Saturday, October 24, 2020

A Panic


In my last post, I neglected to address an additional point in the Trump-Biden debate in which Joe Biden failed to exploit an infamous remark made by an incumbent President who has been off his game for a few months now.

The missed opportunity came when Trump claimed (at 51:31) "they say the stock market will boom if I'm elected. If he's elected, the stock market will crash" and Biden responded

The idea that the stock market is booming is his only measure of what's happening. Where I come from, in Scranton and Claymont, the people don't live off of the stock market. Just in the last three, three years during this crisis, the billionaires in this country made, according to the Wall Street, $700 billion more dollars. $700 billion more dollars. Because that's his only measure. What happens to the ordinary people out there? What happens to them?



The reference by ol' Middle Class Joe to Scranton, PA. and Claymont, DE. works. However, if that's Trump's primary measure, as Biden recognizes, the latter missed an opportunity when he maintained the President "knew how dangerous it was but he didn't want to tell us, didn't want to tell us because he didn't want us to panic."

Trump did not tell Bob Woodward that he didn't want his subjects to panic.  He told the journalist in February "I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."

The President did not then contend he did not want people to panic, nor even that he did not want to create panic. He did not want to create a panic.

Donald Trump's entire political strategy is centered on scaring people- on creating panic. Among his golden oldies are:  “In Joe Biden’s America, rioters, looters and criminal aliens have more rights than law-abiding citizens, and that’s true;”  “The entire Democratic field supports deadly sanctuary cities, which release dangerous criminals to terrorize your communities right here in North Carolina, believe it or not;”  and “Every major Democrat running for president has pledged to eliminate gas-powered automobiles and destroy the U.S. auto industry forever.”

Yet, when Donald Trump, who has touted stock market increases throughout his presidency, is caught obsessed with creating a panic, virtually everyone everywhere assumes he was referring to inciting hysteria.

Maybe he was, given that he often speaks on a sixth grade level. But maybe he wasn't. And if I'm an election opponent who is emphasizing that Donald Trump is for people over profits and the stock market over life, I hope I'd argue that when Donald Trump decided to withhold the truth from Americans, he was protecting the stock market and not people from Scranton, Steuben, or Saginaw.

 


Friday, October 23, 2020

Not The Same Donald Trump


Last night, while Donald Trump and Joe Biden were duking it out, the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New York Giants 222-21. The latter paralleled the former event, with the Eagles in the role of Biden and the Giants in the role of Trump.

There were the Eagles, winners of the Super Bowl only three years ago, now, through a combination of bad college drafts and injuries, fighting hard to defeat putrid rivals (Giants, Washington, and Dallas) in their division. And last night, even though they were once much stronger, they came out ahead, barely, against an (inferior) opponent.

As did Joseph Robinette Biden. Something has happened to Donald Trump the past four years, in part getting older, and in greater part because he is now an incumbent, a role he plays poorly. In 2016, he was the challenger, all vim and vigor, spewing fire and brimstone everywhere, threatening to drain the swamp which he now has reinforced, strengthened, and provides over.  

Trump has not been able effectively to denounce American "carnage," as he did four years ago, now that he himself is President. It's even harder when, as in the case of Trump, he barely tries, instead talking about the pandemic in an inevitably failed effort to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse.

That's not to conclude that Donald Trump won't still be President Trump in a year, given widespread and varied GOP voter suppression strategies.  But like the New York Giants on Thursday night, he had a chance at a win and tossed it away.

"Pre-existing conditions will always stay," Donald Trump claimed, to which Biden went into a little detail about his health care plan.  If John McCain had not cast the deciding vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act 39 months ago, there would be no protection for individuals with pre-existing conditions.  If the state Attorneys General succeed in their lawsuit, joined by Donald Trump's personal Justice Department, in the federal court to overturn the ACA, insurance companies likely will end coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. That cannot be emphasized enough by a Democratic candidate but Biden took a pass.

Asked by Trump whether he would "close down the oil industry," Biden replied "by the way, I have a transition from the old industry, yes." That's a bold claim, especially because even the Green New Deal does not contemplate closing down or ending the oil industry in the next four years. Trump tried, but feebly, to make an issue out of this extraordinary admission.


 


Trump brought up the issue of crime- but, momentarily forgetting that he was not running for the Democratic nomination for President, flogged the former vice-president for being insufficiently dedicated to criminal justice reform. Biden remarked "no one should be going to jail because they have a drug problem. They should be going to rehabilitation, not to jail." Trump responded with "why didn't he do this four years ago?"

Maybe because if someone has drug problem but insists on selling huge amounts of narcotics to someone else with a drug problem, he should go to jail.  Or maybe because that person with a drug problem was apprehended while burglarizing a home or assaulting a woman. If Trump wanted to sell that without seeming overly punitive, he could have added "and this is a problem which is harming black families, poor families, especially, and those are the people most opposed to defunding the police, which you support."

Biden has explicitly opposed defunding the police. However, the President could have linked his opponent with a favorite target, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez- and when did the truth ever deter Donald Trump, anyway? It certainly did not stop Trump from claiming, hilariously, "I am the least racist person in this room." Nobody is buying it.


