral College late next year.

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Monday, October 21, 2019

Fair Is Fair

In a superb article about the politics of taxation, Huffington Post's Arthur Delaney notes "the tax question" posed about health care at the Democratic presidential debates :ignores the underlying math" and is a terrible question because it

is a trap, premised on the idea that raising taxes is always bad politics. The moderator already knows the candidate’s position. Both the moderator and the candidate believe that answering with a simple “yes” would launch a thousand Republican attack ads. Not answering doesn’t work either. After the September debate, TV analysts and the Republican National Committee bashed Warren for not disavowing taxes and not embracing them.

Bernie Sanders was a little more forthcoming in Westerville (Ohio), acknowledging that "taxes" will "go up significantly for the wealthy. And for virtually everybody, the tax increase they pay will be substantially less -- substantially less than what they were paying for premiums and out-of-pocket expansions."

One can already anticipate the response of presidential nominee Sanders to a GOP ad attacking him for pushing higher taxes for the middle class. But "they won't go up as much as for the wealthy" won't cut it for an income tax-phobic public.

Nonetheless, "how would you pay for it" is a legitimate question- or rather would be, were it asked of all candidates about their health care plan. Someone who knows a lot more about business economics and health care than almost any of us

Of course, it wouldn't put as much of a strain on national health expenditures as would Sanders' "Medicare for All," which is (albeit not known as) single-payer health care. If it were truly paid for by the public, it's unlikely that- notwithstanding what critics claim- people would prefer to stay with their insurance company.

Buttigieg/Klobuchar/Biden (in descending order of clarity) favor any an expansion of Obama care with any combination of public option/Medicare for those who want. We don't know exactly what they're advocating because they, with media allies and the health insurance industry, have put Medicare for All advocates- primarily Sanders and Warren- on the defensive.

But in stating (or implying) that all Americans should be insured, the center-left candidates are advocating reform of the Affordable Care Act (Barack Obama's great legacy, if we are to believe them) by expanding public subsidization of health care. Therefore, there inevitably is- as Dayen notes- significant cost to taxpayers.

In the rush to undermine single-payer by denigrating even the thought of eliminating health insurance companies, journalists and other pundits appear to have chosen not to ask the culturally liberal, economically conservative Democrats how much their plans would cost.

If it gets us to universal health insurance- as they'd have us believe- the overall costs to an average American would exceed whatever they would be for Medicare for All because of the continued existence of insurance companies and the wealth of paperwork.  Somehow, however, I have my doubts that this presumed goal would be met.  Two weeks ago, the New Republic's Libby Watson criticized President Trump's recently-signed executive order which

directs HHS to study raising the prices paid by Medicare “to more closely reflect the prices paid for services in [Medicare Advantage] and the commercial insurance market,” which reimburses providers at a far higher rate than Medicare does. The goal is, according to the order, to “encourage more robust price competition, and otherwise to inject market pricing” into Medicare fees....

This particular proposal would be great for hospitals and other health care providers, who would stand to reap greater profits. It would be terrible for everyone else. Medicare premiums would have to rise to cover these costs. There is no sense to raising provider rates to reflect what private insurance pays, because those rates are stupidly inflated and, for that matter, deeply opaque: The public does not know what private insurance pays.

This still could be Medicare for All, as Buttigieg proposes, or be branded a "public option," as Klobuchar and Biden advocate.  Thus, as a matter of simple fairness, the major candidates should be asked whether they agree with Trump's executive order and their reasoning.

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren already have made clear their alternative.  And if the Massachusetts senator is being called upon to pinky swear that she won't raise taxes on the middle class, the trio of insurance company apologists (and the other candidates) must be asked about the costs of their own  ideas. 

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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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This  is a reasonable question. If going to a predominantly Jewish neighborhood to harass and intimidate Jewish people at a synagogue is no...