 


Consider if a criminal has a drug problem while insisting on selling huge amounts of narcotics to someone else with a drug problem, he should go to jail.  Or maybe because the person with a drug problem was apprehended while burglarizing a home or assaulting a woman. If Trump wanted to sell that without seeming overly punitive, he could have added "and this is a problem which is harming black families, poor families, especially, and those are the people most opposed to defunding the police, which you support."

Biden has explicitly opposed defunding the police. However, the President could have linked his opponent with a favorite target, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez- and when did the truth ever deter Donald Trump, anyway? It certainly did not stop Trump from claiming, hilariously, "I am the least racist person in this room." Nobody is buying it.

Biden made a few tactically wise points, such as his riff about the empty chair at the kitchen table or the individual missing the spouse because the latter has died of Covid-19.  It could have been made a little more eloquently, but the slight awkwardness may have made it seemed even more genuine.

Like the Eagles, Joe Biden had a home field advantage Thursday night. The Eagles were playing in Philadelphia and Joe Biden played on his home field, by the generosity of his opponent. Notwithstanding the 220,000+ deaths from a coronavirus he befriended, Donald Trump could have steered the conversation toward crime and chaos in large American cities, whose voters are overwhelmingly arrayed against him, anyway. Instead, he tried to pose as America's great criminal justice reformer, which, given his rhetoric of the past five years, he wouldn't be able to pull off even if accurate.

Instead, the incumbent dwelt excessively with the pandemic, which he has clearly worsened, and which could emerge only as a plus for an opponent who is nothing if not empathetic.  On Thursday evening, the NY Giants faced a fairly weak opponent, and so did Trump. But Donald Trump, like the football team from the New York area, is not what he once was.



Thursday, October 22, 2020

Nice Job


By the time most people read this post, the second presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden will have presumably begun and ended and the following will be old news. Still, as someone who has criticized Barack Obama hundreds of times- even for speeches he has given, which is close to illegal- credit has to be given where credit is due.

The address the former President delivered on Wednesday in Philadelphia was not well-focused and flitted from topic to topic. He missed a few topics. It would have been impressive for the ex-President to explain the threat threat President Trump poses to international stability with his frequent attacks on allies and campaign to undermine the Transatlantic Alliance. The danger Donald Trump poses to the air, oceans, consumers, workers and others with his obsession with deregulating industry is a critical issue Obama avoided.

But few people are interested in the former, the latter never has much interested Obama, and there is a democracy to be sustained, which the ex-President fully recognizes. Further, he invoked the word "Trump" eight times and in the past, both he and Joe Biden have done so sparingly. And he did get off a great line when he stated

We know that he continues to do business with China because he’s got a secret Chinese bank account. How is that possible? How is that possible? A secret Chinese bank account. Listen, can you imagine if I had had a secret Chinese bank account when I was running for reelection. You think Fox News might have been a little concerned about that? They would’ve called me Beijing Barry.



There is no certainty this speech and any others Barack Obama deliver will help the Biden-Harris campaign.  During the last presidential campaign, polls showed Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump in Pennsylvania and on election eve, Mr. and Mrs. Obama were joined by Bruce Springsteen for a massive rally in Philadelphia. The next day, Clinton narrowly lost in the critical state.

Overall, the speech was impressive and history usually does not repeat itself. If it does this time, we're in for a lot of trouble in the USA, and not only for the next four years.

 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Better If Only Campaign Rhetoric


On a positive note, Joe Biden may be invoking this only as a campaign theme to assure voters that he cares about Americans, unlike his opponent. Conceivably, though, he really believes that, as he said in Ohio on October 12

We need to revive the spirit of bipartisanship in this country. I know that sounds bizarre in light of where we are... There will be no blue states or red states with me- it's one America... I'll work as hard for those who voted against me as those who voted for me.



In a recent Yahoo/YouGov poll approximately half of Republicans- before being asked about QAnon agreed that "top Democrats" are involved in sex-trafficking rings and that the President is "working to dismantle sex trafficking rings."

But it's not only rank-and-file Republicans who believe in dangerous, far-right conspiracies. New York magazine reports "There will be 24 QAnon candidates on the federal ballot in November — 22 of them Republicans and two independents." Some of them will win.

In October of 2016 then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy boasted "Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought."

Merrick Garland was nominated by President Obama in March 2016 election but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, banking on the possibility of a Republican winning the presidential race eight months hence, would not consider the nomination. Amy Coney Barrett was selected by President Trump two months before a presidential election, and McConnell is seeing to it that she breezes through to approval, with few or no GOP defections.

And now Joe Biden himself is being targeted, dragging his son through the muck and mire with an unsubstantiated charge because, well, that's how Republicans win elections. A secret bank account held by the President in the third most powerful nation on earth? Not a problem, if the President is a Republican.

Biden should know better.  As Michael Grunwald explained in a 2012 book about the period following the election of Barack Obama to the presidency, Joe

Biden says that during the transition, he was warned not to expect any cooperation on many votes. “I spoke to seven different Republican Senators, who said, `Joe, I’m not going to be able to help you on anything,’ he recalls. His informants said McConnell had demanded unified resistance. “The way it was characterized to me was: `For the next two years, we can’t let you succeed in anything. That’s our ticket to coming back,’” Biden says.

The vice president says he hasn’t even told Obama who his sources were, but Bob Bennett of Utah and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania both confirmed they had conversations with Biden along these lines.

As of December of 2017, 51% of Republicans believed Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Rumor has it that the nomination (and election) of one GOP presidential candidate was fueled by charges that Obama was born abroad and might be a Muslim.

With all that, we've learned in recent days that Biden has drawn up a list of Republicans whom he's considering appointing to cabinet positions.

It's possible that Joe Biden realizes that with or without Republicans in top positions in his Administration, and with or without appeals to bipartisanship before or after the election, his presidency will be marred- nay, characterized- by attacks from Republicans and a commitment from the GOP  to bring his presidency down. (That is the real "on Day One," we often hear of.) 

Hopefully, he does and the appeals to a bipartisanship without principle is merely a campaign strategy. But if he does not realize that, he is astonishingly naive and prospects for a successful presidency are minimal at best.




Tuesday, October 20, 2020

A Team Player, Absolutely


It's helpful to put down your pro-Fauci flag (blue for Democrats, who support him) or anti-Fauci flag (red representing "Republican" or Soviet-era Russia, in which Vladimir Putin flourished). Once that is done, it becomes clear that this is a head fake by the President.

Sunday's 60 Minutes included a revealing interview of the infectious disease expert by a doctor on assignment to 60 Minutes. One segment inadvertently threw much light on the claim Fauci "sometimes (is) not a team player." From the CBS News website:

Earlier this month, the Trump campaign released a television ad. It features what appears to be a glowing remark from Dr. Fauci on President Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Anthony Fauci in campaign ad: I can't imagine that anybody could be doing more.

Dr. Anthony Fauci: Stunning.

Fauci says his words were taken out of context. But this week the ad continued to run in key battleground states.

Dr. Anthony Fauci: I do not and nor will I ever, publicly endorse any political candidate. And here I am, they're sticking me right in the middle of a campaign ad. Which I thought was outrageous. I was referring to something entirely different. I was referring to the grueling work of the task force that, "God, we were knocking ourselves out seven days a week. I don't think we could have possibly have done any more than that."

Dr. Jon LaPook: Did the steam start to come out of your ears?

Dr. Anthony Fauci: No, it did, quite frankly. I got really ticked off.

Dr. Fauci has become the most visible doctor in America, yet he says his ability to communicate with the public is not always under his control.

Dr. Jon LaPook: During this pandemic, has the White House been controlling when you can speak with the media?

Dr. Anthony Fauci: You know, I think you'd have to be honest and say yes. I certainly have not been allowed to go on many, many, many shows that have asked for me.



The day after Fauci asserted that he would not endorse a presidential candidate, the President slammed him as someone who has "been here for 500 years" and

"People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots — these people, these people that have gotten it wrong," Trump said. "Fauci’s a nice guy. He’s been here for 500 years. He called every one of them wrong. And he’s like this wonderful guy, a wonderful sage telling us how" to respond to the pandemic.

"If I listened to him, we’d have 500,000 deaths," Trump continued, adding seconds later, "If we listened to him, we’d have 700-800,000 deaths right now."

Donald Trump, despite strategically erring by emphasizing in this campaign Covid-19 rather than street violence, is generally tactically savvy.  "Every time he goes on television, there’s always a bomb, but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him," the President says and insults him by tweet(s).  Fauci is in the federal government, de facto reassurance to independent-minded voters that the Administration is on the right path to ending the pandemic.

In July, Trump had told Sean Hannity that Fauci "is a nice man, but he’s made a lot of mistakes." And a White House official listed the scientist's comments from months earlier with the statement “several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things.”

The next day, Dan Scavino, White House social media director, deputy chief of staff for communications, and author of many of the President's tweets, posted on Facebook a cartoon ridiculing Fauci with public health warnings such as “Indefinite lockdown!”, “Schools stay closed this fall!” and “Shut up and obey!”  The eyes poked again, with little response.

Now Trump has ramped up the pressure for the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and coronavirus task force member to keep his criticism to a minimum. The President's campaign releases an ad taking out of context a comment made by Fauci. The latter responds in the manner of "you mustn't do that, or else."  And the ad rolls on.

Then Trump implies Fauci is an "idiot" whose advice would have caused hundreds of thousands of death.  And Fauci rolls on.

The pandemic is by far the most important issue of the campaign and the motivating factor for the droves of elderly voters who have shifted from Trump 2016 to Biden 2020.  Dr. Fauci is trusted by most Americans for the expertise he possesses and concern he has demonstrated over the pandemic.

Yet, facing the most important election of our lifetimes with democracy and the rule of law on the line, Dr. Fauci boldly declares himself neutral. There will be no endorsement. There will not be a resignation accompanied by a statement that the President has not taken the pandemic seriously, listened to experts within his own government, nor taken steps necessary to protect the American people. There will be no resignation (nor dismissal) at all. Fauci, it turns out, is very much a team player, country be damned.

The President has Anthony Fauci right where he wants him. Donald Trump ought to be blamed for exploiting this respected expert for all he's worth politically while ignoring his scientific advice. But it takes two people to get it done- one to do the manipulating, the other to be willfully manipulated.

 


Monday, October 19, 2020

Obscene Definition Of Human Life


The pastor of the East Saugutuck (MI) Christian Reformed Church has resigned because

There’s a quote from Martin Luther King where he said, ‘The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. That just hit me hard because I think, broadly, the white evangelical community in our country has abandoned that role.

The question of the church largely and how it’s functioned in this moment has been really disturbing. That’s been troubling enough that I need to lay it all down.

He adds

It just floors me how church-going people who read the Bible and sing the hymns can show up at a (Trump) rally and just do that deep bellow like an angry mob supporting these horrible things that come out of his heart and his mind. It just began to trouble me so much that I am a pastor in this big enterprise.

Evidently, Reverend Keith Mannes was referring less specifically to members of his own congregation than to what the media likes to portray as "individuals of faith." One of these is this guy who frequently deifies President Trump:


 

Mike Pence, who heads the Administration's response to the novel coronavirus maintains the sanctity of human life is being upheld by the President who in a February 7, 2020 call told Bob Woodward

You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.... This is deadly stuff.

 On March 19 he admitted to Woodward "I always wanted to play it down."  .So six weeks later he said "I’m not looking to tell the American people when nobody really knows what’s happening yet, ‘Oh, this is going to be so tragic.’” He continually stated that it soon would be over, discouraged testing, and ostentatiously consistently appeared without a mask in public, all the better to discourage face coverings and encourage large gatherings.

In a job well done (in his mind), over 220,000 Americans have died from the disease. Yet Mike Pence, fearful of reproductive freedom for half the population, claims Donald Trump "stands without apology for the sanctity of human life."

On January 30, the anti-abortion, pro-death president stated "We think we have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment — fiv ... We think it’s going to have a very good ending for it."

With more than eight million Americans victimized by Covid-19- , there has been for Donald Trump a very good progression of the disease. Indonesia, 82% as large as the USA, has had 13,000 deaths; closer to home, Canada has 11% as many people as the USA and has suffered slightly under 10,000 deaths, But for Mike Pence, head of the White House Coronavirus task force, President Trump, the best friend of SARS-CoV-2, possesses "a true commitment to "the sanctity of human life."

 


Saturday, October 17, 2020

Only The Beginning







In its editorial recognizing that Donald "Trump stands without any real rivals as the worst American president in modern history," The New York Times notes damage in an area largely ignored by Democratic politicians and the media. It notes

He campaigned as a champion of ordinary workers, but he has governed on behalf of the wealthy. He promised an increase in the federal minimum wage and fresh investment in infrastructure; he delivered a round of tax cuts that mostly benefited rich people. He has indiscriminately erased regulations, and answered the prayers of corporations by suspending enforcement of rules he could not easily erase. Under his leadership, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has stopped trying to protect consumers and the Environmental Protection Agency has stopped trying to protect the environment.

The editorial board concludes by encouraging "the American people — even those who would prefer a Republican president — to preserve, protect and defend the United States by voting."

In its editorial recognizing that Donald "Trump stands without any real rivals as the worst American president in modern history," The New York Times notes damage in an area largely ignored by Democratic politicians and the media. It notes

He campaigned as a champion of ordinary workers, but he has governed on behalf of the wealthy. He promised an increase in the federal minimum wage and fresh investment in infrastructure; he delivered a round of tax cuts that mostly benefited rich people. He has indiscriminately erased regulations, and answered the prayers of corporations by suspending enforcement of rules he could not easily erase. Under his leadership, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has stopped trying to protect consumers and the Environmental Protection Agency has stopped trying to protect the environment.

The editorial board concludes by encouraging "the American people — even those who would prefer a Republican president — to preserve, protect and defend the United States by voting."

If that seems overly apocalyptic, appearances are deceiving. In a rally last month outside of Pittsburgh

Trump also applauded acts of excessive violence by “big, strong” police while narrating them in detail, describing an instance in which, “they grabbed them, they grabbed them, they were grabbing them left and right.”

“Sometimes they grab one guy, ‘I’m a reporter! I’m a reporter!” Trump said gleefully, aggressively pantomiming a Guardsman throwing aside the reporter and shouting “get out of here,” adding, “they threw him aside like he was a little bag of popcorn.”

Trump said “you don’t want to do that,” but described such instances as “actually a beautiful sight” because of the “crap we’ve all had to take for so long,” mocking reporters for using the term “peaceful protest” to describe protests featuring looting and property damage.



The President was not only applauding violence against a reporter, he was laying the predicate for further, expanded state violence if he is re-elected. In a splendid combination of whine and threat, he brayed "honestly, when you watch the crap that we've all had to take so long, when you see that- you don't want to do that- but when you see it, it's actually a beautiful sight. It's a beautiful sight."

Trump has given us not only the promise; he has given us the excuse, made to order for a right-wing constituency that always thinks it's a victim- of liberals, Democrats, immigrants, freeloaders, Antifa, and the others who tell us we have to wear a mask. It may not make much sense, but it's there.

Five days after the murder of George Floyd, Vox ran an article entitled "Trump's policies have enabled police violence against black Americans." Of course, it begins with the powerless and most vulnerable.

Nonetheless, we learned of the Floyd/police encounter and the protests which followed because of a free press.  As the President understands, if reporters such as the one Trump ridiculed at his rally are attacked and arrested for practicing their craft, he'll have free rein in a second term, and eventually there may be too few of us left to "preserve, protect and defend the United States."

 

 


 


Friday, October 16, 2020

Don't Pass On The Lay-Up


With any luck- also, success against voter suppression efforts- we in the USA will have an awful politician as its next President.  A prominent economist:

Biden should in fact tell the media "I have no plans" (an even better response here). Asked again, he should say "I have no plans." And if a reporter pushes him (as she should), he should ask rhetorically, slightly annoyed "how many times must I repeat four simple words before you understand it?" Viewing a Democrat who doesn't act like Democrats, the public stands and applauds.

Or if he doesn't want to be belligerent and instead follow the old maxim "the best defense is a good offense," the former vice-president can follow the lead of his running mate.  

Asked in her debate with Make No Sense Pence "whether you're going to pack the Court to get your way," Kamala Harris stated

And do you know that of the 50 people who President Trump appointed to the Court of Appeals for lifetime appointments, not one is Black? This is what they've been doing. You want to talk about packing a court? Let's have that discussion.

Presumably, anyone who cares about Trump refusing to nominate a black already has decided to vote for Biden-Harris. However,  the California senator opened a line of argument by throwing the controversy back onto President Trump. And she did it with a touch of attitude by ending with "let's have that discussion."

It was not attitude, however, when Biden at his town hall on Thursday evening answered the "court packing" question from George Stephanopoulos with

What I wanted to do, George, you know if I had answered the question directly then all the focus would be on, what’s Biden going to do if he wins? Instead of on, is it appropriate what is going on now? And it should stay. This is the thing that the President loves to do, always take our eye off the ball what’s at stake. One of the things Pete has suggested is, and there’s a number of constitutional scholars have suggested as well, that there are at least four or five options that are available to determine whether or not you can change the way in which the court lifetime appointment takes place consistent arguably with the Constitution. I have not been a fan of court packing because then it just generates what will happen. Whoever wins, it just keeps moving in a way that is inconsistent with what is going to be manageable.



"Not a fan?" If Biden can say only "I have not been a fan," the least he could do is not repeat the GOP "court packing" buzzphrase, gladly promoted by a media pleased at even the possibility that Trump will be re-elected.

Stephanopoulos followed up twice on this issue and both times Biden danced around, about as smoothly as one would expect a 77-year-old white man to dance.

The size of the US Supreme Court is fixed by neither the Constitution nor statute and has been changed seven times in its history.   In a furious rush to pack the courts, Trump (according to Pew Research Center) has "appointed almost a quarter of all active federal judges in the United States (and) has appointed more federal appeals court judges to date than any recent president at the same point in their presidency. Eight of the 194 have been (probably still are) black. 

Biden could note that, preferably after (maybe before, also) decrying the court packing the GOP has practiced for a few decades, lately more enthusiastically.

Fourteen of the last eighteen Supreme Court justices have been nominated and appointed by Republicans. The last five (including Amy Coney Barrett) have been appointed by Republicans who became President with fewer votes than their Democratic opponent.

If "packing the Court" would be a travesty, the Democratic presidential nominee might mention the saga of Merrick Garland. Word has it that Joe Biden served in the federal government at the time.




Thursday, October 15, 2020

Seventeen Minutes Not Wasted


I'm not a "swoon" kind of guy. However, she makes a good point


Not only was this excellent interviewing but it was even better than suggested. Hasan introduced this general topic at 11:47 of the interview, a full 91 seconds before Bolton began to state "this is really about as low...."

The viewer benefits when an interviewer challenges a guest's pat answer to a pre-determined question. When the guest responds by criticizing the host, it's obvious that something important is being elicited.

A moment earlier, Bolton had referred to Iran and, unlike bad interviewers, Hasan did not revert to a pre-determined issue. Hasan then noted that- according to the International Atomic Energy Administration- when the nuclear deal was in place and Trump became President, Iran had 100 kilograms of enriched uranium and now has 2,000 enriched kilograms. As the conversation proceeded, Bolton eventually claimed that the "IAEA is not an espionage agency. It knows what people declare to it. It does not know much else."

If true, that would imply that conclusions of the IAEA could not be trusted. Except that it's not, for a month ago we had learned from Reuters

Iran has let the U.N. nuclear watchdog inspect one of the two sites it agreed last week to grant access to after a protracted standoff, while Tehran’s stockpile of enriched uranium has risen further, quarterly reports by the agency said on Friday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency inspected one of the sites and took environmental samples there, one of the two reports obtained by Reuters said, referring to samples aimed at detecting traces of nuclear material that may have been present.

The agency’s inspectors will visit the other site “later in September 2020 on a date already agreed with Iran, to take environmental samples”, the report said.

The other report said that Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium (LEU) rose by 534 kg in the most recent quarter, roughly the same amount as in the previous three months, to 2,105.4 kg.

That is more than 10 times the 202.8 kg limit set by Iran’s 2015 nuclear accord with big powers, which Iran has been breaching in response to Washington’s withdrawal from the deal in 2018 and reimposition of sanctions against Tehran.


 


Admittedly, it is not a "spy agency," instead having inspectors, which make it at least a little more credible. And if in fact the IAEA knows only "what people declare to it," the truth is even more damning to the Trump Administration. Presumably, it would be what the Iranian government is declaring to it, and Tehran would be likely to underestimate, rather than overestimate, its current stock. It is better to calm fears than to inflame them.

Unfortunately, Hasan didn't make the connection at the time. However, he made some progress in emphasizing the failure of the Trump policy on Iran and engaged the former National Security Advisor in a spirited discussion of both Iran and Iraq.  Also, as Cross observed, he exposed Bolton's hypocrisy. 

Not bad for a day's work. And for extra points:  once again we saw an example of the 30-year GOP project to demonize Hillary Clinton, an ultimately highly successful scheme with devastating consequences to the families of 213,000 Americans



Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Easy Question With A Simple Answer


Legally, the answer is "no." 

Congress does appear to have the power, in the event of an emergency of "changing the appropriate statutes, to change the general election date and as well the dates electoral votes are received in Washington and counted in Congress." However, given that the House is controlled by the party in favor of free elections, that wouldn't happen.

But it appears Trump soon will have one more Supreme Court justice on board if he does want to delay the election unilaterally. From today's questioning of nominee Amy Coney Barrett:

FEINSTEIN: On July 30, 2020, President Trump made claims of voter fraud and suggested he wanted to delay the upcoming election. Does the Constitution give the President of the United States the authority to unilaterally delay a general election under any circumstances?

BARRETT: Senator, if that question ever came before me, I would need to hear arguments from the litigant and read briefs and consult with my law clerks and talk to my colleagues and go through the opinion writing process. If I give off-the-cuff answers, I would be a legal pundit and I do not think we want judges to be legal pundit. We want judges to approach with an open mind.



The answer still is "no" legally and it doesn't take a pundit to know that.  If she checked her search engine on a desktop, laptop, or smart phone computer, Judge Barrett would notice that the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November was set by statute in 1845 as presidential election day. U.S. Code now enshrines that occasion "in every even numbered year... as the day for the election, in each of the States and Territories of the United States, of Representatives and Delegates to the Congress."

Judge Barrett, being smarter than a fifth grader, could have taken the advice of the late First Lady, Nancy Reagan- "just say no." The Chosen One probably will not sign an illegal executive order postponing the election and if he does so, might get blocked by the courts. However, by nominating Amy C. Barret, Donald Trump did, knowingly, take one more step toward his goal of establishing an autocracy.



Monday, October 12, 2020

Sound And Fury


"The hearing to confirm Judge Amy Barrett to the Supreme Court will now begin."

Thus began (after welcoming everyone) Senate Judiciary Committee chairperson Lindsey Graham on Monday morning. More conventionally, Graham would have announced that the hearing to consider the nomination of Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court would begin.

 But Graham has little to fear. Indivisible, the group formed in response to the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, has outlined tactics which the Democratic minority in the Senate can take to "slow downthe Amy Coney Barrett nomination. " While acknowledging "there is no single silver bullet," Indivisible notes (emphasis theirs) that the longer Democrats stall, "the more time we get to pressure Senate Republicans, who are in control of the timeline, and demand they REFUSE to consider any Supreme Court justice until the next president is inaugurated."

Slowing Down Senate Proceedings

While Democrats are unable to filibuster Supreme Court nominees, they do have a variety of tools they can use to slow down proceedings in both committee and on the floor. They include:

Withholding Consent: The Senate works on unanimous consent, meaning they assume procedures that require a vote are passed with unanimous consent. Any Senator can object and force a vote. You can read more about withholding consent in our explainer.

Quorum Roll Calls: The Senate requires a quorum to conduct business. It is assumed that there is a quorum but Democratic Senators can object and force a roll call.

Raising Points of Order: Senators can object at any time when they feel a rule has been violated. Once the Presiding Officer passes judgement on if a rule has been breached, Senators can object to the ruling and force a vote. Democratic Senators could force votes on any number of rules to delay proceedings.

Forcing the Senate to take up other business

Under Senate norms, the majority party has complete control of the agenda. However, there are certain measures that could require the Senate to take action. Through these mechanisms, Democrats could force Senate Republicans to temporarily pause proceedings on the nomination and focus on the following:

 Force a cloture vote: Technically, any Senator can force a vote on a bill that has been introduced but don’t because it could grind Senate business to a halt. Democratic Senators can use this rule to delay the nomination proceedings and force votes. Senator Schumer used this tactic to force a vote on a bill to protect people with pre-existing conditions if the Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act.

Short-term funding: The House could insist on passing further budget-related measures which the Senate would need to vote on.

War Powers Resolutions: The Senate generally has to take up WPRs within a certain number of days or any senator, including the minority party, can move to proceed.

Indivisible recommends voters encourage their (Democratic) senators to slow down the nomination or their (Republican) senators to reconsider filling Justice Ginsburg's seat.

But it is fairly clear that Democrats are uninterested.  Democrats possess the vain hope that people will rise up and discourage Republicans from voting to move Barrett's nomination primarily because she could prove instrumental in striking down the pre-existing conditions clause in the Affordable Care Act, secondarily because of her hostility to reproductive rights. In the video below, Judiciary Committee member Amy Klobuchar, joined by other Democratic senators, gives the game away, arguing

It's probably not going to be some brilliant cross-examination that is going to change the trajectory of this nomination. But there is something that will. And that is the people of this country. That is them, voting.



According to Klobuchar (and Connecticut senator Blumenthal at the same news conference), the answer to Justice Amy Coney Barrett is what we already knew to do: vote.

This is not leadership. It's an abrogation of responsibility. Senate Democrats know they have a good chance to slow down the process sufficiently to prevent the full chamber from voting on the nomination. Prospects are not good they will even try.

 


Sunday, October 11, 2020

Good Timing


Note the date and time of this tweet from an MSNBC prime-time guy:

 


That was 54 minutes before we learned from The New YorkTimes

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention drafted a sweeping order last month requiring all passengers and employees to wear masks on all forms of public and commercial transportation in the United States, but it was blocked by the White House, according to two federal health officials.

The order would have been the toughest federal mandate to date aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus, which continues to infect more than 40,000 Americans a day. The officials said that it was drafted under the agency’s “quarantine powers” and that it had the support of the secretary of health and human services, Alex M. Azar II, but the White House Coronavirus Task Force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, declined to even discuss it.



Since Donald Trump announced the travel ban from mainland China, approximately 255 days have passed. He still has uttered not one word of sympathy, nor has he expressed any empathy. for the 211,000 residents of the USA who have died, nor for their families.  And the "White House" refuses to require passengers and employees to wear masks on public and commercial transportation.

Chris Hayes' insight is exceeded only by his diplomacy. "Sabotage public health, lie about the virus, and promote its spread" could have been termed "kill people."

 


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Ignoring GOP Court-Packing


Amy B. Wang of The Washington Post recognizes

Democratic nominee Joe Biden and running mate Kamala D. Harris are facing growing pressure to say whether they would “pack” the Supreme Court if the Republican-led Senate names Amy Coney Barrett to the bench.

Over the past few days, the question — from Republicans, debate moderators and reporters — has dogged the pair.

Melissa Quinn of CBS News writes

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris repeatedly dodged questions Wednesday on whether she and Joe Biden support adding more seats to the high court, a proposal that has gained traction among progressives in the wake of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death last month.

When bad reporting is the order of the day, Politico cannot be far behind. Caitlan Oprysko claims

Sen. Kamala Harris on Wednesday pointedly ducked several questions about whether a Biden-Harris administration would try to “pack” the Supreme Court to dilute what could become a solid conservative majority on the court.

Of these three august pillars of the Fourth Estate, only one- CBS News- noted that the Constitution does not establish the number of justices to serve on the United States Supreme Court.

Two of the three organs- CBS News and Politico- did refer to Harris' remark

And do you know that of the 50 people who President Trump appointed to the Court of Appeals for lifetime appointments, not one is Black? This is what they've been doing. You want to talk about packing a court? Let's have that discussion.

The California senator stated also

And I've witnessed the appointments, for lifetime appointments to the federal courts, district courts, Courts of Appeal -- people who are purely ideological people who have been reviewed by legal professional organizations and found to be not competent, are substandard.



But "of the 50 people who President Trump appointed to the Court of Appeals for lifetime appointments, not one is black" is the money quote. 

Further, Harris' comment comes against a backdrop of more than a million people marching in the streets this past summer to protest racial injustice (albeit in policing). Yet President Trump appoints 50 people to the Court of Appeals for lifetime appointments, none of them black, and the media demands to know why the Biden-Harris ticket won't renounce the court packing the Constitution is silent on.

Let that sink in.  Remember, too, if Donald Trump claims victory in November, that he was pursuing a deal for a Trump Tower in Russia while running for President in 2016, paid no income tax in 10 of the last 15 years, has roughly $400 million in unpaid debts, and all the while has the highest national security classification in the United States of America.

Then recall that in early October, the media did not ask why Donald Trump believes blacks are unqualified to be federal judges but was aghast that President Biden might even consider adding judges to the Supreme Court.  And we then would have one more big piece of the puzzle as to why the very embodiment of evil would still be President beyond January 20, 2021.

 

Friday, October 09, 2020

Fraud


This is quite right, though a little misleading:

Early in Susan Page's introduction to Wednesday's debate, the host stated Pence-Harris was "sponsored by the nonpartisan commission on presidential debates." It might have been better described as bi-partisan because it effectively excludes third party candidates. However, we don't know even that for sure, given that the debates are funded by hosting institutions and private contributions from foundations and corporations, and the identity of those latter entities never are disclosed.

It isn't as if Susan Page didn't ask a few good questions, among them being

- (to Harris) "Would (a Biden Administration) impose new lockdowns for businesses and schools and hotspots, a federal mandate to wear masks?"

- (to Pence) "Why is the US death toll, as a percentage of our population, higher than that of almost every other wealthy country?"

- (to Pence) "Have you had a conversation or reached an agreement with President Trump about safeguards or procedures when it comes to the issue of presidential disability? And if not, do you think you should?"

- (to Harris) "Have you had a conversation or reached an agreement with Vice President Biden about safeguards or procedures when it comes to the issue of presidential disability? And if not, and if you win the election next month, do you think you should?"

- (to Harris) "Would raising taxes put the recovery at risk?

- (to Pence) "Do you believe as the scientific community has concluded, that man-made climate change has made wildfires bigger, hotter, and more deadly and have made hurricanes wetter, slower and more damaging?"

- (to Pence & Harris)  "How would you describe our fundamental relationship with China? Competitors? Adversaries? Enemies?"

- (to Pence) "If Roe V Wade is overturned, what would you want Indiana to do? Would you want your home state to ban all abortions?"

- ("to Harris) "If Roe V Wade is overturned, what would you want California to do? Would you want your home state to enact no restrictions on access to abortion?"

The other questions (except one) weren't bad, either. However, if, as was the case in this "debate," the candidate asked the question is given two minutes to respond, he or she will take at least two minutes commenting about whatever the candidate wants to at that time. If one candidate- in this case, Mike Pence- consistently goes over the allotted time and disregards the signal ("Thank you, Vice President Pence") to stop, the debate becomes even more of a sham.

The primary problem is the format, which is ultimately determined by the Commission on Presidential Debates, perhaps devised to prevent either candidate from embarrassing himself by saying something consequential. But the moderator must be permitted to be more than a stenographer or someone passing along questions to the candidates. She needs not only to interrupt the candidates but also to ask follow-up questions. Otherwise, she might as well ask whether they- oh, I don't know- appreciate the children of this country. 

Wait- Susan Page did ask Mike Pence and Kamala Harris roughly that same thing, with the 13-year-old girl who asked why we "can't get along" together. Or maybe a long-time, professional journalist turning a portion of a debate over to an eighth-grader may have been a fitting end to an encounter more clearly worthless than the one we had to sit through between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.




Thursday, October 08, 2020

China Gap


After decades of watching presidential and vice-presidential debates, I can't help but conclude that the Pence-Harris snoozefest in Utah was the worst ever of the lot. Susan Page asks a question and the respondents get two minutes to talk about whatever it is that's on their minds.

And of course there was Mike Pence's strategy of going over the time allotted, whether in his response to a question from Page or in the time he was given to react to Kamala Harris' answer.

Page concluded a question of Pence by asking "how would you describe our fundamental relationship with China? Competitors? Adversaries? Enemies? You have two minutes." (The last four words were not intended for comic relief.) She asked the same question of Harris, a difficult one for a ticket led by Donald Trump and one even more difficult for a Biden-Harris ticket.

Although President Trump has tried to make mainland China out to be an enemy- or at least wants to be perceived as doing so- it's difficult to label the third most powerful (and gaining) nation in the world an "enemy" or even an "adversary." It is far riskier than it was to blast the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Therefore, Pence did not do so. He led with "first and foremost, China is to blame for the coronavirus and President Trump is not happy about it," which is the Administration's all-purpose justification of the past seven months. (I know, I know: Trump's "we love each other" is not exactly throwing the gauntlet down.)



He skillfully avoided answering the question while invoking the word "China" eleven times- and in an upset, only twice after the first time Page told him that his time was up. In response to the same question from the moderator, Senator Harris stated

Susan, the Trump administration’s perspective and approach to China has resulted in the loss of American lives, American jobs, and America’s standing. There is a weird obsession that President Trump has had with getting rid of whatever accomplishment was achieved by President Obama and Vice President Biden. For example, they created within the White House and office that basically was responsible for monitoring pandemics. They got rid of it....

There was a team of disease experts that President Obama and Vice President Biden dispatched to China to monitor what is now predictable and what might happen. They pulled them out. We now are looking at 210,000 Americans who have lost their lives. Let’s look at the job situation. We mentioned before, the trade deal, the trade war, they wanted to call it with China. It resulted in the loss of over 300 manufacturing jobs and a manufacturing recession and the American consumer paid thousands of dollars, more for goods because of that failed war that they called it. Then let’s talk about standing. Pew, a reputable research firm has done an analysis that shows that leaders of all of our formerly allied countries have now decided that they hold in greater esteem and respect Xi Jinping the head of the Chinese communist party than they do Donald Trump. The President of the United States, the commander in chief of the United States. This is where we are today because of a failure of leadership by this administration.

This was an attempt to jam as many disparate things as possible into one answer. A tighter, better response would have been to emphasize that President Trump does not understand the world as it is and does not know how to make America strong. As David Frum (emphasis his) notes, Trump has thrown the hard-earned money of American taxpayers at the Pentagon, which on mainland China

seems to have had no effect at all. Ships and planes cannot protect democratic demonstrators in Hong Kong, or pressure China to crack down on North Korea, or stop Chinese cyberattacks on U.S. hospitals, or match China’s aid to resource-rich African countries. The two countries are just playing different games. When the United States accumulates weapons to win the game China is not playing, it does not prevent China from winning the game China is playing.

The ending could have been expanded to "when the United States accumulates weapons to win the game China is not playing, it does not prevent China from winning the game China is playing. We are losing on this president's watch."

I hope that Senator Harris didn't go that route because in a race her ticket appears to be winning, she figured any gamble is a bad bet.  But my fear is that while President Trump addresses problems with mainland China only in fits and spurts and largely ineffectively, the alternative of a Biden-Harris administration will be to have no answer at all.

 


A Panic

In my last post , I neglected to address an additional point in the Trump-Biden debate in which Joe Biden failed to exploit an infamous r...